This morning my friend and potter Dawn Fessenden and I decided to head out to New Salem to investigate some possible pottery finds and it turned into so much more.

Wanda & George Kokurewicz showcase their pottery work at the Shelburne Falls Arts Cooperative.  They came here from Poland in the 50s and have decided to retire after all these years to be closer to their family in Rhode Island. That’s the short story. The long story is WAY more interesting.

While unfortunately one of their students decided to buy almost the WHOLE studio, Dawn was able to acquire a power extruder and I acquired some wonderful brushes, underglazes and a carved press mold George had made. He even gave me some pottery he intended to get rid of!

The highlight for me, truly, was listening to Wanda talk about her art work and her life. She showed me intricate stamps she had carved out of plaster. Some were of tiny ballerinas and she told me of the privilege of being invited to draw her granddaughter’s ballet class which she uses for source material.

I told her it sounded like getting to play Degas for a day.  One of her granddaughters has been invited to perform with the Kirov and the Bolshoi!  Though the family felt she was too young to go away to Russia, she is going away to art school in North Carolina. Wanda suddenly looked sad but continued to tell me what a joy it was when her daughter lived next store and her granddaughter’s could trot over to visit all the time.

I asked her if it was hard to say goodbye to her pottery life, to which she said “oh no, I am not sentimental. I have moved so much and lost so much that I am not attached to things.” She asked me if I knew about the Warsaw Uprising and that she had been an underground soldier. She had been smuggled from place to place during the war before coming to America. It was truly fascinating to hear her talk this unique time in her life. She mentioned that there was a webpage about her, but not having a computer she did not know the address. I did find this interview with her online at motherwoman.com

George also shared their adventures into showing work at Renaissance Faires in New York and having a painting show with Salvador Dali in the 1950s. Yep, you have my attention. He shared a wonder photo of them with Dali and talked about how a room would become silenced when he entered. It seems he had the charisma I imagined.

What a memorable and special experience. I am so glad to have gone and who knows. Maybe they’ll come to my studio someday.

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