A Fun Morning! Valentine Paper Cut Workshop @ Knack






Last Saturday I had a wonderful morning at Knack teaching paper cut techniques to ten lovely women. I had a full house show up for the workshop and we all gathered around the table and got to work. I talked a bit about Wycinanki, Polish paper cuts. I especially focused on the Kurpie style Polish paper cut which uses a single fold, symmetrical design technique. Some students used the templates I brought to class for their design and other students created their own unique designs. Every paper cut made in this workshop was created by using recycled / up-cycled materials that Knack has gathered or that have been donated to the store. All the women seemed inspired by the class and especially by the design examples I shared from books I bought while studying in Poland and Hungary. A couple Polish/American students came to the class because they wanted to learn a little about their creative, Polish heritage. It feels good to pass on the beauty and heritage of traditions I've found particularly rich and inspiring. I plan to be back to Knack sometime this spring to teach another paper cut class. This time we will create floral paper cut designs. Stay posted for the date which I will announce here and on Facebook once I book the day and time. Thank you to Macey and Amber at Knack for having me teach this class and for taking these pictures which capture the feel of a fun, creative morning at your store.

Making Valentine's Cards: Up-cycled, Paper Cut Workshop February 1st





Last month I created the above example and template of a hand made, paper cut, Valentine using paper remnants I found in my scrap paper folder for an upcoming work shop I'm teaching at KNACK: The Art of Clever Re-Use, in Easthampton, MA. The workshop takes place in a couple weeks, on Saturday morning, February 1st, from 10am until 12pm. Spots are still open if you want to join me!

I'm really looking forward to teaching an art class again as it has been a number of years since I've been in a teaching role, encouraging other's creative energy and talents. Yes, in a past life, before I moved to western MA, I was an art teacher to middle school and high school students.

I took two embroidery classes at KNACK this fall and had a ball! It was wonderful to get out of the house on a Saturday morning. I walked into KNACK with the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing, greeting my senses and one of the friendly owners there to welcome us. All the workshop attendees soon gathered around the table and got to work with a wonderful and talented teacher. We all learned something new that morning and it was inspiring to be in KNACK's studio space.

I just got confirmation today that the workshop is a GO since I have enough people enrolled in the class to allow it to happen. And there are still some spots available if you want to join us at KNACK's fabulous creative re-use lounge. I included the following information taken from KNACK's website which shares all the info and links you need to find out more info and enroll in the workshop.

Class Description

Valentine’s day is just around the corner!  Make unique cards to give to loved ones (or keep for yourself!). Paper Cutting is an art form that is practiced by different cultures all around the world.

You will learn about the Polish form of paper cutting called “Wycinanki”; the Kurpie style of cutting from Poland is the inspiration for the projects in this workshop. This style cut out is made from one piece of paper that is folded in half, down the middle. You'll create beautiful cards to take home, and  learn the skills to make many more on your own.
Details 
 Saturday, February 1st
10am-12pm
Taught by Kim Wachtel
Cost: $30

Pre-registration required
Class size limited to 10
Sign up

Stop by during regular business hours to register for this class, or you may sign up online.

Register for Workshop!


Our cancellation policy can be found at the bottom of the Workshop listings page.
Questions
 Contact us! We can be reached at 413-529-0126 or info@knack.org.

Snow Days

My little place in this world is covered in snow again. As I struggled with the flu a couple of weeks ago it became warm and all the snow melted away before Christmas. It all just didn't feel right! I began to feel better and then freezing temperatures and a few flurries came on Christmas Eve. Beginning on New Year's Day the snow officially returned. The fresh snow is one of the things I am grateful for in 2014.

I have been enjoying looking at art work online that captures the beauty of winter and this snowy season. A friend recently posted art work done in the early 1900's by Wladyslaw Jarocki on facebook and I found his work beautiful. I love the contrast of the whites, greys, browns and blues of the landscape with the brightly colored scarves and embroidery accents on the traditional clothing of his Polish highlander subjects. I want to give away my black, nylon covered jacket for sheepskin, fleece lined, embroidered coats, woolen stockings, leather boots, long heavy skirts and colorful scarves and dress like these beautiful highland women.

Władysław Jarocki, Żółta chustka oil, canvas
Wladyslaw Jarocki, "Winter Sun", oil on canvas, 69.5 x 99 cm, private collection
Wladyslaw Jarocki, "Hunter in Winter", 1915, oil on plywood, 98 x 67 cm, private collection
This past holiday season I was particularly inspired by eclectic paintings and other works of art posted by a blogger at A Polar Bear's Tale. The art work posted there is so special. There are illustrations, fine paintings, crafted items and photographs to be enjoyed. All the images chosen for this blog seem infused with magic, beauty and nostalgia. The posts cover themes and the art work reflects the seasons and holidays. I enjoyed looking at this blog over Christmas more than watching a holiday movie or tv program. If you enjoy looking at lovely works of art that reflect the magic of a season I suggest that you head over to A Polar Bear's Tale to scroll through the treasures there.

And finally since this is the first post of the New Year I think gratitude is the word for 2014. I started a gratitude jar and before going to sleep I will write down on a piece of paper a moment of beauty from the day for which I am grateful. On New Year's Eve this upcoming year I will read about all the positive things that filled up 2014. Among other things, I am grateful for the love of my family and friends, the return of snow, celebrating Christmas again with my mom and dad who came up to visit on New Year's Day bearing beautifully wrapped gifts, birds chirping and singing outside on a walk and nearby my bird feeders and the kisses of my 18 month old, cutie-pie of a boy, Kazmir.

gifts on New Year's Day with snow just beginning to fall outside

garden in snow

My house in the snow



Shop Local! ...handmade arts, crafts and farm on Stage Road, Cummington, MA

I've been busy getting my things ready for this fun event that I am helping put on and organize with my neighbors. I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful area with many talented artists and farmers. Our Walkabout has become a tradition I look forward to which encourages the support of local arts and farms and the local economy. I hope some of you can make it out here to take a stroll and visit our neighborhood. Mark your calendars!

Our press release and posters are making their way out into the world. Here they are...

"Shop local this holiday season, by taking a classic fall country stroll. Visit six open houses all within a half mile of each other on historic Stage Road in Cummington, MA. This event shows the unique concentration of artists, small businesses and idyllic farms that pepper our Hilltowns. Start at 494 Stage Rd. or 556 Stage Rd. to do the 1 mile round trip tour, on November 2nd and 3rd, 11 am to 5 pm.  (** Just 494 Stage Rd is open on the 3rd.)

Leni Fried Printmaking at 494 Stage Rd. (www.lenifriedprintmaking.com) and One-Off Handcycles (oneoffhandcycle.com) have a shop and studio in their 150 year old barn. Leni Fried, an artist of over 30 years debuts her latest tree monoprints, cards and affordable art inspired by our landscape. Mike Augspurger from One-Off handcycle builds and sells a three wheeled handcycle for off road use for people in wheelchairs.  Rosemary Wessel (www.rosemarywessel.com) will have cards and original oil paintings of trees and more other-worldly subjects. She will also be showing in their barn.

Next on the tour at 509 Stage Rd. is Kimberly Wachtel: Where Earth Meets Sky Designs. You can't miss Kim's brightly colored house which reminds one of her whimsical, original handmade designs inspired by traditional Polish, Hungarian and Eastern European art. paintings and cards. Her hand made paper cuts, paintings, prints, cards and embroidered items will be for sale.

