Sidonka Wadina grew up in a Slovak neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her grandmother, Johanna Biksadski, told folk tales and stories of Slovakia while teaching Wadina to decorate eggs and weave straw talismans for the annual Holiday Folk Fair, an ethnic festival in which the family has participated since 1943. Her grandmother told her: "You are the future; it is up to you to pass this along so it will never be lost." When Biksadski lectured and gave presentations on Slovak culture at schools and colleges, her granddaughter demonstrated. When relatives returned from Slovakia with examples of straw work, Wadina took them apart to understand how they were made. Later, she studied harvest mythology, visited museums in Slovakia and learned to recreate the traditional straw talismans. She became proficient in dozens of straw plaits and egg-decorating techniques from villages throughout the Czech Republic and Slovakia. She has also conducted master classes in straw weaving in Poland, Hungary, Ukraine and Belarus.
The Wisconsin Arts Board recognized Wadina as a Master Folk Artist in the 1990s, and since then she has taken part in its Folk Art Apprenticeship Program. Her straw ornaments have decorated Christmas trees of three Wisconsin governors and those at the White House during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. She has demonstrated and exhibited her work at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington, D.C., and has demonstrated at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival and the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial, whose brochure covers featured her artwork. She is a folk art instructor at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Public Museum.
Wadina graduated summa cum laude from Gateway Technical College in Kenosha with a degree in graphic design technologies in 2007. She has written and illustrated a Slovak recipe book published. In 2011 Sidonka was honored for fifty-five years of volunteering at the Holiday Folk Fair International, and in 2014 she was inducted into the fair's Guild of Master Artisans. She is president of the National Association of Wheat Weavers.
Brendel, Toni, and Sidonka Wadina. Slovak Recipes. Iowa City: Penfield Books, 2009.
National Endowment for the Arts. “Sidonka Wadina: Slovak straw artist/egg decorator.” https://www.arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/sidonka-wadina
United States Artists. “Sidonka Wadina: USA Distinguished Fellow, Traditional Arts.”
Sidonka Wadina demonstrates her craft at the 2015 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts.
Sidonka Wadina discusses the meaning of the decorations on the eggs, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.
Sidonka Wadina discusses the meaning of the goddess culture in her craft, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.
Sidonka Wadina talks about her craft's effect on her and others, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.
Sidonka Wadina talks about her passion for her craft, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.
Sidonka Wadina talks about the process of making the eggs, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.
Sidonka Wadina tells a story about what goes into making a harvest cross, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2015.