After completing 8th grade, at the approximate age of 14, young adults in Czechoslovakia chose their future careers. We were encouraged to tour different factories to see what type of work appealed to us. I grew up in a town called Ceska Lipa, which is in the northern part of the country, only a few kilometers from Novy Bor, a major glass center in Czechoslovakia. My father had a friend who graciously took me on a tour of the glass factory where he worked, and I was able to see many different processes and glass making techniques. I knew instantly that I wanted to work with glass. Once my decision was made, I was taken to the Glass School in Novy Bor, and was given an aptitude test to determine which technique I would study.. I was most suited to study glass grinding because of my abilities to use geometry and think 3 dimensionally. That year, the school admitted 28 students: 7 engravers, 7 glass blowers, 7 glass grinders, and 7 glass painters. I was among approximately 70 students to apply for a position that I was later admitted to. My schooling lasted a little over 4 years and included a mix of both technical and creative curricula, as well as a comprehensive study of the history of glass, art history and drawing.
Shortly after I began my education at The School in Novy Bor, Czechoslovakia experienced political turmoil: the Velvet revolution separated my country from the Soviet Union, then shortly after that, was fighting between the Czechs and Slovaks, which led to the two separating to form the Czech Republic and Slovakia . This left the country, and my future completely up in the air. I new that the communists weren’t coming back, but the general feeling among the students was one of pessimism. Our futures seemed uncertain, and we had no idea what direction things would go.
After graduation from the Glass School at Novy Bor, I got a job at one of the largest glass factories in the Czech Republic, Crystalex. Even though the country was no longer communist, the system in the Czech Republic was still regulated, and salaries in the factory were not determined by skill, but seniority, and there was no incentive to do your best work. It was a very grueling job with long hours and no incentive to be creative or use any type of initiative. About 6 months into my new position, the principal of the Glass school came to the factory, and offered me a job at his as a glass grinding instructor. I immediately left Crystalex and began teaching.
A year and a half later, while working at the glass school, I received a visit form a woman (Vladimira Klumar-Pavlik) who was looking for a glass grinder to come to work for her husband (Michael Pavlik) in the US. She was looking for someone who not only had my skill set, but could come to the US and work during the summer. As a teacher, I was free to do so. It seemed like a perfect fit.
Upon arrival to his home in the US, Michael left an open map on the kitchen table making all the important places I needed to know like supermarket and bank etc. and left me the keys to his home and car. I was immediately struck by how trusting he was of me, a complete stranger! He taught me many things about living in the US, but more importantly, he introduced me to my best friend, Martin Rosol, as well as the uniquely American style of cooking called barbeque which still remains a favorite of mine.
After returning to the Czech Republic after my first trip working for Michael, I realized that even though the communists were no longer in power, there was no point in having any talent or creative aspirations in the Czech Republic because no matter how hard you worked at any job, there was no advancement without seniority. It was also clear to me that there would be no way for me to be an independent artist like Michael because there was no marketplace in the Czech Republic for my work at that time. What started out as a summer job soon became my chance to live and work in the US. After several years of coming to the US for 6 months at a time, I quit my teaching job at The Glass School in Novy Bor.
Fast forward 15 or so years, and I am married with a young son. I have completed the lengthy process of becoming a US citizen, which stirred up many emotions and thoughts of my life’s path. Becoming a citizen was a difficult journey, I needed to not only learn about American history, but American civics and it’s political process. I also had to tell my family, still living in the Czech Republic that I was going to give up my Czech citizenship. Even though I have been living in the United states for many years, my parents were very hurt and disappointed that I was essentially renouncing the identity that they know, and their way of life. I was forced to confront my past in order to move on with my present and future.
On January 23, 2012 I went for my citizenship test and interview, and was delighted to pass, and take my oath of citizenship that very same day.
It was always my dream to be able to design my own body of work, and make a living on my own terms. I am grateful to be doing just that.