Profile of a Danish American Artisan: Earl Jepson

Solvang’s annual Danish Days festival (September 20-22, 2019) features artisans who celebrate the town’s Danish heritage. All manners of Scandinavian-inspired crafts are on display. Located on First Street in the Old World Artisans Marketplace, next to Solvang Park and the Viking encampment, visitors will find Earl Jepson — among an intriguing line-up of skilled artisans.

Earl Jepson is a 3rd generation Danish-American. He was born in Jarbalo, Kansas. His paternal grandfather, Hans Christian Jepson, migrated from Denmark to the United States in 1887.

In 2015, Earl’s sister, Shirley, made an amazing discovery through one of the popular ancestry research sites. Three of Earl’s grandfather’s brothers had also moved from Denmark to America, a fact previously unknown to Earl’s family.

Earl first became aware of his Scandinavian/Danish heritage at age 13. Wishing to learn more about Denmark and Vikings, he wrote a letter to the King and Queen of Denmark (Frederick IX and Ingrid) asking them for any information that they could provide. A few weeks later, a package arrived in the mail. It was postmarked from Denmark. The package contained articles and publications from the Danish ministry, providing young Earl, information about his Danish/Viking ancestry.

After graduating high school, Earl joined the U.S. Navy at age 18. He was stationed at China Lake for two years. It was there, that he met his future wife, Jane. He then served aboard the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam conflict. After his term of service, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 34 years. He and Jane had three boys, all who share his love of history. They are now the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Now retired, Earl spends his time immersed in his passions of family, history, travel, and artistic woodcarving. Earl has traveled to England, toured the British Museum and Norway, and anticipates a future trip to Denmark.

It was back in 2006 that Earl start to participate in historical education events such as Solvang Danish Days and Scan Fest, in Thousand Oaks. He was an original member of the Ravens of Odin Viking group. His first wood carving pieces were table legs, a weapons rack, a warp weighted loom, some magnificent Viking God head bed posts, and a large Viking God head carved from a tree stump. Due to health reasons, Earl left the group in 2010, but continues to participate at festivals in his own booth. For the last number of years he has been accompanied by an assistant, who is none other than his wife Jane. Earl jokingly says that he “acquired his wife Jane, who is of Irish descent, on a Viking raid to Ireland”.

Visitors to Earl’s booth will see many examples of historically-inspired carvings. They range from the early Bronze Scandinavian age, Anglo Saxon, Viking era to late 16th century Stave Church art styles. Recently, he has carved some amazing Norse artifacts, and jewelry in bone and soapstone.

Earl is proud that his position as an educator serves to inform people that the Vikings were an actual culture and not just a group of brutish raiders. He enjoys nurturing a learning spark within people.

Also on display, are various weapons and armor of the time period, tools, navigation devices, and scaled-down examples of Viking maritime artifacts. Earl encourages visitors to examine the items he has on display. This provides a great opportunity, to view and learn about the Viking culture, firsthand.

Earl and Jane work closely with Solvang’s Elverhøj Museum of History & Art, to promote engaging and culturally enriching activities at Danish Days.

When asked, “How do you like to be remembered by people after they have met and spoken to you at an event?” Earl replied, “As a student of history who loves to learn from books, friends and experiences.” One cannot help but realize after meeting and talking with Earl, that his desire has been fulfilled.

{originally written by Jaan Calderon, for the 2016 issue of “Velkommen”, the official magazine of Solvang Danish Days}