In 2006 they set up their design studio which focuses mainly on elements of interior design. In order to be closer to traditional folk craftsmanship, they have left Warsaw and settled in Czeremcha, a village in southern Podlasie. The new surroundings inspired them to create contemporary objets, which nevertheless exploit the traditional design of Podlasie. They use old techniques: weaving, pottery, braiding, leather crafting. This in turn encourages them to take a closer and deeper look at their designs.
One of the greatest assets of AZE design is the fact that they refrain from simple loans from decorative motifs. As they studied the principles of Podlasie craftsmanship, they create they own original style.
What’s more, Anna Kotowicz-Puszkarewicz and Artur Puszkarewicz have great sense of their mission:
AZE is an attempt at finding balance between the new and the old. It’s a realisation of the idea of a dialogue between disappearing craftsmanship and modern design. We want to design objects that have all the characteristics of artisan works, but at the same time surprise the user with both their quality and contemporary look. We think that the use of artisanal techniques can be a vital and effective way of creating. We believe that continuity is linked to a constant evolution, and that respect for the past doesn’t exclude openness to contemporary inspirations.
Their profound interest in the artisanal techniques and the problems of sustainable design has led AZE design to develop the concept Uwolnić projekt (Free the project). The initiative is aimed at revaluation of the current modes of production and distribution of objects. Instead of a system in which the consumer either orders products on the Internet or buys them in a shop, AZE design proposes a model that engages the designer, the consumer and, last but not least, the craftsman. The idea is that a designer shares his or her design on the Internet under a Creative Commons license which allows everyone to use it freely. A consumer downloads it, adjusts to his or her individual needs and orders its production from a local artisan. The projects was realised in co-operation with The State Ethnographic Museum, among others. As part of their initiative, AZE design created the Bunia lamp. The design refers to one of the most traditional dishes manufactured in pottery workshops, a kind of a belly-convex jug called bunia. The designers decided to design a version of the jug that wouldn’t have the handles and the bottom so that it could be used as lampshade. It is the consumer who decides about the final look of the product: its size, colour and the type of firing.
The products by AZE are done with the use of both artisanal techniques (Nodus, Messy, Rem), and industrial technologies (Tense - CNC milling, Mazzy - solvent print or Dystrybutor wolnego czasu [editor’s translation: Free Time Distributor] - cross lined silicones).
They describe their designs as ‘Mindmade’. This is because this notion defines their way of designing most precisely. Observation of nature and the human incites them to create things that combine tradition and the present. Their ambition is to design objets that are useful and purposeful.
The carpets Nodus (2006) and Nodus 2 are large-scale crochet doilies which draw from the crochet folk art of rich ornaments and fine splices. Over 1500 m of cotton string was used to produce them. The carpets are available in orange, yellow, green, red and blue (Nodus I) and white, grey, black (Nodus II). They are manufactured by a group of craftswomen – BERDO.
Another of their designs, Mazzy wallpaper (2006) gives children an unhampered possibility to paint on the walls. It is available in two patterns: Garden and Progress. It was awarded the PRODECO emblem in 2007 by Polish edition of Elle Decoration in the category ‘Young designer'.
The creation of Messy tablecloth (2006) with a mess embroidered on it, was a result of the same unrest that has forced the designers to leave Warsaw and settle in the village. As they write on their website, ‘a mess helps to relax both during a meal and after it'. Just like Nodus, it was manufactured by the BREDO group. It is available in three colours: white, black and charcoal grey, and in two sizes: for a dinner table and a coffee table. Messy tablecloths were distinguished in 'My Word’ contest organised in 2007 by British Council and Zachęta National Gallery of Art (where it was later displayed).
The Messy tablecloth and Nodus carpet took part in the international exposition 'Talking Textiles' that accompanied iSaloni Fairs in Milan in April 2011. AZE design works have been selected by the curator of the exhibition, Li Edelkoort, who explained that 'Talking Textiles' is a reaction to the more and more digital scenery of our life. According to Edelkoort, in the near future we are going to witness a revival of textiles in our closest surroundings. However, these won’t be the textiles which we know today – we should rather be prepared for new, creative solutions based on simple and traditional handloom techniques. During Stockholm Design Week 2012, Li Edelkoort also showed the Nodus carpets.
The Folk carpet deigned by AZE design in 2007 was the finalist of 'Śląska Rzecz’ [Silesian Thing] contest organised by Zamek Cieszyn (The Ciszyn Castle). It draws inspirations from the melting pot of Podlasie, where patterns from Belarus, Ukraine and Baltic States blend together. The ornament was simplified and made geometric, so that it resembles early computer’s aesthetic. Folk combines a traditional technique of cloth making (fulling) with silkscreen printing. It was produced by Sztuka Beskidzka (Art from Beskidy).
A cloth hanger entitled Tense (2008) is inspired by pylons and a furniture set, (elements of which, such as upholstery or textile rubbers, can be chosen and installed by the user) was displayed at ‘Unpolished 11’ exhibition in Hong-Kong in 2011.
The Ayu sofas are a great, but so far missed, chance for Polish interior design. They use the very basic, socially desired material of great aesthetic potential, namely wicker. Soft lines of the sofas resulted form computer simulation but also form natural flexibility of wicker.
