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The Story Behind the Nordia House Doors

11 years ago, a group of people from the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation (Now Nordic Northwest) visited well known wood sculptor, Roy Setziol, at his studio in the hills above Sheridan. Their purpose was to commission him to do two doors for the Foundation's building. Though they did not have the funds necessary to begin building at that point, they decided to go ahead and start with the doors.

Roy Setziol was born in Philadelphia, but he soon became a consummate Northwest artist and the region’s most accomplished and respected wood sculptor. After graduating with a degree in art from Elmhurst College, marriage to his lifelong love Ruth Davis, a theological degree, working as a minister and then chaplain in WWII, Roy settled in Oregon with his family and began his long career in art. His work has been described as monumental and intimate, symbolic and abstract, geometric and organic, rich in color and texture. At the age of 88, Setziol's health was deteriorating and he did not feel that he could take such a large project. His daughter, Monica Setziol-Phillips suggested a collaboration. He would design the doors and she would carve them.

The wood chosen for the doors were Alaska yellow cedar. The laminating was done elsewhere and the doors were delivered to the studio. Roy laid out the basic structure of the panels unifying design, diagonal lines ending in birch branches. Several elements were his abstract designs. He also incorporated sections at the bottom of the panels based on his grid system. The grid system had been an intergral and identifying part of his owrk for many years. In addition, it was agreed that Monica would do some research and find suitable Nordic designs to be intergrated into the panels. It was important to find designs from the countries comprimising the Foundation, namely Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. When she found designs she thought would work, they were presented them to Roy. He either accepted or rejected them. Together, they determined where to place them on the doors.

Unfortunatley, Roy Setziol did not live to see either of the panels or Nordia House completed. His daughter Monica is certain he would have been enormously proud of the hard work and efforts of those who brought the building to fruition. Today, Monica lives in Sheridan, Oregon, with her husband, actor JP Phillips. Monica carves at the bench where her father, Roy, carved, and weaves in her parents’ house.

Want to know what the symbols on the doors indicate? Stay tuned next week for our post that dives into the design elements of these doors!

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