While this selection demonstrates generational shifts to some degree, there are no major differences in approaches to design, which spans a number of common denominators across generations. The designers have studied both in Poland and abroad - yet they maintain a particular approach to design that links them in spite of any differences in background or education.
POLYphony - Designer Bios and Commentaries
Marek Cecuła (born 1944)
Ceramics is a material I use to create both sculptures and applied forms. The design inspires the art, and vice versa. In my case, making things is both work and fun. The objects and their significance evolve through handling the material. The ideas come about through the work process. I attach a great deal of importance to chance. I often work on one subject, develop it, and then you have a collection. The subject is exhausted and dies, making way for another. I live and work in New York and in Kielce. I bring my international experience to the local area, which is why I’ve taken active part in building the Design Center, where ceramics will take pride of place.
A ceramics artist and designer. From 1985–2004 he served as Dean of the Ceramics Department of Parsons School of Design in New York, from 1999 to 2010 he lectured at the National College of Art and Design in Bergen, and in 2010 he was a visiting professor at the Royal College of Art in London. He has curated exhibitions, including the 3rd Israeli Ceramics Biennial at the Eretz Israel Museum (2004), the Art of Industrial Ceramics at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto (2008), “Object Factory” at the Museum of Art & Design in New York (2009). His work has been presented at 18 one-man exhibitions and has found its way into 14 museum collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1995 he founded Modus Design Studio, where he and Edyta Cieloch make limited-series applied products. He has helped to organize the new Design Center in Kielce, and has done design work for the town’s public space.
Bogdan Kosak (born 1966)
Graduated in Ceramics Studies in Katowice. He designs applied porcelain and ceramic sculpture. From 1995–2006 he ran the model room at Porcelana Śląska [Silesian Porcelain] in Katowice, where he also worked as a technologist from 2006–2008. Since 1995 he has been running his own company, Modelarnia Ceramiczna, which makes products in limited series. He also designs for Porcelana Śląska and the BGH Network in Katowice, and for Kera Ceramika in Bielsko-Biała. He has shown his work at 13 solo exhibitions and 36 collective ones. He was awarded the main prize at Śląska Rzecz 2006 for his Tomaszów set, and was nominated for the Prodeco 2007, Prodeco 2008, and Śląska Rzecz 2009 competitions. He lives in Cieszyn.
The local inspiration sets me apart; I like to draw from my immediate surroundings. I have no sense of the West, nor of the Far East – I understand Roztocze, where I was born, and Silesia, where I live and work. I took my simple and functional pottery forms from Roztocze, and my proclivity for white from Silesian workers’ apartments. My ceramics are meant to respond to the needs of the society where I live, like the Tomaszów set for tea and coffee, which we traditionally drink from a mug, or the NR I dishes for serving baked apples. I prefer simple forms, and if I use gold decoration, it’s in reference to the culture of the Slavic East. My interest in ceramic sculpture has slowly shifted toward the pure form of the applied object. I remain inspired by organic forms (Pebble-things, Stick-things), and folk culture, with its basic virtues of multifunctional objects, its lack of inhibitions and its nonchalance in inventing new applications (Tomaszów, Caviar and Trail Mix, Su-min). Similar experiences and inspirations led me to the urns for ashes, or in fact, the dishes for ashes. I make ceramics and design dishes because this is the most legible and universal form of artistic and applied design. The most ancient remnants of the most advanced cultures are ceramic dishes.
Renata Kalarus (born 1971)
A graduate of the Industrial Design Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. She specializes in designing upholstered furniture. From 1998–2006 she was affiliated with the Iker furniture company in Nowy Sącz. Since 2003 she has been running her own design studio in Krakow – Metaforma – through which she also sells furniture and decorates interiors. She has won several awards, at the Rzecz Doskonała competition 2000 for the Kiwi furniture design (in the “Discovery of the Year” category), the “ELLE Decoration Polska” editors’ award for the Bibik sofa (produced by Noti), also distinguished with the Prodeco 2006 crest, the main prize of the Polish edition of the Henkel Award 2007, and a Red Dot Design Award honorable mention 2009 for the Comma chair.
My design work is steered by intuition and a solid grasp of the local market. I know the realities of Polish production and I admit that, as a designer, the market success of a product is my greatest source of satisfaction. That’s why I hunt for the best proportions between my own drive to experiment and to express myself, and what I know to be my clients’ expectations. My most innovative designs – which are always meant to be functional – are like short stories. I believe that a legible, consistently shaped form has a subconscious impact on the positive reception of a product by its potential users. I like to draw from the classics – it is a fascinating challenge to take them and make your own statement. I pay a great deal of attention to detail – the choice of the right materials and detail make the thoroughbred product.