At the top of the hill at 523 Stage Rd. is the old Colonial, site of the former Stage Road Tavern where one was served grog! You can ask for grog, but you may receive a pottery tour in its stead! Steven Jones, potter, will be showing his work in this classic colonial and barn.

The last stop for the Walkabout at 556 Stage Rd is Gordon's Fold Highland cattle. Look for their long horns and shaggy manes. Eric Driver  has continued his grandfather Gordon's tradition of grazing these animals on this land.

We encourage you to feel the crunch of fallen leaves, the brisk air and warm up with cider, art and refreshments at each location. Shop local, walk local this holiday season.

See you there,
Leni, Mike, Rose, Kim, Jim, Steven, Eric and Monica..."

Christmas Trees and Snowflakes, New Card Designs, Holiday 2013




These new Christmas Tree and Snowflake paper cut images are at the printers this week to be made into holiday cards for the upcoming season. I thought I'd give you a little preview of what I'll have available at the Walkabout, craft fairs and at the stores where I sell my things and here on my blog starting in the beginning of November.

It is good to have some new items made to sell at the various sales opportunities coming up in the next few months.

I liked making these Christmas "Tree of Life" designs and Snowflake designs. Working with colorful paper, coming up with original, folk-style inspired images and symmetrical design is satisfying for me. I like the moment I unfold a new piece after cutting it for an hour or so to see if it works.






My new love... Embroidery!


I discovered something new about myself this week. I love to do embroidery. I had a hunch that I would really like to do this and I was right. I've enjoyed admiring and looking closely at embroidery for a long time. Now it feels so good to be doing it!

Last Saturday I took a two hour workshop on embroidery at a new, truly awesome, re-use center/store called KNACK in Easthampton at the Eastworks building. Knack is a DIY palace. The store takes used things, sometimes on the way to being discarded, and brings new life to these things as potential and transformed arts and crafts items. I love the idea behind creating a store like this. Upcycling and reusing materials is a great way to transform items and the workshop space encourages community to learn to do things for themselves.  Here is Knack's mission statement...

Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse is a creative reuse center where you can:
  • Find all sorts of reusable materials for your creative projects
  • Take a workshop or drop in during our open studio time
  • Have a party (birthday, craft night, creative gathering, etc.)
  • Shop for upcycled gifts/art handmade by local artists
A woman named Bonnie Sennott taught the workshop. I was really impressed with her embroidered art pieces. She creates abstract images with embroidery stitches which I found beautiful and inspiring. She has a blog, Blue Peninsula Knits, which is full of her projects and examples of her many creative talents. She is a talented knitter as well as a knit pattern creator.

The photo above is of my completed project from the workshop. Bonnie gave us a template to work with and all of the materials to create a sachet. We got to try out 6 different embroidery stitches while creating this pretty, fragrant sachet, stuffed with lavender, camomile and flax seeds.

I find that doing needle work is really very relaxing to me...like weeding a garden or knitting a scarf. Repetitive, task oriented work makes me happy and puts me in a mentally and physically relaxed state. This activity is becoming a nice way to end a busy day full of child care and play, work, household chores, gardening and cooking. Plus I feel like I'm making progress with my creative practice since the sewing links up with the creative work I am now doing. It's a win/win situation!

At home, before taking this workshop, I've been playing around with simple watercolor patterns and incorporating hand stitched elements into them. I've been really attracted to the sun symbol motifs carved into wood of decorative Zakopane architectural elements and furniture in Poland. I'm making little images with gouache, paper, and thread using simple folk art motifs. Here's a work in progress at my work table.
I'll be happily embroidering as well as making new paper cuts and little paintings to prepare for the full season of craft fairs and holiday events in the coming months. I'll post more news on these events in a future blog post.

Folk Flower Tattoo: A hand designed commission

 


In 2011, upon return from my trip to Poland and Hungary, a woman who donated some money to my quest got in touch with me. She liked the images I was making inspired by eastern European designs. She also admired my quest to travel, learn and meet family. She wanted me to design a tattoo for her based on my eastern European Folk Flowers.

A big birthday was coming up for her and she wanted a special tattoo to mark this passage in her life. She is a talented flower arranger, has a flair for creative color palettes and creates unique, locally grown flower combinations that are used in her arrangements.

We got together to talk about what she wanted. Then I got to the drawing board.

A tattoo! A bit daunting, isn't it? Tattoos are a creative expression that are pretty permanent for a lifetime. I wanted to make sure that the design I came up with would be something she'd want to live with for the rest of her life.

I created two design options and she liked them. She took elements from them both and used them in her final design. This was an interesting process for me because I never had to design an image with the dimensionality of the human body in mind. Bone, skin, muscle...it was a cool challenge. Especially for the location of her tattoo as she wanted it to come from her foot, around her ankle (where that ankle bone protrudes) and up her calf.

Ultimately I had to hand the design over to the final artist, the tattoo artist. She would bring the image to the skin and to life. We met with her and she thought she had something good to work with. She and my client tweaked some of my color choices and varied the drawing just a bit, combining elements from both drawings, so that my work would translate to the tattoo medium, needle and ink, skin, muscle and bone.

When I got to see the pictures of the final result I was happy with how the image found a home on my client's skin. Graphic folk art patterns and design lend themselves well to tattoo art. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful. I know that my client really wanted colors that were vibrating with life as part of her tattoo.

This commission was a fun project and good challenge. I really enjoyed working with my client. I'm happy she has a piece on her skin that means so much to her. It reflects her life and her work with flowers.

Art work by Kazimierz Sichulski


Spring, design stained glass triptych
In 1909. Pastel, tempera, cardboard. 145 x 231 cm.
The National Museum in Warsaw.

Palm Sunday (triptych)
In 1906. Pastel, gouache and tempera on paper glued on cardboard.
The National Museum in Krakow.
Girls Hutsul (left part of the triptych Palm Sunday).
136 x 71.5 cm


Hucułka
In 1906. Pastel and gouache on paper. 76 x 56 cm.
The National Museum in Krakow.

Bridesmaid (Hucułka)
In 1906. Pastel, tempera, gouache and charcoal on paper. 76 x 55 cm.
The National Museum in Krakow.

I came across some postcards in my studio recently that I purchased at the National Museum in Krakow a couple years ago. The postcards include images of some of the artworks shown above. The artist responsible for these works is Kazimierz Sichulski (1879-1942). I particularly like the paintings that were inspired by Hutsul traditional culture found in the south-eastern Carpathian mountain region. This area, for a time, was part of Poland but is now part of the Ukrainc. Sichulski was born and died in the city of Lviv.

I love the above pieces, as much for their traditional subject matter as for the rendering of the subject with rich expression, harmonious use of color and lyrical line. You get a sense of the beautiful ornamentation on the peasant dress. The lines are organic, graphic and bold. The way the cloth folds on the blouses and headscarves gives you the impression of the feel and weight of the cloth used for these traditional garments. The peasant's features are captivating as you see them here, looking, thinking and praying.

The Hutsul people that captivated Sichulski were mountaineers found in the western part of the Ukraine, Eastern Carpathian mountain region. Sichulski was not alone with his fascination as many artists and ethnographers were inspired by Hutsul traditional culture. Sichulski's artistic career was not only focused on traditional culture. He was a master of caricature and also created religious works. I am most attracted to his Hutsul inspired works.

