Professor explores diverse hobbies

Beth Jorgensen models one of her chainmail costumes. Courtesy Photo | Beth Jorgensen

Beth Jorgensen, a professional and technical writing professor, spends her free time pursuing interesting and diverse hobbies.

Born and raised in Storm Lake, Iowa, Jorgensen was keen on creating and experimenting with anything she could get her hands on, be it textiles or paints. Aside from her artistic pursuits, she also loved to wander around in the outdoors.

“I lived just two blocks from a lake, and the lake was sort of the center of activity where I grew up,” Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen’s childhood interests grew into life-long hobbies. Her love of creating turned into costume making, and her outdoor wandering becoming organized canoe backpacking trips.

Jorgensen has made countless costumes for the Renaissance festival, science fiction conventions and Halloween. She attends the Renaissance festival in Michigan annually and travels back to Iowa for its Ren Fair as well. However, she prefers to attend science fiction conventions to put her costumes on display, but she cannot attend as frequently because of their inconvenient locations.

Since sci-fi, medieval and Renaissance literature are her favorite genres, the draw to these hobbies is clear. Her love for these genres has also led her to learn to read Greek and Middle English, and she is actively learning old Norse.

Jorgensen not only works in textiles, but she has created costume pieces out of metal and Kevlar. Her favorite costume was created out of brass chainmail. She often uses “found items” and repurposes them for her costumes.

“I might take a whole bunch of belts that I find at Goodwill and make them into a leather vest.”

It can take several years to fully put together a costume, and her longest project was about four years.

Besides her costume making, Jorgensen said she also enjoys canoe backpacking through the wilderness. Her interest began with a backpacking trip to a lake, where she was able to canoe deep in the forest.

Her brother gave her an 18-foot cedar strip canoe, and she began to travel the local rivers. She has taken multiple trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota, which has thousands of canoe routes to explore.

“The longest trip I’ve ever taken was eight days, seven nights in the Boundary Waters,” she said. “Nothing beats the Boundary Waters.”

Jorgensen said she has seen many breathtaking views on her travels. Highlights include a sunrise on Lake Superior from Isle Royale, a sunset from the Mangroves in El Salvador and Alaska as a whole.

“I even ended up winning some photography awards because I can take shots places most people can’t get to … with my canoe,” Jorgensen said. “I’ve seen things from angles that most people can’t ever see them from.”

Hailey Dammann, a professional and technical writing senior, expressed her surprise in learning about Jorgensen’s hobbies. Dammann said she feels that knowing more about professors’ lives makes them more approachable and their classes more entertaining.

“Jorgensen has mentioned backpacking before, but I did not know about the costumes,” she said.

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