DAWSON — Lucy O’Laughlin grew up in Minneapolis in an Irish Catholic family before meeting her husband, Gene Tokheim, when they attended what is now Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall in the 1970s.
The couple immersed themselves in the study of Nordic folk arts. Lucy O’Laughlin Tokheim and her husband are celebrated today for the Nordic-themed stoneware they create at their studio in rural Talking Lake County.
Scandinavian roots run deep here
The works of the Tokheims are a reinterpretation of the Nordic folk tradition. They chose sandstone instead of wood. Gene is the potter; Lucy is the designer and visual artist and painter.
She is now also the author. In this case, it’s his first comic, “The Princess and the Boat Boy, Heroes of the Primstav.”
Its 32 panels on 36 pages tell the stories of recognized heroes on the Primstav, the Nordic calendar. Until modern times, the Norse calendar was a length of wood that marked the seasons with symbols of agricultural and natural phenomena of importance as well as those of the saints they venerated.
In the book, Lucy Tokheim tells us about one of the most famous: Saint Sunniva, the first patron saint of Norway.
For many years, Lucy Tokheim has been fascinated by the story of Sunniva. Sunniva was from Ireland, who sailed and landed in Norway.
“Such an interesting story,” Tokheim said. “How could that be?”
This was when Christianity was spreading throughout Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Monasteries were founded. There were those who discovered the Christian gospel and literally put themselves out to sea and let the winds carry them to places unknown to spread this new message of hope and love, she said.
It was a time when new ideas were freely exchanged and cultures mixed. Christianity brought a new message to people facing an often brutal tribal existence.
“I have a personal life with God that is above my tribal loyalties,” she said.
This period of intellectual growth has always interested Tokheim. She said she took on this project as the pandemic isolated us. She spends quiet hours in the Tokheim studio reading and researching the period.
These were also very busy times for the Tokheims. As the pandemic kept visitors from coming to the studio, their online sales skyrocketed and they were busier than ever with their stoneware creations.
She wanted to tell these stories in comic book form, both out of a taste for the visual but also in the hope that it would allow young people to explore the rich stories that have always fascinated her. New to the art, she hired artist Sophia Glock from Texas as a mentor.
“Don’t say it, show it,” Tokheim said, Glock coached her.
Unbeknownst to Tokheim, Glock was working alone at this time, her first comic work.
Sophia Glock’s “Passport” has garnered national attention. It is described as an “unforgettable graphic memoir that reveals his discovery as a teenager that his parents are agents working for the CIA”.
Tokheim also credits Montevideo artist Abigail Spence for technical assistance.
But have no doubts. His visual stories of people grappling with challenges and questions we still experience today are entertaining and insightful. It is a reflection of the research and passion of the author and his visual talents to tell their stories.
The books are available at the Tokheim Gallery or online at Tokheim Stoneware at www.tokheim-stoneware.com.