Agnieszka Bar designs glass objects which combine functionality with irony and practicality with an unusual approach to materials.
Agnieszka Bar (born 22 March 1982) represents the youngest generation of Polish designers who are currently conquering the global design market. By simple means – mainly with the use of plain, transparent glass – she creates remarkably original versions of the latest trends in contemporary design. At the same time she hasn’t given up on art: Bar creates sculptures and installations, too; however, these are always linked to her explorations in glass design.
Bar‘s diploma project while studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław was her first significant success. Entitled Na Palec (On Finger), it was distinguished among the best design diplomas of 2006/2007 by the 2+3D quarterly magazine. Na Palec was a set of transparent glass dishes – various types of cups and bowls. Characteristic semi-circular cavities were treated not only as a defining aesthetic features but also elements improving their functionality. Along with the basic set, Bar designed a picnic version with spikes enabling to be stuck them into the ground.
The diploma was a good illustration of the designer’s work:
When I design I take into account the context of a place, a particular situation and individual needs. I test the objects’ conditions, and as I play with their meanings I can communicate with the recipient’s senses.
Bar not only designs, but also manufactures her projects. To her, glass is a material that is easy to form and shape. Her projects are characterised by subtle lines and simplicity, but also unexpected and discreet irony. They often affect the reader in a poetic, associative way. The project Tubki (Tubes, 2009), glass test tubes filled with marjoram, hot pepper and lovage leaves, attracted a lot of interest. The tubes were treated plastically, thanks to which they lost their laboratory character, becoming a humorous interpretation.
‘You drink and you are stressed’, this is in turn a commentary regarding the dishes constituting the Break-Time project (2009). This is because Bar provided them with a disturbing ornament imitating a net of cracked, broken glass.
Bar also gladly brings together opposites within one project. This is, for example, the case of Dotknięte (Touched, 2010). As the artist says:
This clash of simplicity of a test tube with a precious gilding on the surface attempts to combine simplicity and richness in one object.
All these features quickly made Bar’s designs very popular both in Poland and abroad. She has presented her projects at Designblok in Prague, Design Biennial in Saint Etienne, Designatory in Brno, Design September in Belgium, Gdynia Design Days, Łódź Design Festival, Poznań International Fair, and other expositions in Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Israel. She also participated in the Unpolished exhibition, which has been displayed worldwide since 2009. Bar’s designs could also be seen at the Polyphony: Contemporary Design from Poland exhibition organised by Circle de Bellas Artes in Madrid as part of the International Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency in 2011.
Her vase Wagon Grupowy (Group Vase, 2008) was distinguished in the prestigious Make Me! contest during the Łódź Design Festival. The set is composed of laboratory tubes of various heights with special curve enabling them to be tied together with an elastic band. Thanks to this modular approach the user is capable of creating a unique flower vase. The only restriction is that a set has to be composed of at least 3 units to be stable.
Five years later, one of Bar’s projects was distinguished again in the same contest. This time the jury recognised Plisowanki (Pleated Glasses), a series of crystal glasses with carefully carved reflective waves resembling pleats. The smaller amber glass can be put into the bigger transparent one so as to create an intriguing glass object. Bar continued to develop her concept of abstract glass objects in the Efemerydy (Ephemeris) series. The project was prepared in collaboration with the Łużyce glass factory in Pieniny. It consists of rounded pieces in which the designer has submerged branches and leaves. The shapes of the objects are unspecific and blurred, and the foggy glass allows only to gaze into the misty inside of the Ephemeris.
Bar uses glass in unusual ways, sometimes evoking uncertainty in the user. As part of the workshops for children she created a glass textile. Its construction is based on a modular grid of prisms that can be arranged freely in various structures serving as space-dividing curtains. Szlifowana (Grinded) in turn is an intriguing interpretation of an ordinary glass. Bar designed a glass in a typical cylindrical shape. But apart from that, everything else is far from ordinary: the glass does not stand completely in its vertical axis, but dangerously tilts to one side making an impression that it is going to fall. This ‘unstable’ project is an interesting play with an everyday object, aimed at restoring its visibility. Despite its disturbing shape, the glass is completely safe to use thanks to a thick bottom that has been ground on one side.
