If you are ever out walking in the woods and are suddenly surprised by a boar made from shreds of fabric or a patchwork bear sitting at a table, you can be sure that you have just entered one of Izabela Gagani's 'phantasmagoric spaces'. Using only recycled materials, Gagani designs fairy-like creatures, from small plush creatures for kids to full-scale sculptures for parks and wooded areas.
Designer creating fairy-like toys using only recycled materials.
Gagani, trained in art restoration and conservation, claims that sewing has always been in her blood, something she inherited from her grandparents who were tailors. A 'green' approach to art plays a crucial role in Gagani's projects: not only does the artist compose her creations using recycled fabrics, which she hunts down at flea markets and second-hand shops, but she also cleans them with biodegradable detergent. By putting pieces of coats, skirts and blazers together she disassembles their former identities and creates new meanings and contexts for their use.
Gagani's recycled fairy-like creatures come in a variety of shapes and are, for the most part, inspired by the animal world, since the artist points to nature as an inexhaustible source of inspiration. This strange menagerie comprises sleeping owls, red bats, and dogs wearing striped T-shirts. Yet the artist also embraces human figures, having experimented with dolls to make smartly-dressed newly-wedded couples, whose bond is suggested by a rubber band tying them together.
author of sculptures
All her creations have one thing in common: their characteristic dreamy faces, created from an oval piece of felt embroidered with long-lashed eyes. Yet no two are the same: Gagani stresses the importance of artefacts that are one-of-a-kind. Each item comes with an individual 'curriculum vitae', and this further emphasizes the unique nature of Gagani's work. Gagani adds labels to each of her creations explaining their history, and listing all the different wardrobe items the fabrics were taken from. She explores a variety of fabric types: there are woollen heads, leather ears and cotton tummies. Inside some the artist inserts rattles made of bottle caps; others contain music boxes.
In her large-scale projects, Gagani remains immersed in the animal kingdom and arranges dream-like situations with full-scale objects placed in situ in nature. In 2011, as part of the Grzybobranie (Mushroom picking) initiative organized by the Fundacja Form i Kształtów (Forms and Shapes Foundation), the artist used Styrofoam covered with shreds of fabric to create two life-size boars for the Park Kultury (Culture Park) in Powsin. In Gagani's interpretation the boars lose their untamed and dangerous character: with their shimmering eyes and bodies covered in soft fabric, they become cuddly characters straight out of a fairy-tale. In 2012, Gagani participated in yet another open air event, entitled Wędkowanie (Fishing), which was held in an urban park. For this, she designed functional pieces that formed a series of seating areas. Participants were invited to rest on long cushioned 'worms', constructed by using her usual technique of combining used fabrics.
Gagani showcases her work at numerous craft fairs and events. She brought her phantasmagoric kingdom to the Re-made market for the 2012 Łódź Design Festival and frequently attends some of the biggest handicraft events, such as Ściegi Ręczne, Mustache Warsaw and Przetwory. Her work was also included in the exhibition Dziecinada: Polski Design dla dzieci (Childishness: Polish Design for Children), and displayed at design festivals in Poland (Łódź Design Festival 2011, Concordia Design, Poznań in 2012) and during the 2011 Carnivale dei ragazzi in Venice.
Next time you clear your closet and donate your used clothes, just pause for a moment and consider what might become of them. You never know, perhaps that old jumper will end up in Gagani's studio as a pair of tiny owl ears.
Author: Agata Morka, August 2013