By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, MN While most people are satisfied with reading the newspaper’s Red Rooster Days coverage, Jena Levandowski of Dassel decided to make the news actually wearable.
Following an estimated 10 hours of measuring, cutting, and taping roughly 25 Red Rooster-themed newspapers, “Casopisni Papir Obleka” was ready for the 2017 Red Rooster Fine Arts Show at the Dassel History Center Labor Day weekend. It received a blue ribbon.
The name translates to “newspaper dress” from Slovenian, which is Jena’s ethnic heritage.
While she can’t put her finger on where the idea came from exactly, a few factors likely led to the finished product: Jena’s fascination with art made from recycled materials; and an art exhibit she attended years ago. The theme: clothes made from newspaper.
“I thought it was great,” recalled Jena, “and that one day I’d love to do that.” That day arrived with the Red Rooster Fine Arts Show which she realized was a week-and-a-half away.
Getting right at it, Jena worked on the skirt’s base for a few hours before being pulled away to address family matters. She would not return to the dress again until the night before it was due.
“As a lot of us artists do,” she commented. “I started at 9 p.m., and by 3 a.m. it was completed.”
Even though making the dress out of fabric may have been more durable, Jena said the history retained within newspapers is what made her want to use them.
“Newspapers are a part of our everyday existence,” she said. “Not as much as in the past, but there is something very personal about them. They connect us. They keep us informed, and they preserve the present for years to come a tangible part of us that is slipping by more and more. I wanted to focus on the past in a present form. To connect with people. To step back and look [and] see the past, but be present in the moment at hand.”
While it may have been the first, Casopisni Papir Obleka is likely not the last newspaper dress Jena will make. In fact, her parents are saving the comic sections of newspapers so she can make dresses for her 4-year-old twins during the winter.
“I already know how I want to do them,” said Jena.
Although she has seamstressing ideas she’d like to pursue, making clothes is not Jena’s main passion. Rather, she spends most of her time making functional stoneware pottery as a full-time potter. Her husband, Aron who got Jena interested in pottery while they were dating works as a graphic artist at American Time in Dassel, in addition to making pottery most evenings.
Together they operate Levandowski Pottery out of their home, creating products in the basement, firing them up in the outdoor kiln, and showcasing them in the yellow gallery on their property.
Fueled by their creative spirits, there is more to these artists than clay, however.
“Aron loves to paint, and hopes to have time again someday to push a brush around,” said Jena. “As for me, I love many things. Jewelry making is up there on my list.”
She continued, “This winter, I would love to have time to explore the idea of making some sculptures out of recycled items.” Knowing how filled up one’s schedule can get, however, Jena included the disclaimer, “One can dream.”
Regardless of what they make the time to create, however, the Levandowskis are grateful they get to experiment and express art right at home.
“I’m thankful to live in a community that supports the arts so strongly,” said Jena. “It is such an important part of our lives. Art is everywhere around us, and I am glad to have the opportunity to follow my dreams and play [with] clay every day.”
And as she plays, Jena is already dreaming up next year’s Red Rooster Days Fine Art Show entries.
For more information about the Levandowskis and their work, visit levandowskipottery.com.