Saving Our Ukrainian History

Anastasia, Margaret, Rosemary and Barbara

Anastasia, Margaret, Rosemary and Barbara

As we get older it is only natural to think about what we are leaving behind, not that I have plans to leave this world anytime soon. The reality, however, that death is inevitable enters my thoughts more often now. I remember when my daughter was 5 or 6 years old and she began to question me about what happens when we die. I wanted to keep it simple and fell back on what I was told growing up. I said, “when we die, if we are very good we go to heaven.” She immediately responded, “then I am going to be bad, so I won’t die.” Of course, I had to let her know that there was no escape from eventually dying, but assured her she would be here for a very, very longtime.

I’m not sure if everyone thinks of this, but I wish I could shape my narrative now, so that when I’m not here to explain, people will at least have some understanding of who I was and what was important to me.

My father has been gone for 27 years. I search for the sound of his voice, the accent, intonation, and volume. My oldest sister says that our brother, my father’s name sake, sounds most like him. Wish I could remember. I have spent the many years since his death trying to preserve what I could of him.

Margaret, Barbara and Rosemary in Krasne, Ukraine

Margaret, Barbara and Rosemary in Krasne, Ukraine

In 1999 my two sister’s and I accompanied my niece on her trip to adopt children from Ukraine. That is a whole story unto itself. What I am grateful for is the opportunity it provided for us to reconnect with my father’s family there. I will never forget arriving at the home of our cousins Emilia, Roman and Ivana. The question from my sisters was how do we know they are really our cousins. At that moment Roman reached into a drawer and began pulling out letters and photos. We can see it then; pictures of my sister’s wedding, my nieces baptism, my nephew’s communion, my graduation. These were the correspondence between my father and Emilia’s father. For years he shared all these life events with what was left of his family in Ukraine.

Ivanna, Stephania, Rosemary, Lidia, Emilia, Margaret, Barbara and Roman

Ivanna, Stephania, Rosemary, Lidia, Emilia, Margaret, Barbara and Roman

Below is an article written by the wife of the adoption advocate working with my niece. She did a wonderful investigative report and found our family. Some of the facts in the article are confusing and I’m not sure, if my grandfather was a tailor, or a shoemaker. I was an occupational therapist working in mental health at the time, never a psychologist as stated in the article, my sister rosemary was a botanical garden docent volunteer not a botanist. There are other small details that got lost in translation, but the sense of it is so true.

Click on images to enlarge and read. The smaller ones are the English translations.

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Article published in Voiceof Ukraine January 2000

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2nd part of Article in Voice of Ukraine

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English translation of the Article in Voice of Ukraine

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2nd page of article translation

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3rd page of article translation

I’ve volunteer with the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America for the last 15 years. Our group has raised funds and gathered clothing and supplies for humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

I also volunteer as a board director of the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit. This is where I have the best hope of preserving our immigrant history. It’s important to tell our story, not just for our families and communities, but as a way to connecting to the world community.

I started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum of Detroit with renovations.  Please consider making a donation.

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Porcelain head completed

The daring process of glazing a sculpted figure

I choose a subtle finish using a watered down Amaco Ivory Beige velvet underglaze. Finishing with a watered down clear glaze.  My goal was keep the attention on the sculpture and not use a glaze that might distract from the form.

Below is are images to that recap the start to finish of the process.

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Just Out of the kiln

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Porcelain Clay Head Drying and Firing

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Are we there yet?

The photos above take you through the some of the stages of drying. Moving from tightly wrapping in plastic, to loosely wrapped to air drying. I planned to let it dry for 3 weeks. It ended up being longer, until I had enough work to fill the kiln.

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Above is the piece from greenware to bisque. It was fired at 04 in my manually operated Evenheat Model K Kiln.

Since this is not intended to be a functional work to hold water as a vase or be a vessel for food. My choices for finish are unlimited. Do I fire again to cone 6 using; Underglazes, Iron Oxide washes, Clear glaze. Or opt for a more predictable cold finish: with acrylics, stains, or other non-firing patinas?If I decide to use a cold finish should I fire again to vitrify at cone 6?

