Thicket House Kirigami by Cynthia Emerlye - click to enlarge this.
The Kirigami slightly more in context
across the bookroom from the kirigami
Long Ago and Far Away, a little girl, born in 1902, who would grow up to do many amazing things, and become my mother in law in 1972, was growing up on her beloved family home, Sovenyhaza, in north western Hungary, near the city of Gyor. (There should be an umlaut over the ‘o’ and a long accent over the ‘e’, but I seem to have lost my Hungarian program during the computer crash earlier this year.)
When I say this little girl would do amazing things, and have an amazing life, I was not exaggerating. No, if anything this is an understatement. Sovenyhazi Fricke Isabella, known in her childhood as Didi, was blessed with a fine intelligence, a remarkable physical stamina and a drive to accomplish what she set out to do. She had great faith and a good sense of humor which helped her immensely in her life. She was educated in Budapest by the Sacre Coeur nuns whose school was called the Sophianum, and after completing this, she continued her education to earn a PhD in linguistics, something rather unusual for a woman in Hungary in the 1920s. She had actually wanted to earn her doctorate in her first love, mathematics, but her father forbade it. He said it would sour her personality and she would never find a husband. Oh, my. I wonder how much he actually understood about linguistics! For a time, she wanted to become a Sacre Coeur nun, but then, at a country ball given by her aunt at her home near Tolna, in the Dunantul, she met her future husband, Jalics Kalman (Hungarian names are spoken like Asian ones, with the family name first), and they were strongly attracted to one another, kindred spirits from that first evening when they talked and talked for hours and hours. In a fairly short time they were engaged and then married in the fall of 1925. For most of the next twenty years they lived happily at their home in Gyal, Hungary, (even through the difficulties of the depression) and Isabella became the mother of ten children, five sons and five daughters, of whom my husband Paul was the youngest.
Her life was often the opposite of easy….My mother in law lived through two world wars – with fighting on the ground in her own country. She lived through two communist regimes, one a reign of terror after WWI when her father had to hide in swamps at some distance from her home, and again after WWII, when her husband was arrested by the communists, acquitted at his trial, picked up by the dreaded secret police before he could get home and finally released by them, to live only a few months. The family nearly starved during those first years after WWII. She was also a refugee twice, first during WWII when she fled with her children, sister, sister’s children and mother west fleeing the Russian army, and again after the Hungarian Revolution when they escaped first to Vienna where they found refuge with the Sacre Coeur nuns and then emigrated to the United States, sponsored by her brother who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. There she learned English (having only known a small amount before) and became a teacher. When I met her in 1972, she had been teaching American 6th grade for 15 years. She lived to be 102 years old and was always a woman involved with life to the fullest degree. She loved nature and gardening and worked hard to have real personal relationships with all her grandchildren.
This is a long back story to the kirigami, isn’t it! In the eighties my husband and I started a company, mostly so he could buy picture framing equipment, and we called it Thicket House in honor of his mother’s childhood home, Sovenyhaza which could mean Thicket House or Hedge House……And I began sometimes to think of our home with my hedgerows around most of the property as Thicket House. I don’t know if I will always live here, but it is dear to my heart.
Late last fall I discovered Cynthia Emerlye’s art on etsy.com, that site where many artists and artisans sell their work. In the late 80s and early 90s some of my friends and I had done scherenschnitte and I still enjoy it very much. I loved Emerlye’s laminated snowflakes and bought two sets of six, some for gifts and some to decorate my house during the holidays. Everyone loved them!
I realized that she also designed and cut larger kirigami which could be framed. I commissioned a piece from her to represent Thicket House, a house in a thicket surrounded by a wreath with oak leaves and acorns which I love very much. We have an old pin oak in front of the house in Bath and a burr oak in the backyard of the cottage at Chautauqua, one I raised from a small seedling in a dixie cup. The original Sovenyhaza had a very large ginkgo tree which Paul’s mother and aunt were thrilled to discover still surviving when we went there with them in 1974. So I planted one in my own yard and it is very well grown now, with its lovely fan-shaped leaves that can be used in so many ways. I asked for thistles to be in the wreath to symbolize my Scottish ancestors and the subject of my daughter Emily’s Phd research, and there is a heart in the center of the design.
The result makes me so happy. And everyone who has seen it has really liked it. This piece of art is now framed against a dark green background and hanging in the book room. I am not certain this is its final location, but I’m just enjoying seeing it many times every day.
Here are some websites where you can see more of Cynthia Emerlye’s art.
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