It is not surprising to me that Sichulski studied with Wyspianski, who is an artist I've written about here on my blog . Wyspianski was inspired by traditional peasant culture in Poland as well. These artists were part of a larger movement called the "Young Poland" movement where something called "Chlopomania" occurred. "Chlopomania" is a Polish term used to describe these artist's fascination with traditional culture, folklore and peasant life. Some artists, playwrights, writers, and members of the intelligentsia at the turn of the century (1891-1918) in Poland felt cautious about, and in some instances, disgust for the modernization around them especially in the cities and politics at this time.  They desired to look to nature, return to nature and shun aspects of modern city life. The peasants lived close to nature so they and their customs fascinated and inspired artists. Some of the "Young Poland" artists, like Wyspianski, went so far as to marry peasant women. Another important aspect of this movement was the way in which artists looked for and expressed a strong national identity through traditional culture. This was especially important in Poland as the country for so long was partitioned by it's surrounding countries and political systems. Folklore and peasant life became the subject of many artistic creations. Artists involved with the Young Poland movement were working with thoughts and philosophies that were strongly reminiscent of Romanticism. The Romantic movement revolted against industrialization and the scientific rationalization of nature in artist expression. Romanticism looked to the authentic reality of strong emotion and looked back to traditions, ritual, and awe inspiring nature.

Let's fast forward to the 21st century. At this point in time another wave of interest in our connections with nature, with our farming and food, with our production of goods and even in looking at how we spend time in our families and within communities is gaining more interest and attention. Industrial farming, the outsourcing of manufacturing, and our plugged in culture needs to be looked at. Are we growing healthy food and taking care of the land that grows our food for ourselves and children? Are there meaningful jobs where a worker can feel pride in what they make? Are we sharing meals with our family and friends, having conversations, telling stories, marking important passages of time both personally and within our communties, connecting with something greater than ourselves?

Artists like Kazimierz Sichulski with their interest in and depiction of traditional cultures can show us something today. How are we feeling connected to meaning, health, communities and family and how are we feeling disconnected?  One of the reasons I enjoy works of art is for their aesthetically pleasing and/or thought  provoking effect. There is a reason I am so inspired by traditional cultures. I feel I can learn something from them and have learned something from them that brings me and my family more meaning, more health and more of a connection to something greater. With this, I think the Young Poland artists and I have something in common.


Sources: Wikipedia
               images found here: http://www.pinakoteka.zascianek.pl/Sichulski/Index.htm

Kupala Night, Midsummer, Solstice

Light lasts far into the evening and deepens the green of the grass and ferns at the wood's edge to a rich emerald. There lies a cool darkness as I look into the dark woods. Trills of birdsong echo off the trees as creatures settle down for the night. Lightning bugs take flight, dancing upwards from the wildflowers: daisy, clover, buttercups. The pinks and purples of geranium, dianthus, columbine, rose, sage and iris bloom electric in the twilight. Deep pinks and emeralds play together as exquisite opposites.

Midsummer night is here. In Slavic countries Kupala night is celebrated.


Here is a photo and a video of what happens in Poznan, Poland on Kupala night. Thousands of lanterns are lit with fire and float away into the twilight sky. Beautiful isn't it?


Kupala is a Slavic holiday celebrated in Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Originally it was a pagan fertility rite, celebrated in June on the longest day of the year. Kupala celebrates the summer solstice. Midsummer night is the festivity of unity, the congress of fire and water, Sun and Moon, man and woman, fertility and harvest, and joy and love. This holiday dates back to pre-christian times.  As with most holidays, the pagan holiday was absorbed by the church in some Slavic countries and is celebrated as a holy day honoring St. John the Baptist.

Kupala is a Slavic goddess whose name means to bathe. Interestingly the squatting woman found on many Slavic embroideries is the goddess Kupala. She is the goddess of springs and water. Kupala  rules herbs. Wildflowers, ferns and birch trees are sacred to her.  She brings about joy, health and cleansing. Her fire aspect leads to purification, transformation and protection.
 
This longest day and shortest night honors two important elements: water and fire, the sacred feminine, spirit of life, creativity and destruction. Bathing in natural waterways like rivers, streams and lakes is a ritual purification. Water also symbolizes fertility. Fires are burned and around them there is much singing and dancing. Young people jump over the fire to show their bravery and faith. A man and woman jump over the fire while holding hands to see if they will forever stay together. If they fail to make the jump while holding hands it foretells a separation.

Young women weave together beautiful wildflower wreaths and float them on the water with candles. The path of the wreaths in the water can foretell about the woman's fate in love. Woven flower wreaths are worn on an unmarried woman's head. In Polish this flower garland is called wianek.

At night the maidens enter the forest, followed by the young men to look for herbs and the mythic fern flower which brings prosperity and luck in life to anyone who finds it.










Information and images from:
Youtube, Pinterest, Wikipedia
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kupala_Night) and
http://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/goddess-kupala/

A Call from the Ancestors: Picking up the threads


Hungarian Embroidery at Budapest's Folk Art Festival, August 2011
I'd like to write about threads, metaphorical threads, threads that one can pick up and follow. The threads individually come together and become part of a bigger pattern, a bigger piece. With these threads an embroidery piece is being sewn that tells a story.

I have been following personal threads of identity, authenticity, passion, connection and resonance. Sometimes I happen to find threads to follow. Other times I go searching for a colorful thread. I find it particularly magical when a thread finds me.  Another strand is sewn into my story, the work I am doing, the studies that I am pursuing and the life I am creating. This is a very personal journey and at the same time the embroidery involves bigger pieces of history, story and culture. It is the fabric of lives.

I found this quote about threads in a tapestry from a poem which describes my sentiments exactly:

"Every intention, interaction, motivation, every colour, every body, every action and reaction, every piece of physical reality and the thoughts that it engendered, every connection made, every nuanced moment of history and potentiality, every toothache and flagstone, every emotion and birth and banknote, every possible thing ever is woven into that limitless, sprawling web.

"It is without beginning or end. It is complex to a degree that humbles the mind. It is a work of such beauty that my soul wept...

"...I have danced with the spider. I have cut a caper with the dancing mad god.”
China Miéville, Perdido Street Station 

There was a time, in 2010 and 2011, when I worked with a mentor, Valerianna, who is an artist and friend at RavenWood Forest Studio of Mythic and Environmental Arts. I was looking to connect on a deeper level with my art practice. I needed perspective, a sounding board, someone I could talk with who understood what I was wrestling with. Questions about authenticity and identity in my art practice loomed large. The desire to create something meaningful and beautiful has been a driving force in my life. Creativity needs an outlet. A dialogue of meaning about authenticity, identity  and beauty is an important conversation that happens in my head as I begin new work. I think about these things and feel them out in order to bring forth something into the physical world. 

IDENTITY
AUTHENTICITY
PASSION
CONNECTION
RESONANCE

For a while, months and months, things were muddy, murky and not at all clear as I worked with my mentor, sketched and wrote in my journal. I was wondering if I was really making any progress? When will my vision for my arts practice become clearer? Will I ever be more confident in understanding the motivation for my creative work? Out of no where all of that changed.

Bobbie Sumberg's book, "Textiles", full of beautiful, intricate and colorful threaded embroidery was the catalyst pointing me towards the path I am on.  It stopped me in my tracks while perusing the shelves at the library in the winter of 2011. The book is full of textiles from all around the world. It contains photographs of some beautiful examples of Hungarian folk embroidery. As I briefly flipped through the photographs the Hungarian designs, colors and patterns struck me to the core. I knew I had to pay attention to this feeling so I took the book home with me.

