Luther's Harley Refsal featured on PBS's 'Craft in America'

Program begins airing Dec. 20 on PBS, check local listings

Harley Refsal, Luther College professor emeritus of Scandinavian folk art, is a featured artist on "Craft in America," the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated series dedicated to exploring craft in the United States. Refsal and his Scandinavian flat-plane carving are highlighted in season five's "Holiday" episode, which begins airing on PBS at 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20.

Iowa Public Television will air the episode at 2 a.m. Monday, Dec. 23; KCTI in Minneapolis/St. Paul at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22; and Wisconsin Public Television at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. Check local listings for times "Craft in America: Holiday" will air near you. The episode will also be available, after Dec. 21, online at:

"Craft in America: Holiday" celebrates some of the U.S.'s most important cultural and religious customs and the people who craft them.

Refsal, the acclaimed wood carver and now Nordic folk artisan at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, said, "Many holiday traditions, Christian and non-Christian, come from the winter solstice, which was a pagan holiday that marked the start of the solar year and celebrated light and the rebirth of the sun." Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, gifts and special meals are all part of the Scandinavian history that has morphed into current Christmas traditions.

Considered the torchbearer of Scandinavian-style figure carving in North America, Refsal has played a central role in re-popularizing this nearly lost style in Scandinavia. In addition to teaching carving at Luther, he is the author of many articles and several books, including "Woodcarving in the Scandinavian Style." He is an emeritus member of Caricature Carvers of America and has received numerous woodcarving related awards, including being decorated by the King of Norway for his contributions to Norwegian folk art.

See a brief interview with Refsal at:, where he explains the process of flat-plane carving and describes the joys of teaching beginner carvers at Luther.

"Craft in America: Holiday" also showcases the annual National Gingerbread House Competition held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., where hundreds of extraordinary entries from across the country are displayed.

Viewers will also see the Biltmore House, a magnificent estate with 250 rooms and 8,000 acres, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The largest privately owned home in the United States, Biltmore House was built by George Vanderbilt and first opened to friends and family on Christmas Eve in 1895. The grand home is adorned with decorations and mementos that hint at timeless holidays of a glorious bygone age.

Other featured artists on the program include Susan Garson, who hand paints fanciful designs on menorahs that she forms from clay; master glassblowers Dora Garcia and Gerardo Muñoz, who coax molten glass into wildly colorful ornaments, ceramic artist Veronica Castillo, who creates a vibrant Navidad Tree of Life; Isabel and Enrique Sanchez, demonstrating how they make traditional tamales for the holidays; and Kathleen Trenchard, walking viewers through the steps to make luminarias which when lit, create sparkling illuminations and a festive holiday ambiance.

Watch a 30-second preview of the program at

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,500, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the bachelor of arts degree in 60 majors and preprofessional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: