Sustainable, Functional, Comfortable - Design 2013
small, Sustainable, Functional, Comfortable - Design 2013, Monomoka, Artichoke pouf, 2012, photo courtesy of the artists, monomoka_prace_10_7007942_0.jpg
Poland is currently enjoying more than a mere 15 minutes in the spotlight as today's generation of designers continue to turn heads and win awards in Paris and Berlin to New York and even Singapore. Its studios and brands show off a deft mix of quality and innovation that has won the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and taken new Polish design on tour across the world
Poland has been a stronghold on the furniture front for decades - today the country holds fourth place on the global production scale. Gradually, its talented designers are coming out of the woodwork, shifting from working on commissions for international firms to making their own mark in the market. All the while, big firms continue to bank on the fresh edge that great design brings in, such as the Ćmielów Design Studio and workshops set up by world-class designer and pedagogue Marek Cecuła at the long-standing Ćmielów and Chodzież factories. Poland's oldest and arguably the most prestigious porcelain company Kristoff has engaged more than a dozen young Polish designers to create hip, novel designs for their latest production lines, some even ending up as wall art like the collection designed by well-known fashion designer Ania Kuczyńska and graphic artist Karola Śliwka.
Polish designers are reaching for the latest technology and high-quality materials in creating their goods. The next step is introducing a closer symbiosis between industry and science. One company that's already making headway in that direction is the VOX furniture line, which cooperates with psychologists and sociologists in creating more ergonomic pieces. At home, studies show that Poles are increasingly more open to spending up to 20% more on a design product. Current trends see consumers taking a nostalgic lean towards the characteristic designs of the socialist era - raising these objects to cult status. Critical circles have taken note of Polish design, with Wallpaper magazine publishing a special supplement dedicated solely to this region in the fall (in cooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute).
From Corporate to Creative
The publication of Polish Design: Uncut, a unique overview of Polish design of the past decade edited by Czesława Frejlich and Dominik Lisik, was a major contribution to the understanding of major trends in Polish design for the English-speaking audience. The full-colour album presents 90 different designers and their products along three clearly-defined directions: local producers working for large-scale corporations, independent designers creating limited-edition series and artists who take a more cerebral approach to their craft. One of the best examples of mass-produced success is the series of chairs produced by Studio Rygalik for Italy's Moroso brand. Its Dumbo chair and Sitting Bull stool were exhibited at the Salone del Mobile 2013 in Milan (more on the trade show below).
Yet designers themselves are more eagerly taking the reins and producing their own ideas. This concept of 'contemporary craftsmanship' is promoted by the trade show circuit, as well as museum and gallery shows. The design teams generating the greatest buzz over the past year include Kosmos Project, Monomoka, Beza Projekt, Paweł Grobelny and Maria Jeglińska.
The artist-cum-designers who create projects that lie on the intersection between art and craftsmanship use the tools of design to explore a particular concept or problem, or to reflect a specific set of aesthetic and philosophical ideals. Such a motivation can be clearly seen in the work of Marek Cecuła and Bartosz Mucha.
The Must-haves from Łódź
The most important Polish event dedicated to design is the Łódź Design Festival, which brings together an exhaustive array of exhibitions, presentations, workshops and meetings that reflect the state of the game both at home and all over the world. The 7th edition of the festival this year served as an incubator of sorts for the creatives and the corporate world, riding the spectrum from industrial design through craft design, graphics and even fashion.
The festival hosts a competition for great design products, fishing out 67 Must Have items of the year. This year's list includes Ania Kuczyńska's Shanghai handbag, Maria Jeglińska's Natalia & George porcelain collection for Kristoff, Studio Rygalik's Hover sofa, Oskar Zięta's 3+ chair, notebooks by Anna Piesiewicz and concrete earrings designed by Sylwia Kochaniec under the STRUKTU label. A second competition - "make me!" - is geared at the youngest generation of designers, singling out, for example, the unusual plaster-shaped room dividers create by Beza Projekt.
In the north of Poland, Gdynia Design Days marks another major date on the design calendar. Curated by Paweł Pomorski of the MALAFOR studio, its focus is geared towards the coastal region in particular, with prototype workshops, marketplace activities and numerous exhibitions. Cities across Poland are following suit with their own design-minded festivals, including WrocLove Design, Wawa Design Festival oraz Design Days in Stalowa Wola.
Museums and galleries are also taking note of the impact of design on the art world, with exhibitions such as the Everything Forever Now. Polish and British Sustainable Design at the MOCAK in Kraków paying tribute to the coupling of renewable resources and new technologies, often in very futuristic guises. The Wrocław gallery Artykwariat put together the exhibition From Krister to Kristoff. History of Silesian Porcelain, while the BWA Municipal Gallery in Tarnów took up the topic of trial and error in design with Erring is the Thing.