We aren’t there yet. To be continued

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Hanging an Exhibit at a coffee shop

This is the first time I have exhibited my work at coffeehouse. Sweewaters Cafe on Washington St in Ann Arbor, MI is a great space.

Founded in 1993 by Wei and Lisa Bee in downtown Ann Arbor. They now have locations in several other States.20180819_0827221535943657.jpgIt can be challenging for a 3-D artist to transition to wall hanging pieces. The 15 works on display here are the most I have ever created.

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Designing narrative figurative sculpture in boxes is not new for me. I have enjoyed the process of mixing my sculpture with other media and found objects from the beginning.

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In the last two years I have learned to enjoy creating relief tile pieces like those above. This process is like drawing and allows me to complete work more quickly because of the smaller surface area and the faster clay drying time.

I am hoping this exposes my work to a wider audience and possibly generates some sales or commissions.

I would  love to learn other clay artist experience with untraditional exhibit settings.






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Porcelain Clay Head Progress Days 6 and 7

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Looking back at the calendar and when I began posting, I am reminded that it has been over a month since I started working on sculpting this piece. My first images are from July 2nd. These last two weeks working have been both joyful and anguishing. In some ways like when you are reading a great novel, you can’t wait to get back to it. However, you know you will be sad when you finish and no longer have something to look forward to reading. Guess you can find another book, as I will probably begin a new sculpture.

Working I am constantly reminded of the of the importance of slow and even drying. Periods of rest, where I carefully wrap the piece in airtight plastic to slow dry and redistribute moisture. Every time I make a change or add clay I need to let the clay have a chance to get used to its new form at each phase. It is critical to work without having one part dry too quickly before the rest of the piece.

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The changes above are subtle. I’m working on the details in the facial features and hair. I also added a bottom to the neck. I have kept the clay someplace between plastic and leather hard. In order to stand it needs to be firm, but wet enough to shape and sculpt.

Monday I will return to the studio and decide what is next. If I make no additional changes I will begin to let the piece dry slowly by loosely wrapping in plastic, then gradually removing the plastic. My concerns here are decreasing the potential for slumping or cracking when I finally fire.

Any comments, or suggestions are always welcome.

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Porcelain Clay Head Progress Day 5

There is so much to enjoy in the process of sculpting in clay. Once I begin a new piece, I rarely work in wet clay for more than 3 months. I’m always too impatient to see it completed.

It is possible to keep a wet clay form moist a workable for a year or more. It requires a strong sealed plastic wrap and periodic re-wetting. You may find mold will begin to grow on the clay. Spraying with a mixture of vinegar and water can help minimize the mold.

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So above you can see more of the individual identities in the faces being refined. A friend suggested these were the four muses. In Greek mythology was Thalia the muse of comedy, Melpomene was Muse of tragedy, Terpsichore Muse the Dance, and Calliope was the Muse of Poetry or song.

I will keep working and see what develops. Please add your thoughts or comments.

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Porcelain Head Days 3 and 4

Typically I am in my clay studio twice a week for at least 3 hours or more. I fire the kiln and do my assemblage work in my home studio. This works well, because I can work on my art everyday at one stage or another.

Seeing the piece today I start noticing some of the faces are longer than the others. I also take a critical look at the neck. Does it need to be longer or shorter? The other thing I need to start planning for is a base. Should a I make a clay structure or start searching for a found object or box? I don’t need to make these decisions yet, but should keep them in mind as I move forward.

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Here I am continuing to refine the features, and make the top edge even. At this point I haven’t decided if this will be a closed form or remain open.


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It’s important to have time pass between adjustments and refinements to the piece. Frequently you can pick up problems better when you have been away from your work. The 4th day I am discovering expression and more of the personality of each face.

This continues to be a work in progress. As long as I keep the porcelain moist, I have options to change directions and modify my sculpture. After each major change or addition of clay it is important to re-wet, cover with plastic and let it rest. Re-wetting is tricky, too much water and you end up with mush, too little and it becomes dry and crumbly. When you get it right, it is heaven.

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