Bar often twists, squashes, or crimps glass in a amusing way. In Melt Bottle (2008) the subtle line of the bottle was deformed by a slight melting of its bottom part. The designer also uses seemingly inelegant elements such as wastes, leftovers, and broken ceramic shells. Exploiting the latter, she designed a series of unique brooches entitled Fractions (2008). Rearranged chipped elements have completely lost their rubbish-like character. Fragments of a floral cloth, golden edges, manufactures stamps were brought into play so that they can serve as an interesting complementary element of an outfit. A series of glasses Alphabet (2007) was in turn created using letters from the remains of advertising foil.
Searching for a fresh look at ceramics also preoccupies two other artists, Agnieszka Kasper and Karina Marusińska, who founded the design group Wzorowo together with Bar in 2009. All three graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. In their projects they refer to the education they received at the academy in an unusual way. The designers display deformed and damaged glass in order to emphasise its capacity to be moulded, at the same tie being an attempt at the revival of glass handicraft, nowadays lost due to mass production.
Together with Agnieszka Kajper, Bar designed Broken Glass Jar – a recycled jar filled with fragments of glass pane resembling a mysterious lantern. They also designed fairytale-like Dwarves. Handcrafted figures, not resemblant of tacky garden gnomes, became a part of the installation The Sleeping Princess and The Seven Dwarfs.
Even though Bar mostly focuses on glass design, she also devotes much of her attention to visual projects. The Las (Forest) project reflects her way of working which is situated somewhere between design and sculpture. Las (2001) is a series of wine glasses, most of which can’t stand and are not suitable for drinking. Another example is Trawnik (Lawn, 2010) a surface you which can’t be walked on, as it is made of pieces of broken green beer bottles.
In many of Agnieszka Bar’s designs there is this constant question about the place of human in the environment and the nature, about his behaviour in contact with it. Objects and arrangements are the result of making associations and analysing the context of a place for which or where they are created. A tension between art and design is always present in her works, resulting in a specific compilation.
Agnieszka Bar also works as an academic teacher. From 2011 on, she has been an assistant in the Studio of Glass Design (led by Prof. Kazimierz Pawlak) at the Faculty of Ceramics and Glass of Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, her alma mater.
Written by Paulina Kucharska, January 2013. Updated by AM, August 2016, Translated by Natalia Cichowska, May 2017
• Szkło, Rytuał, Gdynia Design Days, Gdynia, Poland
• Manuba. Rzemiosło Odzyskane, Gdynia Design Days, Gdynia, Poland
• Postawy i Procesy, Modern Art Gallery, Bydgoszcz , Poland
• Femme Fatale, Jablonec nad Nysą, Czech Republic
• Design Dialogue, Poland Brazil, Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil
• Moderna:rzemiosło + Przemysł, Lublin Design Days, Lublin
• PROJEKT CZŁOWIEK_DIZAJN I SZTUKA MA SENS (5S), Szczecin, Poland
• Obszary sensualne, The City Museum of Wroclaw, The Arsenal, Wrocław, Poland
• Beauty and Pragmatism, Pragmatism and Beauty, Museo della Permanente, Milan, Italy
• „The City and the Forest”,Museumspace Seltjarnarnes, Reykjavik, Iceland
• Rytuał, Neon Gallery, Wrocław
• Design u źródeł, Łódź Design Festival, Łódź, Poland
• Kreacja I process, Institute of Design, Kielce, Poland
• 2015 Manufactured Culture, London Design Festival, London, UK
• Stół Polski, EXPO, Milan, Italy, exhibition in Polish Pavilion
• 2015 MustHave for Pleated, Łódź Design Festival
• Łąka I las, Wrocław, Poland
• Marki dolnośląskie, Wrocław
• Nie. Stałośc, Institute of Design Kielce, Poland
• DO IT YOUR WAY! Polish Design in Pieces, Milan Design Week, Milan, Italy
• The Spirit of Poland, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Forest and meadow, Stockholm, Sweden
• The Spirit of Poland, Brasilia, Brazil
• CRAFT: Old for New, 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey
• Nasz Polska, Brussels Design September, Paris Design Week, Paris, France and Brussel, Belgium
• The Spirit of Poland, Sao Paulo, Brazil
• honourable mention in Make me! contest for Group Vase, Łodź Design, Łódź
• implementation of production of Labo design by Vox Furniture 2008
• nomination in the debut contest of Art of Packaging for Melt Bottle design
