Bogdan Kosak, born in 1966, is a pottery designer and sculptor. In his work, he continues to mix his own creative endeavours with commissions from large producers.
Kosak gained his first professional experience in the 1990s at the Porcelana Śląska factory. He now runs Modelarnia Ceramiczna in Cieszyn in Southern Poland.
He says: I learned the craft by working in a factory and being part of a large production process. After that, however, it was time to become independent.
Kosak is interested in both applied design and more conceptual work. He creates multifunctional porcelain objects (Stroik sentymentalny/ A Sentimental Centrepiece, Niekoniecznie podstawka / Not Necessarily a Coaster), minimalist plates and tableware (Kawior i bakalie / Caviar and Dried Fruit, Tomaszów) and ambiguous objects which are meant to inspire contemplation and reflection about their own history and function (Misa B5 / B5 Bowl, Otoczaki / Encirclers, Koronka Zawieszka / Lace Badge).
Kosak’s works combine formal simplicity and elegance with a subtle play on functions and meanings. At first sight, Lace Badge looks like a traditional crocheted mat, but, when covered in a layer of porcelain (made out of white kaolin, feldspar, and quartz), it becomes stiff and turns into a wall decoration. Encirclers (produced between 1996-2006), on the other hand, are oval, fusiform objects resembling natural formations, such as river stones, skulls, vegetable bulbs, or cocoons. Lacking a specific function, they tease the imagination and invite the user to invent a use for them. They may function as bowls, vases, or tureens, etc.
Ever since the beginnings of his career, Bogdan Kosak saw the opportunities offered by working in a factory – having to work in a team makes one realize the importance of compromise and dialogue. Having learned that, he is now able to collaborate with such manufacturing giants as BGH Network or Kera Ceramika. He also has a clear understanding of what it takes to run one’s own brand: on one hand, it requires him to take responsibility, and on the other – to be open to the client’s needs and criteria.
At the factory, I learned that one has to work towards a compromise, but always on the highest level possible.
Based in Cieszyn since 2011, he appreciates the specificity and uniqueness of this border city that supports the creative efforts of his ‘little artisanal workshop’.
Cieszyn is multilayered – it is global and provincial at the same time. The city’s centre thinks and works on an international level, intensely, while the outskirts provide an opportunity to calm down, assume some distance towards oneself and towards the world.
Kosak’s favourite aspect of working in ceramics is the craft’s material dimension, which hasn’t changed since prehistoric times and has been independent from technological developments.
For thousands of years, despite the passing of time, the most important thing – the ingredients: water, earth, and fire, have remained the same. There are however, other materials that are also inspiring: wood, metal, plastic. They allow more expression.
The author’s fascination with materials’ functions, their sensibility to time, natural forces and chance resonates within his project Pamiątka z Cieszyna / A Souvenir from Cieszyn. Kosak placed little glass and ceramic shards in a paper cabinet that were thrown into the Olza river, thus giving a humorous response to the question of a 'perfect souvenir from Cieszyn'. The souvenir is represented by rubbish, which, shaped by water, turned into a collection of sophisticated objects. The pieces were collected by children, which helped them to learn about ecology as well as gain awareness of their local environment and its history. The glass and pottery fragments were also catalogued.
Urna na prochy / An Urn for Ashes also has a social dimension – with this project, the designer wished to face the difficult subject of death. The piece has been widely appreciated and awarded, which reassured Kosak that society was ready to being exposed to this contemporary taboo.
Bogdan Kosak sees his creative path as a process of realization that a simple utensil, such as a teapot, may also be read as sculpture or an abstract form. He draws his inspirations from his own archives, consisting of notes, sketches, and drawings.
It is worth visiting a magazine with old models and becoming acquainted with the past.
Author: Lidia Pańków, December 2013 Transl. AM June 2014