A Tribute to Super Woman

After my heart attack in October 2013 my physical abilities took a definite down turn and I realized (under protest and very slowly at first) that I am no longer forty years old.

Most people know that Ellen and I have been married for over forty-five years. What most people do not know is that Super Woman had a life of her own, and set aside her own ambitions and goals to instead nurture others and be of continuous service to those around her.

Her abilities, persistence, patience, strength and outlook on life that is bolstered by a deep-running Faith are but a small part of who this Super Woman is.

As my physical condition prohibits me more and more of doing things that need to be done, Ellen has been taking up the slack and is doing all the “heavy lifting” around the homestead and beyond.

While kiln repair trips are still part of our life it is a fact that I can no longer drive as long as I used to and still have energy to repair a kiln, forget about driving back! So in that department too Ellen does most of the physical work, from driving to pushing the tool cart as well as doing the actual repairs on kilns… Super woman she is indeed!

Here’s but a small assessment of and a tribute to my better half:

Ellen A. Donker

Jewelry designer, Wife, Mother, Nurse and all around Fit Helpmate!
(With Gold Clusters)

An accomplished and award winning jewelry designer and goldsmith, Ellen earned a degree in Fine Arts from Indiana University, where she studied under Alma Eikerman.

Ellen employs “the Danish method” of silversmithing: most creations are forged out of sheet gold or silver by means of hammers and special anvils. “A blacksmith of the old days in miniature” is a good description of the way in which Alma Eikerman taught her students.

Some of Ellen’s creations may have over a hundred individual hammered pieces that are all soldered together. First groups of three, four or five pieces are soldered together, and then, finally, all groups are soldered together into the final assembly.

The bracelet pictured below, has over a hundred individually shaped pieces in it. Other pieces are strictly forged and hammered out of sheet metal, like the sterling silver neck piece pictured.

In her senior year Ellen was offered a scholarship and a graduate teaching assistantship in the jewelry department of the School Of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington. Then along came this tall handsome Dutchman who swept her off her feet, promised her the moon and, against her better judgment, Ellen followed him to an uncertain future as an independent artist.

Her career flourished in Indianapolis and in 1971 her work was part of the semi-permanent display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the “Objects and Crafts ’71” show.

In 1972 Ellen participated in the Louisville Art Center Association’s “Regional Craft Biennial as well as numerous other invitational and juried shows among which the Southern Tier Invitational of 1973 stands out, as it became the possible gateway to a New York (and Tiffany’s!) connection.

In 1976 she was chosen as one of the Outstanding Graduates of the School of Fine Arts at the fiftieth anniversary of that institution. In conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of the School of Fine Arts, Ellen’s work was represented in the “Bicentennial Craft Invitational” show of 1976 at the Indiana University Art Museum.

While Rogier was traveling all over the States and Canada being “Mr. Amaco”,  Ellen set up and headed the first jewelry design/gold-smithing department of the Indianapolis Art League (as the Indianapolis Art Center was then named).

She continued to teach at that institution until 1980. When, in 1980, their son Elias was born, the Donkers closed the Donker Art School, their Gallery and store in Broadripple and Ellen and Rogier moved to the country to raise their son.

Ellen’s artistic career took a back seat to the raising of Elias. A funny thing happened along the way… LIFE! Ellen’s life in the country became an exercise of strength, endurance, Faith and fortitude.

Time after time people whose needs took priority over her jewelry career crossed Ellen’s path. She found herself having to nurse first her twin brother Allan, then an elderly homeless second cousin, who was followed by an elderly aunt and, finally, Ellen’s mother moved into the guesthouse.

Ellen’s mother lived in the guesthouse for about ten years. In ill health the last five years of her life, Ellen found herself having to nurse her mother until the latter passed in 2004.

Between taking care of relatives and the needs of Elias there was very little time to devote to the jewelry department. Less demanding than the jewelry, but none-the-less creative, Ellen started a small nursery on some extra property that was acquired. It did not take long or the nursery grew into a very successful wholesale nursery that supplied all kinds of perennials and bushes to the local flower and landscaping trade.

All along Ellen worked in her jewelry studio on a very limited basis, usually only during the winter months.

Then, in 2005 the flood happened and Ellen became a building contractor and then some! Her efforts can be seen here! While the house was being built, there was simply no time to devote to either the jewelry department or the nursery.

Meanwhile, in the kiln repair department of the Donker’s Life Adventure… Rogier’s silicosis, bum leg and the aftermath of the widow-maker prevent him from driving long distances or hauling the kiln repair cart around so Ellen  now accompanies me on most kiln repair calls… Being of service again…

This month we will be celebrating our 46th wedding anniversary. Wow! What a ride it has been!

Here’s to you dear Ellen, I hereby thank you for all the sacrifices you have made and continue to make, I love you very, very much! 🙂