The next morning I turned on the local college radio station. I began to look more closely at the intricate Hungarian embroidery work in the book. Unbeknownst to me, a polka show was on at that time. This got my attention. In between upbeat polkas, advertisements for local Polish businesses were played. I live in an area, the Pioneer Valley, with a large Polish-American population. After some time listening to the polka show and looking at the book I thought I'd look up Hungarian and Polish arts in western Massachusetts on Google. Low and behold a Polish art class was to begin at the Springfield Museum the next month. I signed up for it.

These seemingly small events lined up at about the same time and got my attention. The messages  coming to me were closely related to my heritage: the blood flowing through my veins. The hours spent alone in thought that winter morning, enjoying a book and listening to the radio woke me up. My Hungarian and Polish ancestors seemed to be gently shaking me, waking me up to what is there, what is here and what is in me. I was surrounded by eastern European stimulation that was sure to get my attention. Within 24 hours I awoke to a path. The path appears through a deeper connection with my heritage. The minor threads began an important journey that grow in different directions. I need to look forward, backward and be in the moment.

Lives are weaving together. My life with my ancestors, my living relatives, new friends and mentors. Threads of inspiration, love and longing drive me to read books, ask questions, look at images, learn the Polish language, create new art work, designs, paintings, paper-cuts and keep in touch with my relatives and the friends I met while traveling in Poland and Hungary. Stories and history are there to learn from and help me gain understanding. Places beckon me to return.

Perhaps, I've simply become aware of my place within a complex embroidery that has existed all along. The colorful threads continue to manifest, come together and take shape, weaving something I can recognize and see with some perspective. And yet a lot of work remains to be done. At times this is a wide and deep mystery. I'm left asking why.

I've always been attracted to strong colors and bold, graphic design, especially designs that connect with the natural world. For a while southwest and Mexican arts were a big inspiration to me but something was missing, a very personal connection.  I felt like a tourist. I didn't feel complete and my work didn't feel grounded. I needed to connect with something deeper.  Who am I? Why am I attracted to certain sounds, colors and patterns so strongly that I truly become awestruck? Why, musically, have I always been inspired by gypsy and eastern European music, violins, accordions, minor keys, edgy harmonies, singing and sounds of longing that pull on your heart strings? After looking deeply at the Hungarian embroidery in the textile book I realized what is going on. Aha!

The garments, like the man's mantle pictured below, wedding dress, bodices, hair pieces and many more items were sewn with such care, such love and such attention to detail. Flowers bloom in vibrant colors, patterns form a kind of rhythm of elements in the dress. The costumes exhibit such pride and joy for one's culture, one's life and one's connection with nature and the traditions of their region. The skill was passed on woman to woman, mother to daughter, grandmother to grand-daughter, generation to generation. These people lived such busy lives growing food and gardens, growing materials for their homespun linen cloth, making and mending clothing, doing household and farm chores, preserving food and the list of the hard work goes on. All this work was done everyday without the modern conveniences we have today. And it was still important to the women to spend time and attention doing intricately sewn handwork to make their lives reflect even more beauty. I so admire the skill and hard work that went into many traditional practices. I like the do-it-yourself resourcefulness that was a necessity in the past. I know I long to connect more to that kind of resourcefulness and I don't think I am alone. I believe my life is infused with more meaning when I can enjoy creating some of the things I use and need. The beautiful Hungarian and Polish embroidery I love to look at, the pieces my ancestors must have made and my drawer filled with doilies that my grandmother and great-grandmother made inspire me and reminds me of this.

My ancestors have been calling out to me. I've been looking for my own personal story, my history and the story of my ancestors. All along I wanted to deeply connect with my ancestor's traditions, lands, sounds, smells, foods, colors, plants, designs relating to the natural world. The Hungarian embroidery work woke me up to this reality. This is my quest. All along I was attracted to certain styles, music and aesthetic in relation to my personal heritage, my Eastern European roots. This led me to realize a vision, an adventure and a shift in my creative work.  I decided to take a trip of a lifetime to connect with my family and the land and villages in Poland and Hungary. All this has brought me much curiosity, depth and meaning to my creative practice and work. My experience continues to sustain and feed me.  I've created a line of gouache paintings and paper-cut designs which are available as blank greeting cards and archival prints. The graphic, bold designs and bright colors used in my work and inspired by eastern European folk embroidery feel right aesthetically and appeal to me. They are a wink and a nod to the beautiful embroidery designs that I find so lovely. So many more ideas and images swim around my head, waiting for when I have chunks of uninterrupted time in my studio and at my easel to explore, paint and cut paper. This is the rabbit hole I fell down two years ago and now there is no turning back. The journey is deep and vast. The more connections I make the more I want to know. One lifetime doesn't seem long enough to get to the bottom of my desire for understanding.

Hungarian Embroidery, Budapest's Folk Art Festival, 2011



Peasant Homes and Gardens

Peasant Cottage at Skansen Wygielzowie in Poland

Zakopane house and garden

Skansen window

Skansen garden

This post is a little collection of some inspiring pictures of peasant cottages and their gardens. I can't get over the simple use of color around the the windows and between the logs of the cottage in the first photo.  Turquoise and cobalt blue is one of my favorite color combinations.

All but the first photo here were taken by me two summers ago while I was in Poland. There are a number of lovely Skansens (outdoor and living history museums) in Poland that preserve folk, wooden architecture. Some towns are known for their existing homes exhibiting and/or preserving old architectural styles, Zakopane being one of them.

The old peasant homes breathe with life. A thatched roof, dirt floor and wooden walls, all organic and natural materials, allow the home to literally breathe. This makes me think of Hundertwasser and his manifesto where he proclaims that the space we inhabit, the architecture of our dwellings, is like another layer of skin. Our architecture is a layer outside our physical layer of skin surrounding our bodies and the layer of clothes we wear. Soon I will write more about old folk architecture, what I know and learned from my travels and reading.

For now...

There is a lot of work to do at home in my garden this time of year. I'm am feeling particularly busy, grounded and centered around the home with all that needs to get done. I haven't been able to sit at my computer to write much. But, gardening is an excellent activity for gathering one's thoughts! The writing will come.

The weeds grow fast next to the seedlings that are just sprouting. Then there is the thinning that needs to get done so that the seedlings coming up do not crowd one another. Some vegetable beds still need to be made and planted with beans, carrots and beets at the community garden plot down the street. At home, I'm going to make a hay bale raised bed in which to plant the delicata and spaghetti squash so they can grow down the hill towards the woods, out of the way of our other garden beds. Radishes, potatoes, garlic, cilantro, arugula, lettuces, horseradish and spinach are up. Some basil and tomatoes are in. Today I'm going to a flower nursery to buy some annuals to put in pots and hanging baskets around the house. Soon I will be caught up, ahead of the weeds and enjoying watching the summer growing of all the plants, flowers and food on the land.

Photos of my garden taken this morning...







Feeling the Lovage: A traditional Romanian soup, Ciorba de perisoare


This week I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking with some of the goodies found in the garden this time of year.  So far the two main ingredients from the garden have been Rhubarb and Lovage. How many of you know about the herb, Lovage? If you have never cooked with this herb, it's time to start feeling the Lovage! Lovage is an amazing plant with a beautiful, fragrant odor and tangy, complex, out of this world flavor.

My husband Josh spent two years living in Romania when he served in the Peace Corps. While there he ate many sour soups, called Ciorba, which uses this herb to add an unmistakable flavor:  tangy, a bit sour and very flavorful. Ciorba de perisoare (meatballs), Ciorba de burta (tripe), Ciorba de cartofi (potato).... the list goes on.

