Saturday, September 1, 2012

Challenge of Travel...Poland

It is time for a fascinating journey, hosted by the lovely and talented Erin Prais-Hintz of Treasures-Found. On this journey, you will travel the world via the Challenge of Travel and see beautiful pieces of handcrafted jewelry. So please join me on a venture to Poland, where culture is rich and family values are strong...

Size: 312,658 square kilometers
Population: 38,415,284
For more facts on the country of Poland, follow this link
Town of Warsaw.

I have never traveled to Poland but have heard magnificent stories from my husband's grandmother, or Babci as we all knew her as, Waltie (Pytko) Fortuna. Babci is the Polish word for grandmother. She migrated from Ruda, a town in the southern part of Poland, to the United States at the age of 17 with her sister. It was the beginning of World War ll. Fearing for their safety, the two young girls headed for America in hope of a better life. They settled into a small town in upstate New York named Little Falls. There was a strong Polish community there, helping ease their transition into a town that became their home. While she spent the majority of her life in the United States, Waltie always held on to her Polish heritage and traditions and passed them on to her children Marian and Brian. I felt this challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to get to know a little more about the ancestry that ties Brenton (and now me) to this beautiful land.

At the age of 86, Waltie traveled all the way to Havre de Grace, Maryland from
Little Falls, New York so she could see her grandson get married!

One of the most prevalent materials in Polish jewelry is Baltic amber. Amber is fossilized resin from coniferous trees. Baltic amber dates back in time to 40 million years ago. Really hard to wrap my mind around that number! Besides being primarily used in jewelry and adornments, amber is also used in perfumes, folk medicine and certain liquors. It is also possible to find a specimen in a piece of amber including tiny insects, flowers, wood, marine microfossils, or other small organisms. If you have a piece of amber with an entire insect inside it, consider yourself lucky!

I purchased a gorgeous strand of large nugget Baltic Amber a few years ago at Bead Fest. When I returned home, I held the beautiful golden strand in front of a light to get a closer look. It was then that I realized one of the nuggets had an entire insect in it! The poor thing looks as though it was frozen mid flight. Under a microscope, you can see its body, wings and antenna. Amazing!

While I have a few different strands of Baltic amber, I have been saving this particular strand for a special design. This challenge was the perfect inspiration...

My original concept was to place the amber off-center, adding in a variety of materials to give the piece an ethnic style. I then realized that the gorgeous golden nuggets needed to be the focus of this design and that keeping it simple would pay tribute to their beauty.

The ceramic Diane Hawkey family bead not only represents the strong family bonds that are prevalent in the Polish culture, but is also a symbol of the special meaning the word has taken on since first meeting Waltie (Babci). The day that Brenton introduced me to her, she gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek as if I was one of her own. From that day on she treated me like a member of her family, saying "I love you" every time she hugged me goodbye.

The cobalt blue Elaine Ray ceramic bead, set in between the brown porcelain rondelles, represents another well known art form that Poland is noted for: Polish Pottery. Cobalt in the dominant color in most patterns. Waltie's daughter Marian (my mother-in-law) has been collecting Polish pottery for many years. She primarily uses the dishes for her Thanksgiving dinner each year, tying in her Polish heritage with her love of spending time with family. 

I finished the necklace with a beautiful flower and bee clasp from Green Girl Studios. It represents the insects and plant life that were touched by the tree resin, which we all know as amber.

Waltie Fortuna (Babci).
She enriched the lives of everyone who knew her, treating them like family! 

You can see what other participants have created here:
Name Blog Region Chosen Inspiration Nation
Monique Urquhart Africa Burkina Faso
Niky Sayers Africa Egypt
Therese Frank Africa Kenya
Raychelle Heath Africa Lesotho
Joan Williams Africa Mauritania
Sherri Stokey Africa Senegal
Regina Santerre Africa Seychelles
Raida Disbrow Africa Tanzania
Kristi Wodek Africa Zimbabwe
Sally Russick Americas Brazil
Melissa Trudinger Americas Mexico
Tracy Stillman Americas USA
Sandra Wolberg Asia India
Tanya Goodwin Asia Japan
Susan Kennedy Asia Japan
Beth Emery Asia Japan
Lisa Cone Asia Japan
Tanya Boden Asia Japan
Inge von Roos Asia Laos
Erin Prais-Hintz Asia Nepal
Dee Elgie Asia Phillipines
Carolyn Lawson Asia South Korea
Lisa Stukel Asia Sri Lanka
Elly Snare Asia Thailand
Shelley Graham Turner Europe Austria
Mallory Hoffman Europe Bosnia Herzegovina
Paige Maxim Europe France
Jenny Davies-Reazor Europe Germany
Sharyl McMillian-Nelson Europe Greece
Evelyn Shelby Europe Iceland
Holly Westfall Europe Ireland
Rebecca Siervaag Europe Ireland
Toltec Jewels Europe Ireland
Lee Koopman Europe Ireland
Laren Dee Barton Europe Italy
Cindy Wilson Europe Norway
Kathleen Lange Klik Europe Poland
Shaiha Williams Europe Portugal
Jennifer Justman Europe Romania
Elsie Deliz-Fonseca Europe Spain
Lola Surwillo Europe Sweden
Kim Hora Europe Switzerland
Leanne Loftus Europe The Netherlands
Patti Vanderbloemen Europe The Netherlands
Marcie Carroll Europe Turkey
Marlene Cupo Oceania Federated States of Micronesia
Ine Vande Cappelle Oceania Fiji
Tammie Everly Oceania Guam
Alice Peterson Oceania Kiribati
Elisabeth Auld Oceania Nauru
Susan McClelland Oceania New Zealand
D Lynne Bowland Oceania New Zealand
Denielle Hagerman Oceania New Zealand
Rebecca Anderson Oceania Papua New Guinea
Mischelle Fanucchi Oceania Samoa
Kari Asbury Oceania Solomon Islands
Cece Cormier Oceania Tonga
Emma Todd Oceania Tuvalu
Debbie Price Oceania Vanuatu