Agata Kulik-Pomorska (born 1976) and Paweł Pomorski (born 1974)
Graduates of the Architecture and Design Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. They have been running the Malafor Design Studio since 2004, designing and producing limited series of furniture and conceptual objects. Their furniture is sold through the Internet and design galleries. They also make designs on commission for commercial companies. They have taken part in numerous exhibitions, and their works often represent Polish design abroad, for example at the Expo in Shanghai, the Design Fair in Seoul, and Salone Satellite in Milan. They have received awards and distinctions at several competitions, including the Grand Prix at Nagoya Design Do! for Life Alarm (2006), and the Grand Prix at Targetti Light Art in Florence for Multicube (2006). They live in Gdańsk.
Our work straddles the line between design and art, but the final product is always material and functional. We aren’t fashion hounds. We try to find our own way, and we constantly experiment. We encourage the user to have new experiences, like sitting on a ladder to change his/her observation point, or sitting on a bare stump, the most primitive seat of all. Our recent work uses unstable, soft, and fluid materials, like the Blow Extreme sofa. We take materials from one department to another, transferring its attributes to an object that serves a different purpose – as such, an inflatable paper bag is used as a seat cushion. Sometimes our ideas result from very pedestrian concerns. Inflatable parts are a great solution when we have to send our pieces to exhibitions as cheaply as possible, yet we want them to look impressive.
Katarzyna Hałas (born 1964)
A graduate of the Ceramics and Glass Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. She designs glass, ceramics (sanitary included), and fabrics. Apart from industrial designs for her own studio in Inowrocław, she produces glass in limited series, mainly with fusing technology. She has recently been active on the arts scene, focusing on sculpture that uses glass and ceramics. She has received over a dozen awards, including the Dobry Wzór ’95, ’96, and ’97 in Industrial Design Institute competitions, three Forma ’96 prizes in the Form and Function category, a gold medal at the International Poznań Fair in 1997, and Forma 2002 at the International Fair in Frankfurt. She has taken part in numerous collective exhibitions, both in Poland and abroad.
I divide my time between design and art. The two activities complement one another, and I treat them on an equal footing. I transfer my experience and the results I gain from my experiments with materials in my private workshop to my work on industrial design. Though my designs seem simple, they are not easy to make. They can be a challenge for technologists, but my knowledge comes in handy here. You have to fight for your own vision and often persuade the conservative producers. In my design work I look for a balance between form and function. I like to find a principle to use, thus avoiding the element of chance and undefined shapes. Chance plays a role in my artwork. I focus more on decor in my one-of-a-kind pieces.
Agnieszka Bar (born 1982)
A graduate of the Ceramics and Glass Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. She designs experimental glass and limited-series applied products. She also makes designs for the lighting industry. She has joined Agnieszka Kajper and Karina Marusińska to form the Wzorowo Group, where they co-create porcelain and glass pieces that have been presented at numerous exhibitions in Poland and abroad, including the Design Biennial in Saint Etienne (2008), Designblok in Prague (2008), Ldzign in Łódź (2009 and 2010), Code in Copenhagen (2010), DMY in Berlin (2010), Salone del Mobile in Milan (2010), Design Act in Moscow (2010), and Designers Open in Leipzig (2010). They have won numerous awards, including Vorsicht Glas (Tiffani Glas Kunst, 2008), Talents (Messe Frankfurt, 2008), Art of Packaging (2008), Make Me (Ldzign, 2009), and Projekt Arting (Bielska BWA Gallery, 2010).
My studies gave me knowledge and experience for the arts more than design. The acknowledgement my diploma project received encouraged me to get involved in design. I started making limited-series glass dishes and presenting them at exhibitions and trade fairs. People liked my ideas, and they found buyers in galleries. Now I would like them to find their way to a larger pool of consumers. These limited series were a platform for experimenting with materials and technology. I’m counting on being able to apply this experience on a larger scale. This is crucial, because Polish glass products need a breath of fresh air.
Tomasz Andrzej Rudkiewicz (born 1948)
A graduate of the Precision Mechanics Department of the Warsaw Technical Academy (1974) and the Industrial Design Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1977). He has also worked as a builder at the Polish Optical Factory, and as a freelancer designing lighting systems and electronic equipment. In 1981 he and his brother Jakub established the MASS company, which designs and produces lamps. Since 1987 he has lived in Finland, where he worked for E&D Design from 1986–1999, making furniture, Nokia mobile telephones, Tunturi sport gear, and electronic equipment. In 1995 he and his brother founded the NC.ART design office. They work out of Warsaw, employing fifteen people: designers, construction engineers and modelers. He designs household equipment, transportation vehicles (trams, buses), medical apparatuses, and lighting systems. Rudkiewicz is a founder of Pro-Design.PL (2008), a foundation that promotes design.
