Olga Milczyńska individually (and together with Irina Grinshina, in their shared August Design Studio) proves that ceramics can combine art with craftsmanship.
Olga Milczyńska was born in 1982 in Zabrze. In Kraków, she studied fashion design; she also studied at Jagiellonian University, the University of Fine Arts in Poznań and the ceramics department at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. While her studies helped her acquire theoretical knowledge, her practical knowledge came from working with well-known ceramic artists. Milczyńska had the opportunity to work with Marek Cecuła, Kim Daewoong from South Korea, Anne Mette Hjortshoj from Denmark, Martin McWilliam from Germany, Mai and Nicolas Rousseau from France and Nic Collins from Great Britain.
From the beginning, Milczyńska’s works bordered art and craftsmanship. Her works often are not traditional; instead, they rather classify as installations. Through the use of ceramic materials (created by the artist, or sometimes found, such as bricks fished from the river), Milczyńska works with the topics that interest her – the passage of time and tradition. Her works have been shown at numerous exhibitions and festivals. In 2010, in Bornholm (where the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts resides), she showed off her collection of bricks, collected from oceans and river banks, showing off how time and water affect them, the rhythm of waves and the – symbolic – passage of time. For the sculptures created for Nexo Sculpture Park in 2012, Milczyńska used blue cement to combine new bricks and those she had found, posing questions about the nature of entropy, construction and destruction. In 2015, in the Łęctwo Gallery in Poznań, you could view a collection of the artist’s ceramic works, in which she studied the process of gaining experience and knowledge, as well as the process of making mistakes.
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Questions about time and tradition are not only relegated to her works, but to her teaching experience at the School of Form, where she has lectured since her graduation. In 2014, alongside a group of lecturers and students from the School of Form, Milczyńska began a collaboration with the Pottery Centre in Medynia Głogowska, in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship. The purpose of the collaboration was to exchange experiences and knowledge between the students and those interested in traditional pottery from around Medynia Głogowska – and in a wider context, it was an attempt to bolster up the dying art of traditional pottery making, learn its secrets, and its possibilities when combined with contemporary design.
During the project in Medynia Głogowska, Milczyńska began a closer collaboration with one of her students, the photographer and ceramicist Irina Grishina, who originally hails from the Kamchatka Peninsula. In 2016, they created the August Design Studio (the name comes from the month of its creation, but also from August Sander, a 19th and 20th-century photographer, whose works both artists admire). Their combined creation, inspired by their time in Medynia Głogowska, is a set of ceramic plates fired in a traditional, wood-burning kiln. In 2016, the plates received the ‘Must Have’ award at Łódź Design Festival. The designers have also created other ceramic dishes and items together, including cups – you can see their individual styles in the works, from their cups to air humidifiers, whose shape echoes the characteristic mountain rangers in the Kamchatka Peninsula. The August Design Studio creates more than plates and cups, however; they also make shelves and lamps.
Olga Milczyńska’s individual projects, as well as the ones created under the ‘August’ brand, were presented at many exhibitions and fairs. Her collection, Birds, made up of two differently sized cups, egg holders and two bowls, designed by the August and Tabanda Design Studios, won the ‘Must Have’ Award at the 2017 Łódź Design Festival.
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