  1. Love your design. That necklace is really a beauty. Enjoy your travels.

  2. Great post. Interesting story about Poland, Babci and amber. Lovely necklace.

  3. What a beautiful necklace Kathleen and how lovely that it ties in with family, which to me, is the heart of everything!

  4. Kathleen, such a beautiful tribute to Babci and your family's heritage! Your necklace is a wonderful culmination of the aspects you have spoken of in your tribute. And boy, do I ever love that blue pottery!!

  5. What a lovely story of roots and famliy, of amber and jewelry, Love it!

  6. Its perfect. No , really - its perfect. Ties to the country the culture, your family. And the necklace is a rock star. Yup. Rock star!

  7. The necklace is as beautiful as your story. I love the amber and the "family" bead. it's a gorgeous piece.

  8. Love your piece ad how it ties in with your family's heritage.

  9. Hi Kathleen,
    I enjoyed reading your post about Poland and getting to know the Polish side of your family. I love the necklace and learning all about the Baltic Amber. I also like the other touches in the necklace that relate back to Poland. This was also a very touching tribute to Babci

  10. Oh, this was a beautiful story to read! I cannot even imagine relocating to a foreign country at age 17, especially during WWII - leaving your country and everything that is familiar to you to start aknew. She must have been a strong woman (beautiful weddding pic, btw!). I DID NOT know the story of the amber, yet I have seen amber beads online with the insect intact and always wondered "why?" Thank you for answering that question for me! Your necklace is absolutley one of my favorites throughout this bloghop - it totally embraces everything you wrote about, including the FAMILY bead and the COBALT blue bead. I collect Dutch Delft china ( as my heritage is Dutch) and it has the same hues of blue! I loved reading this post - thank you for sharing!

  11. I love your necklace - especially the touch of blue - fabulous!

  12. Wonderful story of family and love...beautiful necklace, I love the simplicity of it's style with each element tying into a part of your story.

  13. Kathleen, your necklace and this story are beautiful tributes to the woman you obviously loved. It sounds like she was wonderful to be around.

    Your necklace is beautiful and would stand on its own, but is made even more meaningful with the country and family background you have shared. Thank you so very much!

  14. I loved your story and it is clear that this necklace is a very special piece for you to make! Waltie sounds like she was a lovely woman.

  15. Thanks for sharing your history and inspiration for a very beautiful necklace!

  16. Very interesting look at family history and Poland itself. Loved reading about Babci. The amber is so beautiful, you were absolutely right to focus on that. I love the simplicity of the piece and the meaning behind the components. Wonderful work!

  17. I love this piece, lovely combo if beads!

  18. Kathleen,
    Your necklace is beautiful in design, color balance, dimension and deep, heartfelt meaning.
    What a wonderful family story! Loving memories last a lifetime, and you can be reminded of those, each time you wear your special piece.
    Well done in every respect.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  19. My husband's grandmother came her with her brother at about that same time. At just over 4 feet tall she was a fireball, a hard worker, honest, and loving. And believe me you did not want to cross her.

    I love the gorgeous piece you made, and I'm glad you chose to put those lovely amber beads front and center. What a lovely tribute to your family.

  20. As I read your beautiful tribute to the homeland of the irrepressible Waltie, I couldn't help but reflect how fate seemed to have guided the two sisters, Kathleen. To leave all they knew, and come to a strange land, must have required great faith and courage!

    Your amber necklace is both lovely and a fitting way to honour the nation of Poland. I agree with you: the understated design is the finest way to showcase such a unique element. Thank you for such a personal and touching story!

  21. I really like how you combined family history and design in creating your necklace.

  22. What a chariming story and special creation. I bet if she were still around it would be something she would wear everyday and share the story proudly. Lovely!

  23. Such a gorgeous necklace to go along with a wonderful story!

  24. What a lovely necklace - the components blend together perfectly and the overall feel is so warm. Such a beautiful tribute to family and tradition as well. Thanks for sharing the personal side to your choice of Poland.

  25. What an incredible tribute to a wonderful family history! It's the family touches that make a virtual trip like this all the more special, thank you for sharing your story!

  26. What a very special necklace and a tribute to your Babci. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  27. Such a wonderful way to honor your ties to your Polish heritage! I love the story of your Babci. I am of Polish heritage too. We called my grandmother Bousha (not sure of the spelling!). I love that you used the amber that is so important in that region as well as the blue from the Polish pottery. Ever read Jewels: A Secret History? There is a fascinating chapter on amber in there. Thank you for joining me on the journey Miss Kathleen! So happy to take this trip with you! Enjoy the day. Erin

  28. Beautiful post Kathleen! And what a special necklace you created!

  29. What a touching story about your husband's Polish roots. The things you chose to represent Poland and the family are great. And the necklace is gorgeous!

  30. What a beautiful post about Poland, about Polish culture and about Polish gold - amber. Thank you very much and greetings from.... Poland:)