Josh and I went to Romania and Hungary 10 years ago for our honeymoon. We had a wonderful trip and experience visiting and staying with some of the friends Josh made while in the Peace Corps. True hospitality met us during every interaction and with all the friends with whom we spent time. We traveled all around the country: Bucharest, Pitesti, Sighisoara, the Danube delta, Constanta (on the Black Sea coast), the mountains... As you can guess, I was struck by the culture and folk arts while in Romania. I especially admired the ornamental wood carved gates found in a certain region of Romania and the woven wool rugs were particularly striking, I loved looking at the rural dwellings especially. My friend Razvan remembers me taking a special interest in the folk arts on that trip. Perhaps some seeds were sown and embers were left smoldering...a foreshadowing of my interest in Eastern European traditions. I took the following photos during our trip in 2003. After this little photo tour you'll find a tasty recipe for Ciorba de perisoare if you would like to try and make it in your kitchen.

Bucharest, Romania: View from our friend's flat
Rural Mountain scene in Romania
Sighisoara, Romania
Village house, Romania
Flowers blooming, Romania
Constanta, Romania

I made Ciorba de perisoare on Friday and brought a little bit of Romania into our home for an evening spent with some friends. Oh, the smell of that soup! My house was filled with it's fragrance. We played all our favorite Romanian music which was bought on our trip many years ago. Kids and some adults danced around the living room table, what fun! If you can't travel to the place, bring it to you!

If you have some Lovage growing in your garden, can find some in a friend's garden or at a Farmer's Market perhaps you'd like to try this recipe. The soup was delicious. Even Kazmir, my 11 month old, got excited about eating it! Here is the link where I found the recipe:
Romanian Sour Meatball Soup

Ciorba de perisoare
Sour Meatball Soup Recipe (ciorba de perisoare)
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes (preparation: 50 minutes; cooking: 30-40 minutes)

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound grounded meat (mixed beef and pork)
  • 1 pound beef (or veal) with bones
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 2 tablespoons rice
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 parsley root
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1 parsnip root
  • 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of lovage leaves (or parsley leaves)
  • 2-3 tablespoons vinegar
Preparation: 
  1. Bring to boil  6 cups of water in a pot.
  2. Finely slice: 1 onion, the parsley, the parsnip and the carrots and put them in the water.  Add the beef (or veal) meat.
  3. In the mean time soak the bread in water then squeeze it. Mash the bread with a fork.
  4. Mix the ground meat with the other finely chopped onion, the mashed bread and the rice, and season with salt and ground black pepper. For a more tender meat composition add 2-3 tablespoons of water.
  5. Make small meat balls rolling them with wet hands.
  6. When the vegetables become tender put the meat balls in the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  7. When the soup is almost done the meatballs are coming to the surface as the soup simmers.
  8. Add the tomato paste and stir.
  9. Finely chop the lovage and add it to the soup, and then season with salt and vinegar. If you do not have lovage, you can use fresh parsley leaves instead.
  10. The soup is delicious served with a bit of sour cream, and a hot pepper on the side.

A Call from the Ancestors: Roots, Family, the Land

My family's cottage in Korczyna, Poland

I'm working on a series of writings I am calling, A CALL FROM THE ANCESTORS.
With it I'll be addressing why I am inspired by the folk and peasant arts and traditions of Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Hungary. Why am I pulled to learn and experience more in relationship to my roots? Why does a place and a way of life inspire me so?

The following words came in a brainstorm as I think about this and begin writing.

- resonance
- longing
- roots
- family
- the land
- identity
- authenticity
- passion
- connection

RESONANCE: richness or significance especially in evoking an association or strong emotion

You know that feeling when something strikes you deep to the core? A feeling of recognition, attraction, intuition and knowing? There are moments in life when I've recognized this feeling.  I know when it happens and it is important for me to stop and pay attention. I do not know how this works exactly but I do have my thoughts on why it happens. Sometimes things add up and line up. Clear signs point you in a certain direction. I believe my ancestors have a hand in this, like they are beckoning to me, calling to me and I am following their lead.

LONGING: a yearning desire

My ancestor's blood runs through my veins. In my body there is genetic and a kind of energetic memory linking me back to the places where my people lived, loved, toiled and died. I am learning, teaching myself about the places and ways because so much was lost to me when my family became "American". It's a very common phenomenon isn't it? Immigrants come to the new world and and settle into new ways. They melt into the melting pot in order to work, raise families - survive. Yet our roots are left raw and exposed.  Some families work hard to stay connected to the old country, the heartland. And some families slowly assimilate to become more American. I long for a deeper connection with and understanding of the old ways.

My grandmother Stella left Poland for America in her early teens. She wrote letters to her family in Poland and even went back for a visit in the mid-80s. She spoke Polish but did not teach it to her children or grandchildren. She was always making and sharing Polish foods with the family: pierogi, golumbki, kielbasa, poppyseed roll. She tended her small garden and loved watching the flowers bloom.
My grandmom, Stella
My Hungarian great-grandfather George and my great-grandmom Angel were connected to their family in Hungary. George was born in America but went back to his ancestor's village to find his wife, Elizabeth. Much later he returned to visit his family a year or two before his death. When George and Elizabeth passed on there was no longer a strong connection between the families across the land and ocean.

No one is to blame. Times and circumstances change. I'm sure the politics of the time, WWII and then the cold war between capitalist America and communist Poland and Hungary, did not help to keep the ties strong for the next generations. However, one needs a place to grow, a place to settle and go deep, a place of understanding and connection with what came before. One needs to feel a connection with community, family, traditions, history, stories of their place and of their ancestors.

The writer, Wendell Berry writes about being a placed person. Perhaps the following words I found by Wallace Stegner can partly explain this feeling of longing I have. (This excerpt is taken from "The Sense of Place" by Wallace Stegner. Copyright 1992 by Wallace Stegner.)

"If you don’t know where you are, says Wendell Berry, you don’t know who you are. Berry is a writer, one of our best, who after some circling has settled on the bank of the Kentucky River, where he grew up and where his family has lived for many generations. He conducts his literary explorations inward, toward the core of what supports him physically and spiritually. He belongs to an honorable tradition, one that even in America includes some great names: Thoreau, Burroughs, Frost, Faulkner, Steinbeck – lovers of known earth, known weathers, and known neighbors both human and nonhuman. He calls himself a “placed” person."

"... if every American is several people, and one of them is or would like to be a placed person, another is the opposite, the displaced person, cousin not to Thoreau but to Daniel Boone, dreamer not of Walden Ponds but of far horizons, traveler not in Concord but in wild unsettled places, explorer not inward but outward. Adventurous, restless, seeking, asocial or antisocial, the displaced American persists by the million long after the frontier has vanished. He exists to some extent in all of us, the inevitable by-product of our history: the New World transient. "

"Back to Wendell Berry, and his belief that if you don’t know where you are you don’t know who you are. He is not talking about the kind of location that can be determined by looking at a map or a street sign. He is talking about the kind of knowing that involves the senses, the memory, the history of a family or a tribe. He is talking about the knowledge of place that comes from working in it in all weathers, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings or evenings or hot noons, valuing it for the profound investment of labor and feeling that you, your parents and grandparents, your all-but-unknown ancestors have put into it. He is talking about the knowing that poets specialize in."

I long for this knowing and by following a path of longing and resonance I have begun to make connections to a deeper understanding of who I am and where I come from. My ancestors call to me on this journey. The quest simultaneously connects me to the heartlands of Poland and Hungary and roots me to my home in the hills of New England. As I move ahead and dig deep many things appear, unfold, resonate and become recognized. Connections are made. A path continues to unfold with every step I take.