• I award in the contest Butelka na miętówkę z dobrej Widawy, The Festival of High Temperatures
• Talents, international selection of young designers, Frankfurt am Main
• honourable mention in the international glass design contest Vorsicht Glas / Ttiffany Glas
• nomination for best diploma design 2006/2007, 2+3D quarterly magazine
Selected exhibitions in Poland:
• Od pomysłu do przemysłu, Center for Applied Arts, Center for Innovation,
• Make me!, retrospective exhibition, Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
• E-glass, Hauptmann’s House, Szklarska Poręba
• Wrocław = szkło, BWA Dom Sztuki, Rzeszów
• Wrocławskie szkło dziś, Glass Heritage Center, Krosno
• Design = wzornictwo, inauguration exhibition Design Center Kielce
• Ekoglass, exhibition after Plein Air Workshops, Muzeum Karkonoskie, Jelenia Góra
• Babski design – męska sztuka, in the frame of Design Silesia, Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice
• Żywa galeria designu - Design Alive, cafe-club Presso, Cieszyn 2010
• Polski design, exhibition prepared by ELLE decoration, CSW Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
• Design in Central and Eastern Europe, Warsaw Design Week, Warsaw
• Przetwory 4 1500 metrów do wynajęcia, Warsaw
• „Sic-mass”, BWA Gallery of Glass and Ceramics, Wrocław
• „Warsaw under construction” Festival, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
• „Upstream / Design Tales”, Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
• „Design-Antydesign”, Museum of Architecture, Wrocław
• Szkło artystyczne, individual exhibition, Pro Arte Gallery, ZPAP Zielona Góra
• Śpiąca i krasnoludki, individual exhibition, Gallery of Glass and Ceramics, Wrocław
• Best design diplomas 2006/2007, Cieszyn Castle
• „Best design diplomas 2006/2007, Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków
• Diploma 2007, Gallery of Glass and Ceramics, Wrocław
• Pomarańczowa wystawa, Edyta Stein’s House, Wrocław Ślady, exhibition during Slot Art Festival, Lubiąż palace
• 100% szkło, Almiart Gallery, Katowice
• Design młodych, Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław
Selected exhibitions abroad:
• Common Roots - Design Map of Central Europe, Design Museum, Holon, Israel
• Unpolished 14, Korea Foundation Cultural Center Gallery, Seoul, Korea Południowa
• Ekoglass, exhibition after Plein Air Workshops, Dox Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic
• Showroom of Vitra, Salone Internationale del Mobile, Milan, Italy
• Food mood. Food and Design on the Table, Studio di Architettura 70m2, Livorno, Italy
• Unpolished 11, Inno Design Tech Expo, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, China
• Unpolished 10, Centar za Dizajn Hrvatske Gospodarske Komore, Zagreb, Croatia
• Design East Offline, Prague International Airport, Prague, Czech Republic; Budapest Design Week, Hungary
• Polifonia, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrit, Spain
• Kreatimm - Design to Go, Iparművészeti Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary
• Unpolished 9, Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary
• Unpolished - Paris Special Edition, Paris Design Week, Paris, France
• Unpolished 8, Vologne / Hanover / Duesseldorf, Germany
• Unpolished 7 - Jeune Design de Pologne”, Paris, France
• Unpolished 6 - młody design z Polski, Collective Location, Milan, Italy
• Designed in Poland, Museum Quartier, Vienna, Austria
• Make me!, Designers Open Festival, Leipzig, Germany
• Design market, International Festival Design Act, Moscow, Russia
• Unpolished 5, BC Design Center, Copenhagen, Denmark
• Unpolished 4, Nordic Design Fair Code 2010, Copenhagen, Denmark
• Unpolished 3, Museum Tuch + Technik Kleinflecken, Neumuenster, Germany
• Young Design from Poland, DMY International Design Festival, Berlin, Germany
• Młody polski szklany design, Arch Days 2010, Polish Institute, Bratislava, Slovakia
• Young Creative Poland, Salone del Mobile, Design Museum, Milan, Italy 2009
• Unpolished, Design September Festival, Brussel, Belgium
• Black and White. Young Poland Design, Tel Aviv, Israel
• Use & Play, Mobitex Fairs, Brno, Chech Republic
• Flight number 10, International Design Biennale, Saint Etienne, France
• Portable Office of Polish Design, Designblok ’08, Prague, Czech Republic
• Design.pl, Polish Institute in Prague, Czech Republic
• 7t. Glassculpture and Garden, Münster Germany
• Talents, International Tendence Fairs, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
• Szkło, N Gallery, Jablonec n. Nysou, Czech Republic
• Letni reskum 2006, VŠVU, Bratislava Slovakia
List of awards and exhibitions from the artist’s website.