Congratulations to active member Geraldine Reszel, Newsletter Editor, who was chosen by the
International Institute to be a 2014 Wall of Honor Recipient. Geraldine has been a member of Polanki since 1980 and immediately got involved in Holiday Folk Fair. In 1982, when Polish was the honored
group, a play was written about a Polish wedding, and Geraldine played the mother of the groom.
Geraldine carried merchandise to vehicles, set up the sales booth, broke it down and carried merchandise to and from vehicles late at night for many years. Later she decided to work in the
kitchen of the food booth because she did not have to wear a costume. She baked dozens of
Polish cheesecakes, cooked, put out a fire, toted water, washed pans, set up, tore down, etc., until
Polanki finally decided the food booth was not profitable. When Janet Branden passed away,
Geraldine offered her basement to warehouse Polanki’s merchandise. Geraldine has been on
Polanki’s Board since 1982; first as corresponding secretary and then as newsletter editor.
BERNADINE JENDRZEJCZAK - 2014 ARTISAN GUILD
Bernadine Jendrzejczak began working in the craft of wycinanki, Polish paper cutting nearly 40 years ago. Wycinanki developed in central and northeastern Poland in the regions of £owicz and Kurpie. Each region has its own style of Wycinanki that reflects that part of Poland’s natural environment. £owicz, which Jendrzejczak practices, grew out of a setting of lush, green plain dotted with flowers. These qualities are manifest in £owicz’s utilization of bright colors and flower motifs. Kurpie, on the other hand, is a more heavily wooded area reminiscent of northern Wisconsin. Its style of paper cutting exhibits rectangular rather than circular motifs and is generally monochromatic.
Jendrzejczak describes her practice of Wycinanki as like being a single atom in a long chain–a connection to her heritage. She was introduced to Wycinanki as an adult. A member of Polanki, the Polish Women’s Cultural Club of Milwaukee, where she was known for her talent in embroidery and other crafts, Jendrzejczak was nudged into Wycinanki by the organization’s president who would donate older women’s Wycinanki materials to Jendrzejczak after they had passed away. Finally, Jendrzejczak relented and discovered her joy and enthusiasm for Polish paper cutting. Taking up Wycinanki depends less on artistic training or background than it does on having the right moment with it, Jendrzejczak says. She is currently teaching her nieces the intricacies of Wycinanki.
Over nearly 40 years of doing Wycinanki, Jendrzejczak says that her work has become less traditional. She
explores motifs and subject matter traditionally foreign to the craft. Transformations in the tools and
materials have also led to changes in how she does Wycinanki. When the craft began nearly 250 years ago as a way to beautify cottages, inked newspaper stock and sheep shears were Wycinanki’s lingua franca. Today, 5-inch scissors, water based glue, and a combination of fadeless and origami paper enables Jendrzejczak to produce more refined work with more delicate tools. What has not changed, however, is the challenge of vision in Wycinanki: working from the back side with only one eighth of the work means that you must be willing to devote a lot of time to uncertainty. In one of the most meaningful pieces she produced, Jendrzejczak pioneered a square, rather than circular piece, featuring four pairs of roosters in place of eight individual ones. This piece’s literal unfolding made it so special, the final product was more beautiful than Jendrzejczak imagined.
–Reprint of write up about Bernie on Artisan Wall at Holiday Folk Fair-2014.