Ada Brzeski

From Paper to Clay: preserving traditional folk art


I have been potting now for almost 15 years. I found my voice in clay about 10 years ago when I started looking at my Polish culture and the colourful folkloric art works it has produced. These folkloric works in paper and embroidery can be very intricate and are produced mainly by women. I cherish this work and want to preserve the designs in clay so they are not lost to future generations. I taught myself the art of Wycinanki [Vee- chee-nan-kee] the colourful art of Polish paper cutting. This took me to Poland to study under Maria Stachnal, one of the greatest folk artists there. I use the paper designs in my ceramics like a paper resist. The design is applied to the greenware and painted with coloured slips. When the slip hardens, I remove the paper and the design is revealed. I make these pieces from the heart, drawing on my pride in Polish culture. I hope they bring joy to your table and an appreciation for old traditions.

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Ada Brzeski


Ada Brzeski started pottery about 15 years ago under the tutelage of Anne Chambers. 

Mainly self-taught, Ada’s passion for clay led her to join the Ottawa Guild of Potters.  She became involved in the organization as event coordinator and treasurer.  She attended intensive pottery courses including ones at Haliburton School of Arts, Lunenburg School of Arts (with Walter Ostrom), Alfred University (with Bruce Cochrane) and La Meridiana in Tuscany. 

Much of her work is inspired by her Polish roots and the colourful folkloric art works of that culture. She taught herself the art of Wycinanki [Vee- chee-nan-kee] the colourful art of Polish paper cutting.  She studied in Poland under Maria Stachnal, one of the greatest folk artists there.

She shares a studio with three other artists at Studio Space Ottawa of which she is a founding member.

Her work is available at the Wilno Craft Gallery in Wilno, Ontario.  She also sells through the Ottawa Guild of Potters’ biannual sales.  Pieces may also be purchased by contacting her directly.


Artist Statement

Preserving traditional Polish folk art in clay

“Fragments from clay vessels and objects have been the chief remnants left from prehistoric human activities.  Ancient peoples are studied mainly through the clay artifacts – or shards thereof - that remain.  From the ceramic fragments that survived, we draw inferences about cross cultural borrowing, trade, migrations, and the degree of sophistication of different societies.”

From The Craft and Art of Clay by Susan Peterson

Will our digitized culture survive millennia as pottery shards have?

How will future historians reconstruct the lives of today generations from now? 

My goal in clay is to preserve culture;  more specifically, my Polish culture.  About ten years ago I became interested in Polish folkloric art.  Polish homes were decorated with Wycinanki (colourful paper cuttings). I taught myself how to make Wycinanki [Vee- chee-nan-kee], researched traditional Polish designs and developed my own.  I travelled to Poland and studied under Maria Stachnal who is regarded as one of the greatest folk artists in Poland, creating colourful works for over 50 years.

In my ceramic work, the Wycinanki becomes a stencil which is placed on a leather hard plate then covered with a colored slip.  When the slip hardens, I remove the paper and the design is revealed.  The plates are bisque fired then fired again with a clear glaze, making them food safe.

Polish traditional dress and table linens were intricately embroidered.  The Polish region of Kashubia is known for beautiful flower designs which I have also started using in my pottery.  These designs can be seen here in Ontario in the town of Wilno, painted on houses and barns.  The same paper resist process is used as well as some mishima and sgraffito.

Each piece is unique because the paper cutout can only be used once.



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