Olenka Kleban is a Toronto-based sculptor and installation artist. By day, she is active as a freelance sculptor, working on museum exhibit models and interior design installations. And other days she is active as an installation artist, making fine art from her barn-studio and writing artist statements and public art proposals. And other days she helps out on her boo-thang’s farm with various permaculture doings, from sowing to harvesting to animal care. But everyday- everyday Olenka is a folk artist.
Practicing mainly Ukrainian folk arts, Olenka engages in biliy holos singing. She participates in kosa kolektiv’s yearly Koliada and Spring Songs tour with Ukrainian Village Voices of New York, as well as regular singing around the late evening dinner table. She has taken singing lessons from accomplished folk singers, including Marichka Kudriavtseva and Maria Sonevytska of Ukrainian repetoire, Eva Salina Primak of various Eastern European repetoire; and most recently, under the influence of her lover’s Cajun musical obsession, attended Louisiana’s Black Pot Camp and Festival where she studied under Catherine Planet of French Canadian repertoire, David Greenly of Cajun repertoire, and Miss Tess and Thomas Bryan Eaton of American folk harmony singing. She has always been drawn to sing, and having found her voice with the biliy holos style, now sings more and more publicly than ever before. What was once a personal way to unwind with friends and loved-ones is now becoming a major part of her public work as a folk artist.
Olenka also is a dedicated pysanka writer. Every Lenten season she is wholly devoted to sitting for long hours by candle light with a kistka and writing ancient geometric designs onto the curved surface of tens of eggs. The past few years have led Olenka to thoroughly research and experiment with plant dyes, making homemade recipes for an array of colours. This exploration and method of dying has brought her closer to the ancestral methods of making pysanky, enriching this yearly activity into wildcrafting and days-long process in order to decorate a single egg.
Olenka’s newest interest in folk art is vytynanky, or papercutting. She enjoys the theatricality of paper as a material that can flutter in a breeze, hang and spin on a string, and cast wonderful silhouettes. She has taken papermaking classes, and has been researching various papermaking techniques in order to get the best results from her materials. She practices illustrative papercutting by single blade, as well as symmetrical, folded-paper techniques by scissors.
This year Olenka spent the winter season living in a tipi in the Rocky Mountains with a Rocket Mass Heater as part of a project at Wheaton Labs. If you have an interest in talking shop about RMHs, just give her a prod!
At Folk Camp, Olenka will be co-teaching singing classes: Harmony Singing with Derick Greenly, and Ukrainian Songs with Alex Baczynska. She will also lead a papercutting workshop, where participants can explore the papercutting techniques, designs, and stories of various cultures, and come up with their own papercut creations.