Warsw's Kordegarda gallery celebrated the link between the music world and design with an exhibition of album covers designed for the biggest stars of the Polish music scene over the 20th century. The Archaeology of Photography Foundation presented an exhibition of photographs by Maria Chrząszczowa documenting prototypes of shoes and handbags designed in the 1950s by Wanda Piechal, Maria Serafin and Ewa Zielińska.
Ćmielów Goes Global
The promotional campaign for Polish design run by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute makes sure that the most brilliant Polish projects circle the world and get noticed, scooping up some great press and awards along the way. Among the major events along the circuit is the Salone de Mobile. The prestigious events brings in thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world each year. Poland was represented by the likes of Aleksandra Gaca, Maria Jeglińska, Kosmos Project, Kristoff, Lorens, Malafor, mamsam, Baskho Trybek oraz Zieta Prozessdesign.
ćmielów design studio
new graphic design
aleksandra and daniel mizieliński
Polish designers were also at large at important festivals across the world, including the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, London Design Festival, Paris Design Week and Business of Design Week in Hong Kong, as well as smaller presentations in Hamburg, Saint-Etienne, Basel, Moscow, Göteborg, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Tokyo. See more on Polish design in Istanbul: Glass&Cup: Polish Design Stories
When they weren't traveling the world, Polish designers were often hosting their colleagues from abroad at home. Students of the Royal College of Art joined forces with the School of Form in Poznań for Art Food workshops led by legendary designer and pedagogue Marek Cecuła at his Ćmielów Design Studio. The projects - tableware inspired by the true joy of eating - were presented in the Royal College of Art in London and at the British Ceramic Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent.
In New York, the Pratt Institute presented a collaborative project set up with the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Students worked with Karen Stone and Michał Stefanowski to envision a "redesign" of their own academic buildings as part of the"One Sun One Moon" workshop series.
On Pins & Needles
At Paris Design Week, designer Paweł Grobelny caught the attention of France's Rado Star jury. His later Sur le fil series of minimalist tables won the award's online audience prize. Both distinctions signal big things to come for this innovative and original young artist. ,
The whimisical designer of fluffy poufs and other furnishings Monomoka took home two prizes at the International Furniture Fair Singapore, winning the Grand Award of the Furniture Design Award for its Hive pouf and the Merit Award for its Artichoke. Next year at the event the design team will have the opportunity to feature a one-man show of its creative talents.
Young designers Hanna Ferenc, Joanna Pruchnicka and Michalina Musielak won a competition held by the Swedish city of Umea (the European Capital of Culture in 2014) for their project to spur tourism in the area with a personalised set of souvenirs to keep or to share.
Oskar Zięta's whirlwind career started up in 2008, with the win of the Red Dot Award for his PLOPP stools, which used the innovative FIDU technology that has since become the designer's trademark. In 2013 he was invited to lend his unique technique to creating a statuette for Icon Magazine's Icon Awards, which honour's the year's most creative talents in architecture and design. It's not the only trophy Zięta is responsible for - he also hand-crafted statuettes for the annual Design Alive Awards, which recognise synergetic efforts between the technology, ecology and business sectors. Awards are given to people active in promoting design, including Małgorzata Żmijska and Michał Piernikowski, organisers of the Łódź Design Festival, and designers Anna Łoskiewicz-Zakrzewska and Zofia Strumiłło-Sukiennik of Beza Projekt. Adam Mickiewicz Institute director Paweł Potoroczyn was among the nominees this year.
Mapping Design for the Future
A review of the best in new Polish design wouldn't be complete without a nod to the most creatively vibrant category of the genre - graphic design - and children's book design in particular. The year belonged hands down to the husband-wife team behind Maps - a beautifully illustrated voyage through all the unique regions of the world. The Mizielińskis book has since been translated into over 20 languages and figured as a finalist in the Waterstones Book of the Year 2013 and winner of the prestigious French award Prix Sorcieres 2013. The New York Times included the book among its pick of six of the most beautiful children's books of 2013.
Graphic illustration for older audiences was quite successful as well, with the most interesting projects of the year compiled and published as Print Control by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. For more on Print Control and to explore its online archives, see: www.printcontrol.pl. The site also promotes the latest activities from some of Poland's most creative independent and art book publishers, such as Raster Editions, 40 000 Malarzy, HA!ART, Bęc Zmiana and over three dozen more. The success of graphic design in framing and promoting other artistic disciplines was proven by the awarding of the Gold ED-Award of the European Design Awards to the Huncwot studio for their singular vision for the new website for Krzysztof Warlikowski's Nowy Teatr.
The great strides made in great graphic design and illustration was honoured with Poland figuring as a special guest of the Illustrative 2013 festival in Berlin, as well as the TypoTalks conference that showcased functional graphic design of Poland and Russia.
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 19.12.2013. Translated (with edits) by Agnes Monod-Gayraud, 23.12.2013