Ever since Alicja Patanowska began her career in ceramics, she has found a new reason each year to love the potter’s wheel — indeed, she always finds herself returning to it. But it is also a demanding tool which teaches us just how important technique is when it comes to producing objects. And it is this knowledge that Alicja Patanowska wants to share with her audience.
Patanowska completed her studies at the Department of Ceramics and Glass at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, a Mecca for ceramic artists in Poland. She was awarded a grant to study at the Instituto Superiore per le Industrie Artistiche in Faenza, Italy; she claims that the year she spent there helped her define her own approach to design. And it was in Faenza that she designed CUBI – an alternative to the flat plate, which went on to win distinction at the Made in Macef competition in Milan in 2009.
In 2010, Alicja Patanowska’s solo exhibition — entitled Take Art/Weź sztukę — took place at the BWA Awangarda Gallery in Wrocław. Patanowska confronted her audience with pieces which combined sculpture and design, and thus changed the conventional attitude to art galleries as places where people go to look at pieces. The thousand signed and numbered objects on show were earmarked for exhibition goers who wished to choose a single piece to take home. This interaction with the audience proved so successful that every item in the planned three-day exhibition was snapped up in under two hours.
That same year, thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Patanowska completed her first series of designed objects (Redesigns). The inspiration for these objects were a series of items on loan to the artist: items which people no longer needed but, for some reason or other, didn’t want to get rid of. Made with the support of the Lubiana Chinaware Company, Patanowska’s redefined objects went on to feature at the Make me! competition (2012) at the Łódź Design Festival, and Young Design competition (2012) organised by the Institute of Industrial Design in Warsaw. They also went on show at Unpolished, a series of exhibitions showcasing Polish design abroad.
Alicja Patanowska says she has a keen interest in porcelain factories and the knowledge and skills of those who devote their entire careers to uncovering the secrets of the production process: “Factory workers are a treasure trove of information. They are the greatest experts in their field, the silent masters.”
Understanding the material and the technology are key elements in the alchemy of ceramics. It is the combination of manual work at the potter’s wheel with the modern casting techniques used in factories (exemplified in her work entitled Tubo Motus). It is to use the fragments of history to give them new life (Plaster). It is innovative combination and the creation of new contexts, as seen in Wiping-Drawing, a collection of plates with a sprayed chalkboard covering 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. But the design is not only important in terms of its educational aspirations: its use of salvaged materials (i.e. plates considered waste in ceramic factories) is also notable, as is its invocation of the old tradition of hanging decorative plates on the wall.
This idea of tradition is also present in Old Wives’ Skirts, a collection of ceramic jelly moulds inspired by Poland’s colourful traditional costumes. Here the colourful stripes of folklore combine with the pure white of porcelain in the shape of a female figure in a traditional flared skirt. The process of ceramic pouring in the factory is later replicated in the kitchen using jelly.
Plantation project on the other hand sprung from the observations of the London night life. Walking through the streets of the city in early mornings, the designer would gather abandoned 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 and develop, both their roots and upper parts.
In Alicja Patanowska’s work we can observe the importance of interaction. The interaction with people, with objects. The exchange of ideas which takes place during the creation of an object, and how that object takes on a life of its own when it comes into contact with the user. The visual simplicity of Patanowska’s work, be it functional or decorative, conceals the many personal and cultural references contained therein.
Read more at: http://www.patanowska.pl/ (in Polish and English)
Author: Krystyna Łuczak-Surówka, September 2013, English translation: Garry Malloy, January 2014. Updated, July 2016, AM.
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