Since 2017, Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec, or Tartaruga Studio, have been proving that even in the technology-dominated 21st century, there is room for hand-made crafts, with their hand-woven kilims.
The word 'tartaruga' means turtle. This is the animal that Jadwiga 'Jadzia' Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec took as their patron when they founded a weaving workshop in 2017. They thought that their works were turtle-like: slow, but always unique and long-lasting.
Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec met at the Technical University of Łódz, where they both studied textile design. During their studies they realised that in a city with such a significant textile tradition it is not easy to study the field of weaving – and it was the creation of kilims that proved to be of the most interest to both designers. They asked their lecturers to help them learn outside the curriculum and both dedicated their theses to kilims. Immediately afterwards, they established Tartaruga Studio in Łódź – a weaving studio where they create handmade kilims and wall hangings using traditional methods. They explain that:
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Since the moment we learned how to weave, we have hardly moved away from our looms. We were captivated by this technique, natural yarns and the relaxing monotony of the work.
Decorative but practical woollen kilims were a very popular element of interior design in the 1960s or 1970s. Over time, however, they were replaced by industrially produced and usually poor-quality fabrics. Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec are trying to bring back the fashion for traditionally made, high-quality kilims, which, thanks to modern yet timeless patterns can fit into modern interiors.
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Tartaruga Studio creates mainly kilims and wall hangings. The former are double-sided, densely woven, and have a compact structure thanks to which they can decorate a wall but also act as a carpet, since they are very durable. Their wall hangings are one-sided, sometimes additionally decorated with tassels. All of Tartaruga Studio’s works are made on traditional looms and woven by hand in a laborious process of interlacing threads.
Both designers emphasise that the patterns for their kilims and wall hangings are drawn from their observations of their surroundings and from being mindful of the details of everyday life, but the inspiration comes also from the past – from Hutsul kilims and Eastern-style fabrics. Their inspirations include landscapes, modernist architecture and trinkets. The patterns, hand-sketched and later transferred to a computer, are simplified and modified to create a geometrical composition that can be used on the fabric. Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec explained in an interview:
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We try to design our patterns in such a way that, on the one hand, they are up-to-date and, on the other hand, that they resist the passage of time as much as possible. After all, kilims are long-lasting items and should not succumb to changing fads.
Fabrics from Tartaruga Studio are made in a sustainable way, with respect for the environment. Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec most often use recycled wool and cotton, waste from carpet factories, and they also work with a shepherding centre in Koniaków, where wool is obtained ethically. The designers work in such a way to not generate waste (only a handful of cuttings and threads remain from the process of creating a large kilim). They use natural dyes, such as birch leaves, madder root, walnut, avocado seeds, goldenrod, chokeberry, and elderberry. The kilims created in this way change over time – they fade, change shades, or, as the designers say, they ‘mature’ together with their owner. Lenart and Podolec emphasise:
All products under the Tartaruga brand are made by hand in our studio in Łódź. The whole crew works in the best conditions and receives fair remuneration. Two per cent of the income from the sale of each item is donated to charity.
Tartaruga Studio also creates unique collections of kilims and wall hangings, for example, the ‘Fav Stuff’ series decorated with patterns inspired by the designers’ favourite objects (vases, cups, wardrobe elements), ‘Illu’ created in cooperation with female Polish illustrators, or ‘Wasteworld’, 90 per cent of which is made from yarn scraps salvaged from industrial production.
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Jadzia Lenart and Wiktoria Podolec are co-founders of the NÓW Nowe Rzemiosło (‘New Moon: New Craftmanship’) association, which unites contemporary Polish craftsmen. In 2018 and 2020, the projects of Tartaruga Studio were awarded in the ‘must-have’ plebiscite organised by Łódź Design Festival. In February 2020, during the Arena Design Fair, Tartaruga Studio was awarded the title of Designer of the Year, awarded to young artists who have managed to make themselves known in their field and whose activities are worth following in the coming year.
Originally written in Polish by Anna Cymer, translated into English by P. Grabowski, September 2020