My passion is designing for mass production. When I graduated, I wanted to change all the gray communist nothingness through design. One of my first ideas was to light up our homes with well-designed lamps. I think Polish design has no need for post-modern explorations or experiments. Simple, logical designs and honestly produced objects help to create safe, comfortable, and aesthetic surroundings. I am quite convinced that we have to rebuild our national material culture that was destroyed and dilapidated through years of communist poisoning. That’s my dogma.
My lamps combine technology, materials, and function in the most natural way. The rules of geometry tell us that only one straight line runs through two separate points, and this is what I try to find. I like using modern computer programs and digital methods; I’m also interested in combining craftsmanship with new technological capabilities.
Anna Siedlecka (born 1974) and Radek Achramowicz (born 1973)
Puff-Buff Design is a design studio and production company that manufactures and distributes modern lighting equipment. Founded in 2005 by Anna Siedlecka, a graduate of the Architecture and Design Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, and Radek Achramowicz, a graduate of the Architecture Department of the Gdańsk Technical Academy (he received his PhD at the Architecture Department of the Warsaw Technical Academy). The company experiments with pneumatic structures and LED light sources, resulting in innovative lighting structures and systems which have been presented and awarded abroad at numerous exhibitions and fairs (including Euroluce in Milan, Expo in Shanghai, 100% Design in London, Maison & Objet in Paris, “The Spirit of Poland” in Tokyo, “Young Creative Poland” in Milan, and “In Praise of Shadows” at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London). Puff-Buff’s lamps have gained the status of “icons of new Polish design.” They are distributed in Europe and beyond.
Since the beginning, our driving force has come from the idea finding new solutions in lighting. The air-filled lamps are inspired by the creative experiments in art and design of the 1950s and 60s. We use air trapped in a thin membrane, the most ecological and innocent material you could imagine. The flexible and resilient structures of the lamps, combined with the energy-saving light sources, are an interesting alternative to conventional materials. We realize that the potential in this technology is enormous. We treat lighting as something much more important than just a source of light.
Krystyna Górska (born 1940)
A graduate of the State Visual Arts School in Łódź. Since 1970 she has been employed at her alma mater, and as a designer at Fako in Łódź. She has been a consultant and a designer for ZPB Frotex in Prudnik (1995–2002), and an advisor for the Textile Architecture Institute in Łódź (1995–2005). She is a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, where she runs the Decorative Fabrics Studio. She makes one-of-a-kind fabrics and designs for industry. Her works are in the collections of the National Museum in Warsaw, the Textile Museum in Łódź, and in private collections. Her work has been presented at eleven solo exhibitions and numerous collective exhibitions, both in Poland and abroad. She has won many awards.
I have always been interested in strong textures and the structural virtues of a fabric’s surface. My earlier works were more spontaneous, colorful, inspired by nature – sand, water, wood. They later became more subdued, stripped of decor, and simplified to the extreme, yet remained textural, even spatial, and virtues of this sort very much depended on the choice of material. I brought in my arts experience when I started making industrial designs, which is why they often had similar formal premises, though they had to be modified to fit the current tendencies and market demands.
Agnieszka Czop (born 1973) and Joanna Rusin (born 1976)
Graduates of the Fabric and Clothing Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. They specialize in carpet design – both industrial and one-of-a-kind. Ever since graduating they have worked for Dywialan in Łódź. For their Epoch collection of industrial carpets they received the Design of the Year Award in 2004, granted by the Industrial Design Institute in Warsaw. They make their one-of-a-kind pieces either together or individually. They have presented them at numerous collective exhibitions, both at home and abroad. In 2004 they received the Prodeco Award in the young artist category for the Jigsaw carpet collection. They most prize the “Wielki Zabawiciel” [Great Funster] award they received in 2009 from a jury of children. They presented a solo exhibition in 2010 at the Polesie Art Center in Łódź.
The major limitations in working for industry encouraged us to create one-of-a-kind pieces, which give us more creative freedom. We are always hunting for new ways of working, ways that depart from classical weaving. We use felt and punch-out patterns. Despite its simplicity, this material and technology has a lot of potential. We use simplified forms to achieve a sophisticated decorative effect. Though we use cheap materials, they become refined through their combination, acquiring new value. In some of our works we seek to show that carpets can be interactive. The spatial aspect of our works has become important for us recently as well, which makes them come to resemble sculptures, though they still serve as carpets. We sometimes use folk culture, but in a backward fashion, e.g. using cut-out patterns as carpet decorations. Strangely enough, people sometimes even buy our experiments.