As part of ‘Future Design Pora relaksu’ [Time of relax] organised in 2008 by Instytut Wzornictwa Przmysłowego (The Institute of Industrial Design) and Fortis Young Desing, AZE design created a conceptual design named Free Time Distributor. It is an urban machine where you can purchase free time. It allows its user to entirely distance his or herself form civilisation – cellphones have no reception there, radio waves or mechanic noise of the civilisation can’t reach this place either.
One of the latest projects by AZE design (2010) is a series of mirrors called Nobles. It consists of three pieces: Hetman [Hetman], Hrabina [Countess] and Marszałek [The Marshal]. On the patinated mirrors, the designers have printed portrays of the ancestors. As the designers say: ‘it is an answer to the longing for the aristocratic roots of Polish middle and upper class’.
Written by Anna Maga, 2011, Updated: January 2013, Translated by Natalia Cichowska, May 2017.
• 'SPOTkanie z designem' - SPOT Concept Store, Poznań
• 'Zaprojektuj Święta' - Cieszyn Castle, Cieszyn
• 'Design 1:1' - University of Social Science and Humanities, Poznań
• 'Weź to użyj' - Łódź Design Festival, 2007, Łódź
• 'Polskie Drogi Design 2002-2007' - Fabryka Trzciny / Domoteka, Warsaw
• 'Design Alive!' - PRESSO Gallery, Cieszyn Castle, Cieszyn
• 'Face to Face. Poland meets Germany' - City Hall in Ludwigsburg
• 'Play & Joke' - Łódź Design Festival 2008, Łódź
• 'Design.pl' - Designblok 2008, Prague
• 'Gdynia Design Days. Design demokratyczny' - Grunwaldzki square, Gdynia
• 'Śląska Rzecz 2007' -Cieszyn Castle, Cieszyn / Brussel
• 'Future "Design Pora relaksu' - Institute of Industrial Design, Warsaw
• 'DIZAJN= DESIGN' - Polish Institute, Berlin
• 'Naturalne Zasoby Polskiego Designu – Etnodizjan Festiwal, Etnographic Museum, Kraków
• 'Przegląd Polskiego Designu. Regał' - Tymieniecki Zone, Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
• 'Warszawa w budowie. Sklep' – Emilia Pavilion, Warsaw’s Festival of Design, Warsaw
• 'POLSKA FOLK- Tent London', London Design Festival, London
• 'Unpolished. Young design form Poland' - Design September Festival, Brussel
• 'Stragan' - Gallery of Dom Pracy Twórczej in Wigry, Wigry
• 'Design Udomowiony. Butik projektantów' - DOMAR, Wrocław
• 'Naturalne Zasoby Polskiego Designu' - Regional Museum, Stalowa Wola
• 'DMY 2009. Youngsters' - International Design Festival, DMY, Berlin
• 'Black & White. Young Polish Design' - Maxim Hotel, Tel Aviv
• 'Wartość Dodana' - Institute of Industrial Design, Warsaw
• 'Człowiek i Projekt' - ARTINFO Gallery, Warsaw / Cieszyn Castle
• 'Nie zapomnij o mnie!' - Centre for Contemporary Art, Toruń
• 'Unpolished 3' - Textile Museum, Neümunster
• 'Unpolished 2' - International Design Festival, DMY, Berlin
• 'POLSKA! FOLK' – PS² Gallery, Belfast
• 'Unpolished 11' - Inno Design Tech Expo, Hong Kong Convetion and Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong
• 'Unpolished 10' - Centre for Desing of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Zagreb
• 'Zwykła Rzecz 4' - International Design Festival Vienna Design Week 2011, Vienna
• 'Neo Farm' - Łódź Design Festival 2011, Łódź
• 'Zwykła Rzecz 3' - Maison & Objet 2011, Paris
• 'Unpolished 9' - Budapest Design Week 2011, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapeszt
• 'Unpolished Paris' - Paris Design Week 2011, Docks en Seine - Cité de la mode et du design, Paris
• 'Etnoinspiracje' - National Musuem, Gdańsk
• 'Unpolished 8' - Museum für Angewandte Kunst / Cologne, Handwerksform / Hannover, Handwerkskammer / Düsseldorf
• 'Zwykła Rzecz 2' - Regional Museum, Stalowa Wola
• 'Unpolished 7' - Designers Days 2011, Pavillon de L'Arsenal, Paris
• 'Zwykła Rzecz 1' - International Design Festival DMY 2011, Berlin
• 'Life in 3D. Art Terrarium' - BWA, Olsztyn
• 'Unpolished 6' - iSaloni 2011, Salone del Mobile, Ventura Lambrate, Collective Space, Milan
• 'Talking Textiles', iSaloni, Milan
• 'Talking Textiles. Edelkoort Exhibition' - DesignHall, Stockholm
• 'Unpolished 12' - Design Musuem, Helsinki
• Tokyo Designers Week
• Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
• 'Beauty & Pragmatism', 21st International Triennale, Milan
Anna Kotowicz-Puszkarewicz was also invited to participate in 'Discovering Women in Polish Design' project - a series of interviews with Polish women designers conducted by Gian Luca Amadei; Published by Adam Mickiewicz Institute, 2009.