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Shannon Westerman

I am not an artist, but I’ve always loved handmade ceramics, and I’ve thrown more than a few pots in my life. My grandfather was an artist, graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago during the Depression. My great-grandmother was a very creative woman, and she hand-painted this China platter in 1908.

The date is significant for two reasons: one, it’s an heirloom piece of porcelain that survived intact for nearly 115 years, and two, my grandfather credited his mother Beulah for his artistic sensibilities—even though he never knew her. Sadly, Beulah died during childbirth to my grandfather in 1909. After he passed in 1988, I inherited the porcelain plate my great grandmother hand-painted in 1908. The Dutch Girl always brought a smile to my grandfather’s face, and now, nearly 115 years after its beautiful production, “she” still brings a smile to my face, too. But more importantly, “Dutch Girl” reminds me of the transformational power of art & craft as a thread to familial history.

A plate with a silouette

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