6 Young Polish Women Ceramic Artists to Watch
The following young Polish women are changing the world of ceramic design one plate at a time.
Malwina Konopacka is well known for her illustrations for newspapers, journals, and even t-shirts, but she is keen on designing ceramics as well. As the artist explains:
In my professional life I focus on drawings, sure, but I try to find opportunities to transfer the drawings onto different media, create shapes, create actual things.
She likes to stress the connection between her ceramics and her illustrations:
It’s like a canvas or a sheet of paper, where you can create illustrations in 3D.
Her fusiform vase design with several indentations, meant to resemble the shape of an eye, has seen numerous interpretations. In its original version, only the indentations are highlighted with various colours, such as gold or platinum. In many of her designs, she likes to choose one dominant colour to serve as a kind of theme for her works. That is the case with her Kobalt series: alongside quick, expressive drawing of eyes, faces and hands she places geometric shapes, which connect all the elements with intense cobalt.
In Alicja Patanowska’s work, we can observe the importance of interaction, both with people and with objects. She has rounded out her education with ceramics by learning from the source – porcelain factory workers and their vast experience with the production process. The artist explains:
Factory workers are a treasure trove of information. They are the greatest experts in their field, silent masters.
Patanowska’s exhibitions aim to engage their audience. One series, Wiping-Drawing, is a collection of plates with a sprayed on chalkboard enamel on which users can leave their own unique mark. This collection, which aims to stimulate children’s imagination, gained distinction at the Młodzi na Start competition organised by ELLE Decoration magazine. Her Plantation project, on the other hand, sprung from the observations of London night life. Walking through the streets of the city early in the morning, the designer would collect discarded bottles and glasses. Then she added porcelain elements to them, which allow one to use them as planters. Thanks to the transparency of the glass one can observe how the plants grow – roots and all!
Karina Marusińska works on the verge of design and art; some people even say that she is actively trying to blur the difference between the two fields. In her work, we can find ceramic, abstract sculptural forms, which make use of beautiful contrasts between various ceramic materials such as grog clay, clay or engobe, but the majority of her products are made from porcelain. She creates either limited collections or pieces that are entirely one-of-a-kind.
She is fascinated with the ideology of recycling and ecology, she discovers new uses and purposes of products which are used up or discarded and they gain a new life thanks to her creative interference. They become completely new items, they become functional, but their main purpose is always to interact with their users, e.g., make them think about excessive consumerism. In 2008, she created another series, in which she showed that broken industrial items can undergo recycling and regain functionality. Inspired by these defects, the collection was called Damages. Cracks and other defects were re-glazed (in order for them to remain safe for their users), then the objects were decorated with gold and shattered pieces of mirrors.
Magdalena Łapińska uses her intuition to bring together past and present, yet her designs are not mere replicas of the icons of the past, but present a fresh, youthful recouping of these elements and ideas. Her porcelain takes granny-style tableware and gives it a twist, taking things considered 'old school' and interpreting them in her very own modern way, while paying heed to this form's historic legacy.
The city of Warsaw is among her chief inspirations, having been the hero of her recognisable series of porcelain replicas of Warsaw's most iconic examples of modernist architecture. The clean forms of the Central Station, the 'Rotunda', Supersam market or the Skarpa cinema have been restored in these small, shiny geometric figurines in fine, milky-hued porcelain. What makes her Dream of Warsaw project most intriguing is the fact that two and a half of these buildings – Supersam and Skarpa (and all but the 'skeleton' of the Rotunda) – have been torn down in recent years to make way for modern office and shopping complexes. What she finds most inspiring about Warsaw is its 'wildness', she explains:
This is a city that is pure chaos, a blend of everything, but I think that this is exactly what's interesting about it and what spurs one to action.
Since 2011, Natalia Gruszecka has been running a workshop and design studio which is connected to a ceramics gallery in the Nadodrze district of Wrocław. One of her most famous designs is her porcelain doll head cups, the idea for which came about during work experience at the Ćmielów Porcelain Factories. It was in a storeroom there, that she found a pre-war mould for casting porcelain dolls (these dolls were produced in the borderland region). And thus, Gruszecka’s Tête à Tête cups were born, cast from an antique mould in the shape of a doll’s head. The cups come in several forms: white or black, with classic, gold-plated or patinated handles.
Other than utterly functional ceramics sets, her studio ENDE also excels at creating small decorative figurines, clearly influenced by the Ćmielow factory's tradition. The Swimmer figurine captures all the delicacy of a young woman’s body, composed of slender lines, beautifully rendered in porcelain. Its whiteness is contrasted with the golden shape of her swimming cap, glasses and a swimming suit, creating a remarkably fragile silhouette. A similar contrast was used for her animal figures, both in the case of the pig and the rabbit, Gruszecka plays with gold accents, strategically placing them on the most characteristic or most surprising features of the animals: her rabbit stares with its huge golden eyes and her pig waves at the viewer with its surrealistic golden wings.
Monika Patuszyńska questions the functions of everyday objects such as glasses or bowls and employs unexpected juxtapositions of shapes. Sometimes her works constitute a riddle: what is this object used for? Unpredictability is what most inspires her in porcelain. She consciously avoids a fixed method of work:
I quickly became tired of repeatability! (...) A saw, a mallet, a hammer, an electric stapler, some Scotch tape – they all come in handy.
Instead, she experiments constantly as she tries to achieve newer and newer artistic effects.
At first, she created traditional ceramics, simply casting plaster forms. That was how she created funny juxtapositions of tea-pots with cups for Tea for One, the coloured pots of Kowalsky (2001), the stands called OXY (2003) and sets of bowls (2005). Patuszyńska began to devote attention to the modification of the form prior to the cast. She turned to composing new wholes from fragments and pieces. That was when the stitches and edges that are a by-product of the casting technique became characteristic features of her designs, for instance in the coffee set from the series Ex-Forms (2007).