Story Behind the Artist - Vonna Maslanka

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We all get inspiration in different ways. It can come from nature, from music, or from a good meal we had. We often see the inspiration for others in social media, a picture of a beautiful sunset here, a photo of a hilltop there, a glistening sparkly donut somewhere else. We see these beautiful pictures and a light sparks within us whether it’s to create something ourselves or simply have a little bit brighter of a day. 

However, other times our inspiration comes from something not so cheerful, or at least not anymore. Sometimes we experience something so painful that the only way to ease that pain is to create something from it. Often that creation might turn out ugly at first but then with time it becomes something new and beautiful and full of love.

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This is the case for Vonna Maslanka. Vonna was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. She started creating over 30 years ago when her children were small and they would make beaded bookmarks for a local gift shop near where they lived. They would buy their special beads, make new and unique bookmarks sitting at their table at home together, then take them to the store to sell. It was a time of laughter and fun and pure creative spirit… then everything changed.

Several years later Vonna’s son passed away at the age of only 21. Any death is hard to manage but the loss of a child leaves a wound much deeper.

Over time, with the support and encouragement of a network of creative friends, Vonna started creating again and finding her design style, this time more as a therapy after the death of her son. If anxiety took hold of her, she would work it out with the beads that once represented joy, laughter, and love and, like a phoenix from the ashes, turn something heartbreaking into something beautiful.

 handmade artisan bracelets JustVonna Vonna Maslanka


Some may see Vonna’s bracelets as eclectic and out of the ordinary as they vary widely in design and Vonna even admits, “simplicity is not in my vocabulary”, but when you look at them and see each little charm as a different memory from her past, it comes together like a storybook that, while it may have its ups and downs, is still one you want to read because it makes you think of your past as well. Some books aren’t meant to be light and bright the whole way through. Some are meant to expose the darkness in order to appreciate the light. Nothing will ever replace the loss of her son but, through her work, she can create something meaningful and treasured. In Vonna’s words, “Grief never goes away, you just have to find your way through it. I always find my way, with hopes you do too.”

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Vonna still lives in Chicago and loves creating her bracelets amongst the chaos of her collection that is located in her studio. She draws new ideas from ones she has made in the past, sometimes making only one at a time and sometimes making a set to either be worn together or given away to loved ones. Her work has even been published in beading and glass magazines along with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Annual Gallery of Women in Glass. She also was recently published in the 500 Book Series “Showcase 500 Art Necklaces”.

"Peace is the key to one's heart" The instinct to express peace, compassion and love is the essence of life in its purest form. We must also have great dreams and goals beyond our reach. When we meet a goal, it encourages us to further explore the boundaries and try to go beyond them. Inspiration can come from the tiniest morsel of human affection. I guess this leaves me with one crucial quest; can you conquer your dreams? Jon McEachern, July 5th 2005 

RIP Jonathan Daniel McEachem
December 26, 1986 – November 30, 2007


handmade artisan charm bracelet justvonna Vonna Maslanka
Vonna made this bracelet especially for her son
based on the above quote. It is available in her online booth.


**Editor’s note: This article was composed as a joint effort between the Made By Her staff and Vonna herself. You can find her work listed in the online booth Vonna Contino Studios.


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