Thelma Alvina "Telle" Rudser was born October 6, 1910 in Grand Forks. She was the youngest of eight children. She graduated from Grand Forks Central High School in 1929. She attended the University of North Dakota (UND) and graduated in June 1934 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, as well as a Bachelor's Diploma in Teaching. She sold wood carvings, mainly of dogs, to earn extra money while at UND.
Following graduation, she worked for the Grand Forks parks system as a recreation leader, primarily teaching arts and crafts to children. In 1937, she became a specialist in Craft Work for the Works Progress Administration. Telle entered the United States Navy on November 18, 1943. While in training at Hunter College, New York City, all of her pieces were stolen on the eve of an exhibition. During World War II, she was an Aviation Machinist's Mate 2 in the Women's Navy (WAVE). She separated from the Navy on November 16, 1945.
After the war, she opened "Telle's Hobby Lab" in McKenzie, North Dakota. Her Norwegian inspired wood carvings brought her national attention. Her work was featured at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa and the Pittsburgh Folk Festival. Orders for her work came from both the east and west coasts. In 1954, she was given the American Art Week Award by the Bismarck Art Association and was cited by the American Artists Professional League "for her individual achievement in the fine craftsmanship of authentic Norwegian woodcarving and for the high standard she has maintained in her profession." She was also a member of the National Wood Carvers Association. Her expertise was not limited to wood carvings, as she won first place for pen and ink drawings at UND’s art show in 1957.
In 1971, Telle moved to Bismarck to help care for her ailing sister, Ruth, who died in January 1974. Telle Rudser died July 17, 1981, in Bismarck.
Photograph 1: Norwegian plate woodcarving
Photograph 2: Norwegian tine (box) woodcarving