ROOTS, FAMILY, THE LAND
My father's ancestors were Polish and Hungarian people of the land. They were from the small villages of Korczyna, Poland and Harskut Hungary. My great-grandfather Jan was born in the thatched roof, white washed cottage in Korczyna, Poland pictured above. My great-great grandmother and Cocia, Aniela and Aniela, are photographed wearing kierchiefs and aprons on their land in Korczyna.

My great-great grandmother Aniela surrounded by her daughters, my great grandmother and aunts in Poland
Ciocia Aniela, Korczyna, Poland
My dad can remembers his Babci Helena's gardens in Philadelphia, where she and Jan landed with their children, one of them being my grandmom Stella, after emigrating to America in the 1930s from Poland. Jan knew that true wealth was having land. So when he bought his small row home he bought the undeveloped lot next door. This lot became their orchard and garden. My dad helped with the garden chores and fondly remembers his grandmother's raspberry jam.

My great-grandfather Jan
My dad with Grandmom Angel Repas and Babci Helena
My dad went on to college then the Air Force to become an airline pilot. His work was in the sky. My parents are not avid gardeners. Some pretty flower beds are tended to and the lawn is always mowed. We did not raise or preserve our own food. The pulse of my heart moved me to pursue learning about and practicing gardening for the sake of beauty and food. I woke up to this fact in my early 20's after university when I spent a couple years working on a large fruit orchard in Solebury, PA. The desire to connect to the land and work it is running strong in my blood.

I used to wonder about my obsession with gardening? Where did it come from? One of the most satisfying things to me is working in the dirt with the plants, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables. A quiet day spent alone outside with the sounds of the wind and songbirds as my company is heaven. The making of beds, planting of seeds and removal of weeds marks the time passing. My feet connect to the earth, I breathe fresh air, feel the warm sun or the cool mists. While sitting in on a sociology class in Poland the professor lectured that peasants love the land more than anything. They have a very strong sense of territory. How can we not love that which sustains us? The peasants were completely and utterly tied to working the land and the land itself. Their work, traditions, symbols, stories, rituals, costume reflect this in a profound way. They were not separate. Life was not easy. There is a fundamental truth to living in balance with the seasons, the crops, the weather, the dirt.

Nowadays so much can get in the way of this truth. I like how the Polish author Wieslaw Mysliwski writes about our fundamental tie to the land in his book, "Stone Upon Stone":

"When death is staring you in the face even a college graduate becomes a person again, so does an engineer. At those times everything falls off life like leaves dropping from a tree in the fall, and you're left like a bare trunk.  At those times you're not drawn to the outside world but back to the land where you were born and grew up, because that's your only place on this earth. In that land, even a tomb is like a home for you."

Certain places resonate strongly with an individual. Do we remember things on a cellular level? Are ties and memories passed on from generation to generation through blood, DNA, spirit?  It's interesting to me that there is such a similarity in climate and landscape between Korczyna, Poland and Harskut, Hungary, the rural landscape around the Philadelphia area and even in Cummington, MA where I make my home. Rolling hills, green hay fields, wooded forests, distinct seasonal changes. I feel so at home in these places. They are familiar.

Outside of Harskut, Hungary

Village home and land in Harskut, Hungary

On the road between Krakow and Korczyna, Poland
Korczyna, Poland
I fell in love with the landscape around Krakow, Korczyna, and Harskut. The orchards there were full of plums, apples, cherries, walnuts, peaches, pears, elderberry. Most homes seemed to have a large garden with cabbage, potatoes, dill, currants, raspberries, blueberries, carrots, beets. At long last I met family and connected with them in such a meaningful way. They were wonderful hosts, so caring and hospitable, and happy to share with me their lives and lifestyles. My cousins Anna and Karol had their own large gardens at their homes in and outside of Korczyna.  They proudly showed me their garden plots and fed us the goodies growing there.

Anna in her garden harvesting potatoes for dinner

Karol with his garden outside of his parish house
Times have changed for my relatives in Poland and Hungary yet I can still see how their deep ties to the land manifest. Cousin Paulina gave me honey from her mother's hives. Her grandfather Roman shared homemade fruit wine with me in his home during an afternoon visit. In Hungary, my cousin Anci and her husband Laszlo have a large parcel of land a short drive from their home in another village near Harskut. Their parcel is full of wine grapes and fruit trees. Hungary is wine country. We spent a memorable evening on this land under a grape arbor with Laszlo playing the accordian and all of us singing and sharing songs. Tears were shed that night. The moment was so meaningful.

Me, Laszlo and Bencsi under the grape arbor

Hungarian wine grapes

Laszlo's vineyard and orchard
Roots, family and the land take on a deeply meaningful role. There is nothing like sitting around with one's family on a beautiful day, outdoors, enjoying company and literally the fruits of big gardens and hard work. Since connecting with my living family overseas and the land of Poland and Hungary, I begin to understand my family and myself more. My questions about who I am and where I come from are slowly answered. Still, I have so many questions and such yearning for further connection. This longing pushes me ahead and my ancestors pull me forward on a journey. I'm taking steps on a path where resonance unlocks the answers to many a mystery. 

I will explore these themes more in future posts where I'll write about identity, authenticity, passion and connection and how these ideas play out in my art practice on A Call from the Ancestors.

My Grandmom with my Grandmom Angel holding me as a baby in her arms


Spring: Breathing in New Life







This spring, as my gardens blossom and I plant seeds, I've been blessed with heartfelt reminders of the connections I have with meaningful people who touch my life. I am so held and for this I am thankful. A professor and friend from Poland answers questions I have about folk art traditions and culture in Poland and sends me beautiful Easter tokens from Krakow. A woman I look up to and befriended in Poland who is a professor and author surprises me with a gift of books on Polish topics of interest after I bought a book she wrote. My local town church sends a prayer shawl for Kaz and me, visitors, a home cooked meal and offers of child care after a car accident left me in pain and tired out emotionally and physically. My parents bring their love and some home cooked meals for our freezer when they come up for a visit. My mom buys me a beautiful book about Polish cooking, full of recipes I cannot wait to try. Family and friends call to check in and send their love. For all these things I am so thankful. Loving connections is what life is all about. Loving one another is what life is all about.

These generous connections have sustained me after a long winter, a time of huge personal transition into motherhood. I keep waiting to feel like I've caught up with myself. I keep waiting for my head to clear and breath free from under the waters of transition. As I wait for this moment I realize that things will never be the same again. Adding the role of mother to my identity has truly rocked my world.

At the same time I am hungry for inspiration, desiring a clear voice and purpose. I want to write about what inspires me, what fires up my creative soul, the work I do, the beauty that is out there in the world, what I am learning, the interests and quests that pull me like the moon pulls the tides.

I work with starts and stops. I've lost the ability to have open ended time and full days ahead to attend to my interests, goals, studies, art practice, music, blogging, gardening and other creative pursuits. In rare moments when I am alone with my thoughts I get hopeful and excited about the possibilities my dreams have to offer. I know they are there in background, following me around as I chase after a curious and crawling Kazmir. They whisper in my ear when I find myself with a quiet moment.

I go weeks listening to Polish language tapes most days and making progress. Then I go weeks without getting one lesson in. I'm reading books that deal with my interests. My local library finds me books I am anxious to read like Norman Davies, "Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland"and "Stone Upon Stone" by Mysliwski. Then when I open a book at the end of the day I find I am able to read a few pages with an alert mind before I want to drift off to sleep. Progress is very slow going! My books become overdue. I lose momentum and get frustrated.

