Before the 3D printer, there was Judye Frankowiak. The resident of Eastcastle Place senior living in Milwaukee humbly shares her fascinating career during which she created life-sized figures for museum exhibit dioramas.
Frankowiak studied art at Michigan State University. After graduating, she got married and stayed at home to raise her children in Milwaukee. “When they started school, I got back into my artwork,” she said. “In 1970, a friend of mine suggested I look into working at the Milwaukee Public Museum. I went to visit and took a figure I had made to show to the art director at the time. He was impressed. I then, as a volunteer, made a little boy for the Asian exhibit. They were happy with that and put me under contract to create the figures for the Indian market place exhibit, Japanese women having a tea party, and more. I did about 45 figures in all.” Declining to name a favorite, Frankowiak said, “I loved all my children.” Frankowiak still likes to take her great-grandson to the Museum, where he’s able to identify her work.
Most of the figures were created from wax although a few were made from resin. “I never did much work in terms of painting. Three-dimensional was really my work of choice,” she said. “The joy in my work was in the modeling of the figures. Now, more and more they’re using body casting and 3D printing.”
When the Milwaukee Public Museum didn’t need any additional figures, Frankowiak was recommended to for work for the Illinois State Museum, which commissioned her and allowed her to work from her own Milwaukee studio. “I eventually did work for museums around the country,” she said.
Frankowiak moved to Eastcastle Place late last year. “My husband passed away, and I didn’t like living alone. I decided that maybe I’d be more comfortable living in a senior community. I looked at several, and they were all nice, but this was the nicest. I like to walk and being on the Eastside is a great location for that. Eastcastle Place has lots of activities and a swimming pool which I enjoy.” She added, “Everyone here is very friendly and very welcoming…the staff and the residents both!”