Bylicka boldly combines ceramics with furniture and strong colours with minimalist shapes, in her Warsaw-based practise.
Her early art forays were in painting, which she studied under Leon Tarasiewicz at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw - while attending classes in ceramics with Teresa Plata-Nowińska. Bylicka said in an interview with the magazine Czas na Wnętrze that combining two types of artistic activity provided her with psychological well-being:
Painting was an emotionally draining form of exposing oneself. On the other hand, ceramics was not subject to such existential dilemmas. It was like a breath of fresh air, but the first attempts at manual crafts proved to be hard.
Her thesis work in 2002 was a series of large, monochromatic oil paintings depicting an old woman dressed in tutus. The paintings were very popular and were exhibited repeatedly. The catalogue of one exhibit said, 'Dressing up in a ballet dress depicts conventionality, which lies in the canons of beauty and the absence of older women in mass culture communication.'
Bylicka participated in major group exhibitions of the younger generation, including Art Supermarket IV (2003) and the Bielsko Autumn painting biennale (2003). Gradually she moved away from painting, devoting more attention to applied arts: ceramics, furniture and interior design. She began developing her own ceramic studio, and the Chillout Studio.
From the beginning, Bylicka's work was inspired by traditional folk crafts. Her bowls, for example, are surprising in their simple design and lush colours such as bright orange with black scratches, while her glazed lace-like baubles seem to be cut out of plate copper.
The artist's first significant success came with a series of ceramic lamps with a lace-like design, that won the Prodeco award in 2006. All were hand-formed and made from white clay, which guarantees their uniqueness. This, as Bylicka noted, requires a high level of skill and effort:
It's easy to pour clay in moulds and purchase a glaze, but hand-shaping, and knowing all the chemical properties to mix the glaze yourself, that is a huge challenge.
The artist returned to the theme with lamps such as Oriental Dream (2007). The spheres work as a simple element, and can also be combined to form a unique group when strung on top of one another or placed side by side in a lampshade.
In addition to ceramics, Bylicka designs and builds furniture – tables, cabinets, chests of drawers in wood and steel – with simple geometric shapes. Her Chest 11 combines functionality with elegance and modern aesthetics. The pieces are also decorative through the innovative placement of drawers. The wall-mounted Futuro is cubist in design, and its form consists of several rectangular sections, each covered in different wood veneers.
After this period of basing her work on simple shapes, Bylicka began drawing inspiration from bubble shapes. The philosophy materialised in the Astralony collection, started in 2007, and continues to the present.
The project lay low for some time, said Bylicka. I thought it was un-commercial and quite absurd. Sketched on paper it seemed abstract. I doubted that anyone would dare own such a creature.
These fears proved unfounded. The collection went on to win another Prodeco award, in 2007. The first item in the series, a dressing table, was joined by a mirror, stools and lamps. They are made of steel, highly polished MDF and spherical ceramic decorative elements. Initially all the furniture in the Astralony series was black. Gradually, Bylicka began to create items in different colours. The collection has been enriched with ceramic items – bowls, trays, vases - in white and black, sometimes with the addition of gold and silver.
Another design combining ceramic elements with furniture was the TI dresser, with doors decorated in an intricate mosaic of tiny ceramic tiles in various colours.
Each one is individually cut and hand-glazed, fired and glued, Bylicka said.
The artist applied the same ceramic-inlay technique to other pieces from the TI collection in 2010. The design allows the user to set up the furniture in their chosen colours. The mosaic strips are reminiscent of regions such as the Far East and Africa – and also of Polish folk art.
Unpretentious fun colours are hallmarks of another Bylicka companies, Mima Studio. With this firm, the artist produces products aimed at a younger generation, especially multi-coloured fancy pillows. 'I would never have taken up sewing, were it not for my pregnancy, which locked me inside four walls,' said Bylicka.
I could not glaze, and did not want to sit around doing nothing.
Pillows from the Flufly series were arranged concentrically with soft felt loops, and decorated in rich shades of green, red, yellow and pink. As with Bylicka’s Spotty chest, they introduce a cheerful accent to any interior.
Bylicka has shown her designs at prestigious festivals and exhibitions in Poland and abroad, including DesignMai in Berlin (2007), the Łódź Design Festival (2007) and Gdynia Design Days (2010). She also took part in the Unpolished exhibitions – in Berlin, Neumünster, Copenhagen, Cologne, Hannover, Düsseldorf, Paris and Budapest – and in Folklore Is Alive in Prague (2011) and Common Roots at the Design Museum in Holon, Israel (2012/2013).
Chillout Studio: www.chilloutstudio.pl
Mima Design: www.facebook.com/mimadesign
Author: Paulina Kucharska, April 2013
Translated and edited by Roberto Galea, June 2013
The text uses excerpts from an interview with Joanna Bylicka in www.czasnawnetrze.pl.