Columns and stories of life from the Fredericksburg area.
Russian native living fairy tale life here
BY EDIE GROSS, The Free Lance-Star
They often appear to Marina Sciascia just before she drifts off to sleep at night.
Hairy trolls with protruding bellies and free-ranging teeth.
Willowy gnomes with kind eyes and mischievous grins.
Witches with knobby fingers, knitted brows and bulbous noses where warts bloom like mushrooms.
She keeps a pencil and sketch pad next to her bed so she can quickly commit the images to paper before they vanish from her mind’s eye.
“Every day before I fall to sleep, I see pictures, colors, bright, and I’m drawing fast,” said Sciascia, a Russian native who now makes her home—and her artwork—in Stafford County.
In the light of day, Sciascia pinches and molds polymer clay to bring those figments of her imagination to life.
No detail is too small: Opalescent fish scales cover the hands and left foot of a red-headed warrior troll, who leans on an ax to compensate for the right leg he lost in battle.
A kitten pokes its head out of the pocket in a witch’s apron.
A gnome storyteller wears a candle atop his cap and an inkwell on a chain around his neck. Each of the buttons adorning his leathery jacket features a different face.
“I like funny, interesting details like this. I like unusual dolls with long fingers, the schnozzle, as my husband calls it,” she said, referring to the dolls’ exaggerated noses, “funny teeth, googly eyes. I like ugly, but funny—not ugly like scary.”
ART WAS A DREAM
For as long as she can remember, Sciascia (SHAW–shaw) said art has been her passion.
She grew up in Krasnodar, in the southern part of the former Soviet Union, where her father was a doctor and her mother a teacher-turned-librarian.
Her uncle had studied English, and he shared with her his vast collection of books: stories by Charles Dickens and Jack London, fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, and folk tales from the British Isles.
She’d bring the books to school and sneak peeks at them during class, a habit that annoyed her teachers but fired up her creativity.
By the time she’d come home in the afternoon, her imagination was primed for painting whimsical creatures on paper or molding them out of clay.
In college, she studied to become an interior designer. But the collapse of the Soviet economy made it difficult to earn a living in that field, she said. So she earned a degree in cosmetology and practiced as a beautician for 16 years, developing her own lotions and face creams from all-natural ingredients.
“But all this time, I have a dream to make something like art,” said Sciascia.
She was married and divorced and raised a daughter, now a professional makeup artist and beautician in Krasnodar.
In 2004, a friend urged Sciascia to try online dating. She was skeptical, but agreed to give it a go.
Eight time zones away, Andy Sciascia was also reluctantly trying online dating. A widower, he wanted to meet a Christian woman—preferably a redhead—to share his life with.
The two met on the Internet in March 2004. By October, they were married.
“It was all orchestrated by God,” said Andy Sciascia.
Marina Sciascia said she knew he was “the one” the first time he reached for her hand and she didn’t tense up as she’d done with others.
“He took my hand and I understand something unusual,” she said. “I was comfortable with his hand, and I knew, ‘This is my man.’”
DREAM BECOMES REALITY
Andy Sciascia works on construction projects throughout the Washington region, and the couple settled in North Stafford.
Not long after coming to Virginia, Sciascia said she asked her husband if there were any art stores nearby. That’s when she discovered Michaels and Jo–Ann Fabric. She bought watercolors and acrylic paints and began painting fantastic scenes, many inspired by the fairy tales she’d devoured as a child.
With clay, she fashioned quirky characters who looked as if they’d feel right at home in a Tim Burton film. Each is one-of-a-kind—she doesn’t use molds—and she dresses them in handmade, hand-painted outfits adorned with jewels, flowers, ribbons and buttons.
Molded onto wire skeletons, the figures have movable limbs. Sciascia said she’d like to use some for stop-motion animation films one day.
Her husband had no idea she had a flair for the artistic until he got a look at her creations.
“At first, I thought a demon possessed her. She had the weirdest-looking characters. I said, ‘Man, what is she reading?’” he said, laughing. “But she has a very, very whimsical mindset, and she loves doing it.”
Sciascia said she recalls a childhood filled with browns and grays, but her work explodes with reds and purples, blues and greens.
She sells most of her work via eBay, and her pieces have gone to doll collectors as far away as Spain, Russia and Switzerland. She also occasionally paints murals for children’s rooms and has created illustrations for a friend in Moscow who is working on a story book.
Just about every day, she’s creating something new.
“I am hungry about my art,” she said. “It was my dream and I so long waited.”
The only problem?
“I have so many ideas, but only two hands,” she said.
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428