Norwegian Ale Bowls


Mallard Ale Bowl with Acanthus Carving


This Mallard Ale Bowl was completed through my second apprenticeship with Master Carver Phil Odden.  A long time admirer of Mallard duck decoy carvings, this ale bowl was my adventure into balancing realism and innovation in a folk art piece.  I was thrilled to incorporate an acanthus carving design into the ale bowl.  Funding was provided through a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts. If you'd like to know more about this carving please contact me.

Double Headed Mallard Ale Bowl with Dragon Style Carving


The Double Headed Mallard Ale Bowl is one of my most challenging and personally gratifying works.  It meant carving an ale bowl with two nearly identical duck heads and yet achieving the proper balance between realism and innovation.  I achieved the goal here of merging Mallard heads and shapes into this folk art tradition from Norway.  The background is dark brown and the head and sides feature dragon style carving in red, orange, and green tones.  It is basswood and painted in acrylic with multiple coats of protective finish.   This piece and others are currently on display in my studio.

Small Mallard Ale Bowl with Dragon Style Carving

January 10, 2025

This small Mallard ale bowl was carved from a clear pine decoy blank, and it features dragon style carving.  The chiseled texture made for delightful effects with the painting.  It was a joy to play with the transitions of color.  Painting was with acrylics and the ale bowl was sealed with multiple coats of protective finish.  Let me know if this carving is of interest to you.

Miniature Ale Bowl Necklace

This miniature ale bowl necklace has a hollowed out area in the shape of a heart.  It features a stylized bird head, a dark blue background, and has orange, green, and yellow tones. It is painted with acrylics and sealed with protective finish. It comes with a cord.


Colorful Rooster Ale Bowl

Teaching Introductory Ale Bowl Carving

I greatly enjoy woodcarving and it is a passion I've had since 1981.  Carving Norwegian ale bowls has become my primary focus with woodcarving since 2017.  I owe a lot to Phil Odden and the grants provided through the North Dakota Council on the Arts.  As an artist, it is gratifying to pass on the knowledge and skills of Norwegian folk art to others in North Dakota and beyond.  In July of 2019 I taught an introductory ale bowl carving class and this Colorful Rooster Ale Bowl was one of the pieces I worked on as demonstrations.  If you are interested in this piece please let me know.

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Jim Paulson -- Artist

One of the most unique things about Norwegian Ale Bowl carving is the long standing practice of using a yellow base color and then carefully controlling the amount of paint added to the sculpted surface of the piece.  Folk artists from the past also understood the importance of not hiding the marks of hand craftsmanship. My training as an ale bowl carver has ensured that I add just the right amount of layering with paint, and pay attention to use of color and have fun with transitions.   Phil Odden has taught me well on the way to paint these wonderful pieces of artistic expression.

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Handcarved Ale Bowls

Blue and Orange Color Scheme

This is one of my favorite ale bowls.  It incorporated both chip carving and other forms of gouge cut designs.


The Blue and Orange Small Rooster

May 4, 2019

The Blue and Orange Small Rooster ale bowl has turned out to be one of the prettiest carvings I've done.  I've used other paint schemes of green, black, and brown, but the awesome shade of blue here really popped.  I had fun using chip carving to resemble feathers.

Dragon Carving on Small Rooster

May 4, 2019

I really love how the dragon carving came alive with the red, orange, and yellow color transitions on the wings.  The black background is very traditonal for a Norwegian ale bowl, but I was careful here to keep some of the vibrancy of the other colors.  I enjoyed the design I used for the rooster head behind the eyes.   Almost looks like rays of sunshine on the side of its head.

The Green and Orange Small Rooster

May 4, 2019

The Green and Orange Small Rooster is distinctive with its grooves that resemble the sides on a Viking ship.  The profile on this ale bowl looks like the hull of those ships.  The green color is very traditional for Norwegian ale bowls and reddish orange highlights worked beautifully here. I incorporated chip carving motifs around the mouth of the ale bowl and numerous instances of chisel work to depict feathers.

Ale Bowl Projects

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Little Red Hen Ale Bowl

May 4, 2019

Little Red Hen Ale Bowl was a fun one to create.  It was carved using select basswood.  The brownish red color gave the little hen a real boost in appearance.  The green wing that features gouge cut grooves with V tool lines was just enought to bring life to it.  A bit of dragon carving on the yellow tail added some zing too.  The carving is finished with acrylic paint and sealed with polyurethane coatings.

Reddish Brown and Green Rooster

September 2018

Green, Orange, and Blue Dragon

March 2019

This ale bowl was completed as part of my apprenticeship, in 2018/2019, with Master Carver Phil Odden of Norsk Wood Works, in Barronett, Wisconsin.   It was carved from select basswood and it features dragon carving and chip carving motifs.  It has a profile and incorporates parallel grooves that resemble Viking ship construction.  It is finished with acrylic paints and poyurethane coatings.

Ale Bowl Projects 

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Green Small Rooster

February 2019

The Green Small Rooster was my first one of this size.  I had fun using a more stylized approach to a folk carved ale bowl.  I incorporated a number of carving styles on this ale bowl, including acanthus carving  and dragon carving.  I love this size of an ale bowl and I've carved several versions of it since.

Brown and Green Rooster

February 2019

This was one of the projects I did under my apprenticeship, in 2018/2019, with Master Carver Phil Odden of Norsk Wood Works, Barronett, Wisconsin. I wanted to design an ale bowl with predominantly an acanthus leaf motif.  The ale bowl was carved from select basswood and it was finished with acrylic paints and polyurethane coatings.

Double Horse Headed Ale Bowl

October 2018

This was one of the ale bowls I carved in a woodcarving carving class with Phil Odden and Else Bigton of Norsk Wood Works of Barronett, Wisconsin.   It was painted during my apprenticeship with Phil a month later.  This ale bowl celebrates the tradition of double horse headed ale bowls from Voss, Norway.  Fjord horses were depicted and I had examples of them to see outside Phil's shop.  The black background with reddish brown, yellow and green colors are classic choices for ale bowls.  The bowl was carved from select basswood, and it was finished with acrylic paints and polyurethane coatings.