c o n t e m p l a t i o n s a n d i n s p i r a t i o n s o f a n a r t i s a n j e w e l r y d e s i g n e r

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lady Apples

Rita Satz Kaplan soon after arriving in America

I saw lady apples today in the market. You know, those miniature yellow and red apples, about the size of a ping-pong ball. Every time I see them I am reminded of my grandmother. She loved those lady apples. I never buy them, but I always linger for a moment and remember her. My grandmother had a great influence on my life and I like to think that I resemble her - if not physically then in terms of certain traits and characteristics. I named my first daughter for her and I cherish the times when I daydream about her presence in my life.

My grandmother had one of those amazing life stories. Born in Russia (now it is Moldova) she was poor, persecuted and suffered a great deal of loss early in her life. When she was young her father owned a bookstore where famous philosophers and writers were known to hang out. But at an early age her mother died. When she was not yet a teenager her father and older brother came to America to make money and later send for them leaving his three daughters with their elderly grandmother. And as so many stories like this go, the grandmother died, World War I broke out and for many years my grandmother never heard from her father and brother. She and her younger sisters survived purely by their resourcefulness and will.

My grandmother had a striking sense of style and was a talented dressmaker. When she came to the US, she never worked in a sweat shop like many of her generation of immigrants to NYC. She worked on fine dresses, deftly able to hand roll a silk hem, or hand bead a dress bodice. She had amazing talent and an incredible sense of style. My grandmother lived with us when I was growing up from my tween years until I left for college. I spent many hours sitting with her and watching her work, talking, answering her inquiries about my day, my friends, my adventures.

Later in her life she started making exquisite life-like beaded flowers from tiny seed beads. She made orange and black poppies and fresh white daisies. Her hands were never idle - even when she sat and talked with you she was always folding her skirt fabric or apron or purse handle into different fan patterns. She could make something out of nothing. A gown from a piece of cloth. Fabulous embroidered table clothes from ordinary fabric and thread. And flowers from beads and wire.

My grandmother lived to be 96 years old. She was vibrant and with-it until her very last year. Even in her early 90s she had a great wardrobe - pant suits, dresses, blouses that she always “tweaked” in some way to express herself “just so”. Some days when I am working at my workbench, especially beading, I think of her. I think that maybe, just maybe, my work creating jewelry, stringing beads and working in patterns ties me back to her. I only hope that I possess some degree of her talent and style. I am grateful for her influence on my life and for the warm, well-worn memories that I have of her.

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