Tradition, passion pushes Indiana Township woman to top of craft
Roksolyana “Yana” Zabolotna-Kutuza carries forward many of the traditions of her native Ukraine. However, she uses her own talents to make ideas come alive.
Supported by her family, Yana — pronounced with a soft ‘Y' which blends into an ‘L' sound — is considered to be the heart of Barvinok Designs.
“She is definitely the backbone of the company,” said Ihor Koval, her daughter's fiance.
Yana is reticent about speaking in English, saying she has worries that she isn't making herself clear.
Her uncertainty is understandable considering her ability to read, write, and speak Ukrainian, Russian and Polish; and understand an estimated 75 percent of what she hears in any Slavic language.
Everything about Yana seems natural — from her melodiously accented speech, to her flowing mahogany hair, to her shining dark-brown eyes.
No wonder when she designs jewelry she uses flowers as her inspiration.
Barvinok Designs pieces range from earrings and rings to show-stopping necklaces.
However, often Yana wears a stunning five-tiered flower necklace with a casual sweater.
Her favorite shades are browns, so there are amber-hued stones and brown agate with mother-of-pearl beads in her signature necklace.
Most of the jewelry is built on a wrapped-wire technique. Barvinok Designs finishes the back of each item with mother-of-pearl so there are not sharp ends to snag sweaters and the natural material warms quickly to the skin.
Yana, who moved here less than two decades ago from L'Viv, relies on her heritage in her work and daily life. She begins every day with tea, which she says is common in her native land.
Yana works for some time each day on jewelry, unless her fingers are cracked from twisting wire.
“We work as much time as we have free time. We sit and quietly work,” Yana says.
Her daughter, Daryna, who attends the University of Pittsburgh, comes home and joins in as a way to de-stress from college classes.
Daryna's fiancée adds ideas and marketing skills.
Even Yana's husband, Alexander, an endodontist and college professor, knows he will find his family in the workroom often.
Yana and her daughter enjoy creating and wearing unique pieces.
“These are jewelry which are individually you. No two are exactly the same,” Yana says.
Yana finds fulfillment not only in her creativity but also by providing something special for customers.
“The necklace finds its human,” she says.
Most of Barvinok Designs pieces are sold via the Internet or at local shows.
The company website includes a range of products
The jewelry can be found at Boyd Community Center's show in May.
Ihor says shows provide a way of educating the public about the value of handmade items, which contain the individualization of mind, heart, calluses, and sometimes even a little blood that is quickly sanitized away.
As busy as she is, Yana will make time for the Ukrainian Classroom Committee at Pitt to offer a class in traditional egg making.
Rarely does the proud immigrant sell these traditional Easter creations because they are too much work.
She only gives them as special gifts.
And like Yana, her business's name is steeped in tradition — it comes from the Ukrainian name for periwinkle, a flower, and means “the pleasure of memories.”
It is used at traditional Orthodox weddings as a part of bridal crowns.
Sharon Drake is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.