My art making is on hold for the moment. Imagined images pass through my head like ghosts I can't grasp. I imagine the texture of a wet paint brush full of bright color and spreading it across paper like one might imagine the sensation of sinking into a warm bath or taking a bite of a fresh out of the oven, butter soaked, homemade, bread. I fantasize about color combinations, patterns, big canvases and art shows.

It's time to breathe new life into this blog. I worry, can I do it? Can I focus? Can I keep a thread going? Can I discipline myself and write interesting pieces from the heart? I think I can. What if I set a goal to post once a week? I think that is reasonable. As I pursue my interests and look to study Polish and Hungarian culture and arts further, my blog can become the place of accountability to myself and to others who may find these topics and/or my method of pursuing my passions of interest. Spring reminds me that there is always another chance to begin afresh.


Bright Sun Shiny Day


Spring isn't just flirting with us anymore. It's here to stay for it's season. Daffodils, lungwort and hyacinth are blooming in my garden and the dandelions are coming out with a cheerful hello.  

I wanted to post some pictures of Pisanki given that many of us celebrated Easter, Passover and spring this past weekend. I bought this decorated egg in Poland last summer. I love pisanki: the symbolism, the colors, the decorations, the act of making them. The egg has symbolized for many, many, many years, fertility and the revival of nature.  In Poland and elsewhere "Christianity imbued the painted egg with new meanings transforming it into the Easter egg and giving it a new symbolism but it could not totally eradicate the elements of pagan beliefs associated with the painted egg. Easter eggs, blessed in church by a priest, were continued to be used as a sort of charm for many different occasions: to be placed under the corner stone of a house; to help making bees to give more honey; to guard against misadventure on a journey; to secure happiness in marriage; to promote multiplication in the animal, floral and human worlds, to a name but a few of its functions."(http://www.ppld.co.uk/en/easter_pisanki.htm)

Usually between Easter and May Day a group of friends and I get together to make this style of egg together. I hope we do it this year as I have a lot of inspiration from my trip last summer.


I was in Pennsylvania last weekend to celebrate Passover and Easter and visit with our immediate family. It was a quick trip but so nice, ...especially nice to spend a bit of time with our families. Spring is ahead of us by a few weeks down there and it was a treat to "time travel" through the season. I like to think of it as time travel anyway because I get a tease of what's to come then get to head home, north to the cooler hills, and watch the whole thing unfurl slowly before my eyes.

Travel seems to take it out of me a bit more nowadays but I'm back in my groove and heading down the home stretch towards a goal of having a bunch of new merchandise (cards and prints) for a spring festival on May 12th. I also plan on updating my Etsy shop, blog and will have my promotional and marketing materials written up and posted. Actually, I have a lot to share with you in the coming weeks as I take it up another level. I'll begin a portfolio page here with my blog of projects I've been working on. I was commissioned to design a tattoo and and will be posting about that. My art now lives on a human body! Wow, now that is something permanent. I'm also putting the finishing touches on a wedding invitation I was commissioned to design. I can't wait to share these projects with you!

I just started an online course this week called Creative Courage which is offered by a lovely artist named Stephanie Levy. I'm hoping to continually learn tricks of the trade especially in relation to starting my own home business and balancing my creative life with being a new mom. So far this week has been full of good writing exercises, reading and interviews with inspiring creative women.

I hope you all are enjoying spring in your own way and feeling the energy of new life and new inspiration during this beautiful season.

Kayah and Bregovic...A musical treat with Polish and Balkan flair.

It's leap year, it's snowing outside, I just finished a grilled cheese and cup of tea, and I'm about to head over to my studio in the room next door to begin painting the three new drawings I made earlier this week. February is coming to a close and now off towards March and springtime!

So, why not celebrate with a song? My friends Razvan and Eleana introduced me to an album,Kayah and Bregovic, a couple of years ago and I've been listening to it a lot in my studio while I work lately. Goran Bregovic, born in Sarajevo, is a famous musician who is inspired by the music of the Balkans and Kayah is a very successful, Polish singer/songwritier. Here the two pair up for what became a wildly popular Polish album in 1999. The lyrics, music and video to "Prawy Do Lewego" are fun and entertaining, telling a story about what happens during a rowdy wedding on a boat. 

 

"Prawy do lewego"

W dużej sali duży stół
There is a big table in a big hall
A przy nim gości tłum
There are a lot of quests at the table
Gospodarz zgięty wpół
The host bend in an half *
Bije łychą w szklankę
Is hitting a glass with a spoon

Cisza chciałbym toast wznieść
Quiet! I'd like to make a toast
Jak można to na cześć
If it is possible in honour of
Ojczyzny w której wieść przyszło życie nasze hej
Our homeland in which we lead our life

Racja brachu
You are right my brother **!

(Więc) wypijmy za to
So drink up for that !
(A) Kto z nami nie wypije
[B]And who won't drink with us
Tego we dwa kije
We will took him into two sticks ***
Prawy do lewego
Right one to left one
Wypij kolego
Drink up mate !
Przecież wiemy nigdy nie ma tego złego
We all know that it never happend any bad things...***

A na stole śledzik był
There was herring on the table
Zobaczył go pan Zbych
Mr Zbych saw it
I pojął dobrze w mig
And he figure out in a second
Że śledzik lubi pływać
That the herring likes to swim****
Wstał by nowy toast wniesć
He gets up to make another toast
Za rodzinę świętą rzecz
In honour of family which is a holy (blessed)
No i teściowych też
And in addition for mother-in-law too
Rodzina to jest siła!
Because the family is the power !

Racja brachu..........
You are right mate...

Dzisiaj młodzież już nie ta
The young people of today are not the same (as in the past)
Użalał się pan Stach
Mr. Stach was complaining
Lecz machnął ręką tak
But he waved his hand so hard *****
Że wylał barszcz na panią
That he spill beetroop soup on a lady

Nic to jednak przecież bo
There is nothing to warried, isn't it ?
Sukienkę można zdjąć
She can take off the dress
A toast wznosi ktoś Za dobre wychowanie
But the toast is rising for good manners


Racja brachu.........


Pana Kazia kolej to
This is Mr Kazik's turn
Więc krawat ściągnął bo
So he take off his tie
Przecież postarza go
Because the tie makes him look older
I choć był już na bani
And although he was already drunk

Bez pomocy z gracją wstał
He stand up with a grace
Jąkając się dał znak
Stuttering, he made a signal
By wypić teraz za
To drink now for
Balony pani Mani
Mrs Mani's boobs

Racja brachu............

Revisiting Summer...in Poland

 

This morning I got out of the shower and was surprised to see how the house was darker than when I woke up! The gloom and impending rain inspired me to share some beautiful photographs with you from a sunny, summer day spent at a Skansen (Open Air Museum) in Poland last August.

Come with me to re-visit this Skansen in Tokarnia nearby the bigger city of Kielce, Poland. An old world village atmosphere is created with regional architecture, old & well maintained peasant homes: many white washed with thatched roofs, lively & colorful cottage gardens, a wooden church with hand painted interior, wooden sculptures by a folk wood carver/craftsman, altars and crosses marking your journey along the pathways, rural dwelling interiors with, herbs drying in entry ways, masonry cook stoves, embroidered linens, decorations honoring special times of year, ritual and traditions and geraniums in the window sills and paper cut curtains for decoration.

