10 Prime Polish Present Ideas for Christmas 2017
Culture.pl’s editorial team has put together a list of Christmas present ideas, carefully composed of the finest in recent Polish culture. If you’re still out on the hunt for gifts you should definitely consider the award-winning e-reader, the delightful children’s book about doggies, the tasteful jazz album or any of the other classy items that are sure to bring cultural joy to your family and friends.
Całe Mnóstwo Miłości
The title of this album, the brainchild of the young jazz trumpeter Łukasz Korybalski, translates into Whole Lotta Love, a phrase that seems to ideally match the spirit of Christmas which is all about showing how much you care for those around you. The record’s elegant style is reminiscent of modal jazz (a genre epitomised by Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue) and also of the best traditions of Polish film music as represented for example by the work of the famed soundtrack composer Krzysztof Komeda.
The nod toward film music is no coincidence – the compositions were written for a short movie by Bartłomiej Kaczmarek, also titled Całe Mnóstwo Miłości, where Korybalski himself stars knowingly as a weary jazz trumpeter playing at a nightclub. The album tracks were recorded by a jazz quintet led by Korybalski, with one featuring a special guest appearance by Krzysztof Komeda’s collaborator, the renowned saxophone player Zbigniew Namysłowski. Buy: Allegro Records / iTunes.
The Last Family
Speaking of films, this year also saw the release of the English DVD version of the moving The Last Family. The movie, which premiered toward the end of last year, shows the family life of the world-famous painter Zdzisław Beksiński after he moved from the city of Sanok to Warsaw in 1977. Dubbed a ‘mesmerising portrait of battling brood’ by The Guardian, the film shows a family that could quite easily be qualified as ‘dysfunctional’ but nevertheless is strongly bonded by authentic feelings of love. The film, skilfully directed by Jan P. Matuszyński, features some award-winning acting from Andrzej Seweryn as the painter, Aleksandra Konieczna as his wife Zofia and Dawid Ogrodnik as their son Tomasz. Buy: Amazon UK / Amazon US.
Suitable for children from five to seven years, Impossible Inventions presents almost thirty various inventions that were never put to everyday use because of their, rather humorous, impracticalness. Among the exotic ideas you can find such gems like the 19th-century All-terrain Travel Wheel or the Concentration Helmet thought up by science-fiction writer Hugo Gernsback.
The stories of the inventions and their creators, spanning the last 2,300 years, are kindheartedly described by the art historian and editor Małgorzata Mycielska in a manner that’s meant to expand the imagination and curiosity of your young ones. Also, the inventions appear in comic book-style illustrations by eminent Polish children’s books authors and illustrators Aleksandra and Daniel Mizieliński, making the publication a sight to behold. Buy: Gecko Press.
Another children’s book worth recommending is the cut-out book PSIKUSY: Remix your dog. This playful (as signalled by the title’s first word which stands for ‘pranks’ in English) publication lets you create a seemingly endless variety of doggy collages from the different body parts of the purebred canines spread across 40 pages.
The muzzles, tails, paws and so on were specially designed to make the cutting and assembly fun and accessible to children. Also, the dogs were portrayed by noted illustrators such as Jacek Ambrożewski and Małgorzata Gurowska, whose various styles add to the books’ diversity. The idea behind the book, which is to ‘promote mixed-breed dogs and mongrels’ is explained in the foreword written by the well-known writer Dorota Masłowska.
PSIKUSY was published this year by Pani Jurek, a brand founded by the artist and designer Magda Jurek. Buy: Pani Jurek.
Wheras PSIKUSY lets you make collages, this year’s album Traces by the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts graduate Weronika Gęsicka takes the creative burden off your shoulders – it lets you sit back and enjoy already made montages, namely photomontages. This stylishly-published book presents 29 works by Gęsicka based on archival pictures of 1950s and 1960s America, showing idyllic scenes of middle-class family life.
Culture.pl’s Michał Dąbrowski writes in one of his Polish articles that Gęsicka uses digital technology to turn these anonymous and conventional photos into a story ‘about family and its inner dynamics’, adding that ‘the images transformed by Gęsicka are incredible and seem to be both familiar and mysterious at the same time’. Buy: WeronikaGesicka.com.
Sticking to the topic of books, here’s one that lets you read rather than just look at pictures. And a real feast for the reader, especially an avid Joseph Conrad reader, it is.
Commissioned on the occasion of The Year of Joseph Conrad 2017, the 224-page, English-language Conradology includes fictional and non-fictional writings revolving around Conrad, created by fourteen exceptional authors from Britain, Poland and other countries. Among them you can find pieces by the Polish sci-fi writer Jacek Dukaj and Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie. In the foreword Prof. Robert Hamson writes:
The challenge to the writers gathered here is more than simply to explore Conrad’s life and fictions from a contemporary perspective. (..) The resulting stories and essays – from the futuristic to the personal, from the experiential to the philosophical – offer new versions of Conrad, whose own fiction remains as richly suggestive as ever – and whose relevance, as an analyst of the globalised world we inhabit, has never been greater.
If you should decide to give somebody the e-book version of Conradology for Christmas, you might want to consider throwing in the Polsh e-reader inkBOOK as well, so that reading all those essays and stories won’t be a problem, but rather a pleasure.
Thanks to its innovative design inkBOOK deals with what is often considered a shortcoming of e-readers: their alien feel and deficit of grip. inkBOOK’s ergonomic back surface imitating the shape of an opened book gracefully tackles both these issues. Actually, this e-reader is so cool that earlier this year it won Germany’s prestigious Red Dot award, one of the biggest international design prizes. Apart from being an example of top-notch design inkBOOK also boasts all the state-of-the-art features required from a proper, modern e-reader, e.g. an eye-friendly screen, Wi-Fi, and illumination. Buy: Amazon US / Amazon UK.
Maptu shows that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. This online service (available in English) lets you find literally any spot on the planet and print out a poster showing it on a schematic map. If there’s a place that you’re exceptionally fond of for sentimental reasons, Maptu will help you create a personalised commemoration of it which can proudly hang on your wall. You just need to find that magic spot in the editor on the Maptu website, add a brief description and choose one of the three elegant styles available and you’re basically set up.
According to the producers the posters are printed in Poland ‘on a professional high quality printer, on a matt, rigid paper (…) recommended for artistic purposes’. You can order one online and have it shipped to wherever you yourself are currently on the map. Buy: Maptumaps.com.
Socks for Christmas? If you’re prepared to go against the stereotype of socks being among the ‘worst Christmas presents ever’, then why not. The trick is to get the right kind of socks, the kind that will make the recipient smile rather than weep in despair. To pull this off, you need socks that someone will actually gladly… pull on.
And that’s where the Warsaw-based company Kabak comes in. This young and on-the-rise firm manufactures patterned socks so charming that they absolutely qualify as Christmas gifts. Among them you can find ones with doughnuts, elephants or… and here’s a real treat for those in search of something linked to Poland, ones with symbols of Warsaw like the Palace of Culture or the Warsaw Mermaid. Buy: Kabak on Shoplo.
If the socks haven’t satisfied your appetite for nifty accessories ,check out these Handmade Pins designed by the young illustrator Marcelina Jarnuszkiewicz. Meant to be attached to the clothes of those who want to get that refined and subtle look, the pins make up a series whose theme is nature. That’s why you get to choose between models shaped after an oak leaf, stork, cisco and so on.
Handmade in Warsaw from enamelled metal, the pins appear in limited editions and can be purchased on the NAP website, a distributor of select designer products. Recently a few new models were added to the Handmade Pins collection especially for the holidays. Buy: NAP.
Author: Marek Kępa, December 2017