In Kirsten Aune’s world, which she has nicknamed “Little Sweden,” there are large-scale, bold-patterned wall hangings and pillows with purple circles and diamonds.
There are black-and-white bowties and coordinating black-and-white potholders.
A runner bisects a mid-century modern table with on-brand cloth napkins and oven mitts. Even the lampshade over her work table is a classic Aune design.
There are colorful dresses, shirts and skirts and, because we are in the middle of a global pandemic, face masks. The artist recently saw one of her designs covering the nose and mouth of a man shopping at Menards. Aune didn’t say anything to him, but the animated artist reenacted her excitement — what she might have done if she had been wearing the same one — during a mid-week visit to her new shop in Lincoln Park, a space that is described as a "godsend."
"I’ve always wanted a storefront,” Aune said. “The universe opened up, I don’t know; it’s a miracle.”
Kirsten Aune Textiles, at 12 N. 21st Ave. West, is a showroom for the textile artist’s paintings, home goods and fashion — alongside pieces by her sister, Alison Aune, who is influenced by similar patterns; Hanging Cee Chairs, created by a Wisconsin-based company that creates modern Scandinavian furniture; and Underwood Coffee Roasters, among other makers soon to come.
New addition to craft district
Aune's space is the most recent addition to what is described as Duluth’s craft district — a collection of storefronts for people who create handmade clothing, jewelry and more, in addition to craft beers and ciders and local restaurants.
Down the block, at Hemlocks Leatherworks, Candace Lacosse creates leather goods (she’s known for her shoes), and next door, Riverside Soy Candles offers an array of scents and workshops. The Duluth Folk School, also within walking distance, is a center of make-it workshops with locally made items for sale.
Karin Kraemer brought Duluth Pottery into the neighborhood about three years ago and whooped when talking about Aune’s new shop.
“I’m so excited she’s here,” Kraemer said. “She’s so phenomenal; she’s so solid; she’s a great artist. We need more of this. I love it.”
Lincoln Park has proven to be a good move for Kraemer, who keeps shop hours but also tours around the festivals — the latter because she wants to, not because she has to anymore.
“Just being here is amazing,” she said of the neighborhood. “It’s made it so I can employ people and sell other people’s work for them.”
Aune knows this neighborhood well. The other craft district-ians are her friends, and she has experience in the food industry, so she knows the restaurateurs, too. Plus, this is where she lives and takes her regular rejuvenating walks in nature.
Bold, clean, modern
Much of Aune’s aesthetic is born of her mother, a DIYer with clothing and toys who admired handmade things. She worked at the first Scandinavian furniture store in the Twin Cities in the 1950s, Aune said, and their home was filled with beautiful mid-century, modern things.
“In a way, this is an homage to her,” Aune said.
The artist went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she focused on large-scale paintings that often featured figures wearing costumes. In her showroom, these bold-print fashions are now available for sale.
“I feel like these are part of the clothes from the costumes I used to paint that people can wear now,” Aune said.
As for the scale of her paintings, not to mention the wallpaper and custom shower curtain she was packing up to ship to the Twin Cities:
“I like someone to be all-encompassed in colors. To really feel it as a backdrop. To really respond to it and become a part of it.”
Her shop is a clean space with her patterns, hand-painted or screen printed, on fabrics. Her heart T-shirts were recently on sale, a sort of "love wins" tie to the recent presidential election. She has small tote bags and coasters that will also be available at Vikre Distillery.
Aune has a table for shipping orders and sewing and a sink, which she found in the woods, to add to the Scandinavian idea of having a kitchen near where you work, she said.
Alison Aune said the younger Aune, a single mother of two who gets up early and works hard, has made this big dream come true.
“When I walked in there the first day, I felt like I was walking into a room in Stockholm or Helsinki,” she said.
To be continued
Kirsten Aune has a nearby studio where she can create without interruption, a space she refers to as her "think tank."
Right now, maybe always, Aune is a swirl of ideas. She said she imagines incorporating more pieces from other artists, regularly rearranging the storefront, maybe having shows. She wants a big table, a couch.
But it goes beyond her new walls. She would like outdoor seating. And what if a Scandinavian deli or grocer moved in next door. Maybe she and her sister could do a mural — a Swedish kurbits — on an outdoor wall.
She’s got an email out to the Duluth Public Arts Commission.
If you go
What: Kirsten Aune Textiles
Where: 12 N. 21st Ave. West
Ribbon cutting: 1 p.m. Nov. 28