I hope you enjoy this summertime stroll where we'll see many things representing a rich, rural lifestyle and some cultural traditions found in Poland. I love feeling the sense of spirit infusing these places, objects, gardens with beauty, meaning and connection to the land, history and people of this place.

It's Mother's Day, May and time to work in the garden!


May is here! Hooray!  Tomorrow is Mother's Day...Hooray!  Happy Mother's Day to the Moms out there!

I've been so full, working on plans for my trip. I began a campaign on Indie Go Go to fund raise for my artistic pursuits,education and travel plans. I am out in the gardens working hard.  This burst of activity may explain my quiet blog.

I'm getting back into the grove of gardening and I've been putting in full days. My body is feeling it.  That tired, physically worked all day feeling.  Which is so good... so is the sunshine, the sound of bird songs, gentle winds, and rain drops.  I feel pretty lucky to work outside all day most days of the week.

I had a lovely visit to Pennsylvania a week ago.  Although Mother's Day is tomorrow, I got to see and spend good time with my mother, mother-in-law and my grandmother which was all a real treat. I also got to spend time with my dad and father-in-law and my aunt and grandfather.  My plans for my ancestral, folk art trip this summer has inspired interesting conversations about family.  I looked at pictures with my Grandmother Stella who was born in Poland and moved to America at thirteen. She returned to Poland in 1985 on a trip and she shared images of places and relatives I will meet and see when over there. Images of great-great grandmothers and great-great-aunts who are no longer with us were in the mix of photos as well as images of cousins, as kids, that I will see when I am in Krakow.  One evening my mother pulled out old photos of her family which were nice to look through and prompted more stories and connections to be shared from mother to daughter. Stories were shared about my tug boat captain great grandfather, my English ancestry from northern England, my mothers' grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins who I never really knew. My husband's grandfather and mother were excited to share stories about Grandfather Morris' familial connections to Poland. 


My grandmother and I spent time in her Philadelphia row home garden. She pulled some wildflowers by their roots for me to take home and plant on my land. I remember sitting out there in lawn chairs as a kid and playing with my cousins. Grandmom Stella still loves to garden and at 86 spends time out there most warm, dry days. She likes to weed, rake and admire her flowers.  Her tulips are beautiful as well as her primrose. She keeps a statue of Mary in the garden to look over her plants. Last summer she came up to my place here in Massachusetts and loved looking at my garden.  The garlic that I harvested inspired her to plant her own garlic last fall which is now growing. She gives me a garlic report on every time we talk on the phone. All the photos were taken last week at Grandmom Stella's garden.

Quest To Poland and Hungary

Krakow, Poland (photo from google images)
What a winter it has been.  Actually, what a year it has been!  Last year, as I began taking my personal development and artistic development a lot more seriously, a message came to me loud and clear...

"This is your life, create it, live it."

I've been aiming and reaching to embrace this kind of outlook for awhile now. However, this year I am taking it up a notch. At some point I realized how I was living a little too passively by taking jobs I didn't fully love for the money, jumping on other peoples creative projects and not fully developing my own vision while deep inside I knew I wanted to step out and define myself more on my own terms. I am the co-captain of my ship along with the mysterious force that is with me every step of the way. I've had to be patient, I've had to trust and just put one foot in front of the other. Ultimately, I'm learning how to trust myself. The work is paying off and the path is becoming clearer. I feel aligned with it and on it now and feel excited, actively co-creating with what the universe gives me. I'm learning that hard work and patience are two keys to self development. Something I think I understood intellectually but am just starting to really understand in practice. 

I'm excited to announce my plans that I believe will have an impact on me for a lifetime. I am going on a creative and educational quest to Poland and Hungary. I've been working this past winter and spring by clarifying my creative, educational and travel dreams. I enrolled in an art class, I created an independent study project, I got in touch with friends and family in Central Europe, I bought a plane ticket, I arranged for places to stay and I created a fundraising page on IndieGoGo, that I will launch shortly, to help me meet the study and travel costs of this quest. I will be posting regularly regarding this quest and the fundraising. I especially can't wait to continue blogging from over in Poland and Hungary in July and August. In the following text you'll find a more in depth description of my plans. I'm so looking forward to sharing this quest with you!

Study & Travel Plan

I arrive in Krakow, Poland on July 3rd to attend a four week long study program at Jagiellonian University which is the second university to be founded in Central Europe way back in 1364.  The course, which is organized through The Kosciuszko Foundation in NYC, is called "The Art of Poland: Past and Present" and covers the art history of Poland, folk arts, poster art and contemporary art.

While in Krakow I plan to forge a connection with the Ethnographic Museum to do independent study on the folk arts of Poland. I will be taking photographs, sketching ideas and researching images, stories and music that will be influential to my future creations. I’m also looking forward to meeting and visiting with my family who reside in and around Krakow, as well as sight seeing to get a glimpse of the culture of my ancestors.

In August I will spend time in Hungary with friends and split my time between Budapest and the countryside. I plan to explore various Hungarian folk/peasant art traditions by visiting museums and attending festivals held on weekends during the summer months. My musician friend wants to share traditional Hungarian music and songs with me as well as put me in touch with traditional dancers who live in his countryside village. I will visit Harskut, Hungary, the village my grandfather's family is from. More photographs, sketches, memories, music and paintings will be made during this time.

The Impact

I believe that there are parallels between the working class people of today and the peasants of yesterday. Instead of toiling for land owning lords we toil for the elite/corporate class. I believe one's connection to meaningful creativity creates spiritual, mental and physical health ultimately fostering a sense connection within oneself and with the outer world by positively impacting community and relationships.

Culturally, I see a shift of interest from a consumeristic mentality to an interest in the cultivation of local economies through the production and consumption of handmade, homegrown products, goods, food and arts. I am interested in traditional cultures and how they created meaning and beauty in their lives before big box stores, factory assembly lines and mass consumption. How were the personal, the spiritual and the beautiful created and shared?

I believe that we find a deeper meaning in life through the creation and appreciation of beauty. I imagine that my ancestors, the peasants of Poland and Hungary, created many things of beauty and meaning despite leading lives full of back breaking work for the benefit of the upper class. Wood working, paper cuts, embroidery, paintings, gardening, music making and story telling gave the peasantry an outlet to create and share stories, folk lore, traditions and beauty. I am looking to re-cultivate this mentality for myself, not only to connect with my personal history but to create homemade things of beauty and meaning, and build new bridges within my community both socially and economically.

I will create new work to show in community and commercial gallery’s based on my experience. I will share these ideas and what I learn with others through my work and presentations. And I plan to start my own handmade business using my designs.

Sketchbook Sunday #5

I continue to be super inspired by central and eastern European folk art and folk design.  For this painting I worked up a sketch from my sketch book onto a bigger piece of Bristol board and used my gouache paints to add vibrant color.

This process of digging deep and creating new work has been so rich and interesting for me because after, what my friend and mentor, Valerianna over at Ravenwood calls, "stirring the cauldron" or searching within for months and wondering what my next line of work would be, inspiration hit. 

Now that I have, what Twyla Tharp in her book "The Creative Habit Learn It And Use It For Life" calls,  a "spine" to my work I can follow ideas and play with inspirations that trace back to my Hungarian and Polish ancestry and love of this particular aesthetic.  The spine provides support and allows me the creative freedom to build from a foundational idea.

The best part for me is that despite having this new direction I see lines of connection in the way I've been developing as an artist all along.  Lines, shapes and symbols are coming out in my newer work that hark back to ideas and creations of the past.  This is a good sign to me because there is a creative thread being expressed that means I am truly being myself.