My Ukrainian heritage has been the most celebrated, practiced, and recognized by my family. My grandfather (John) on my mother’s side was Ukrainian, with parents who immigrated to Canada and settled in Ethelbert, Manitoba. Perhaps it naturally happened that the Ukrainian heritage live on, or that he insisted his wife learn traditional Ukrainian recipes, art, etc. that also ensured his 7 daughters learn Ukrainian traditions. He did ask that my Grandmother (Virginia) learn Ukrainian painting and found her a private painting teacher (who refused to teach her at first because she is not Ukrainian).
My grandparents were true artists. Whatever the medium, they created meticulous works of art. After Virginia learned traditional Ukrainian painting techniques, John used his woodworking skills to recreate old-world Ukrainian ceramic molds. Virginia poured the molds, and painted, with incredible skill and personal touch, Ukrainian designs. She became a master of the art.
My grandparents lived in Ontario for most of my childhood, where we visited from Michigan as often as possible. My family owned a small cottage with property adjoining their 100 acres of Canadian forest. Time spent at the cottage was time spent learning: mushroom hunting, gardening, painting, ceramics, knitting, and cooking. This was how John and Virginia expressed love.
Though I still practice many of the things I learned from them, I did not continue with ceramics. We did not own a kiln, nor have easy access to materials to support an interest. As a child, my artistic endeavors were mainly sewing, drawing, and writing. Grandpa passed away 2 years ago, but Virginia continues to build on 91 years of wisdom and experience. I am happy to learn from her.
Today was day 1 of my lessons. I have had to relearn everything ceramic-related I was taught as a child. Virginia patiently taught me to dust the molds, mix the slip to the correct consistency, pour the slip into the molds, dump the excess slip, trim the visible edges, and now the molds are sitting on my countertop drying until this evening when I may open them and remove the greenware.
Grandma has retained all the skills. She is still sharp as blade. I look forward to the next steps.