The first edition of the I, CULTURE Contemporary Craft Workshop kicked off on May 14 in the courtyard of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of Warsaw's Museum Night programme. 17 volunteers assisted their peers in creating Warsaw's own patchwork quilt and the first of the 12 squares that will ultimately make up the global I, CULTURE puzzle
Volunteers at work
Project founder Monika Jakubiak and 17 I, CULTURE volunteers bustled around the courtyard of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute on Museum Night in Warsaw. Over the course of the evening, hundreds of people worked together to create the first piece of the I, CULTURE puzzle
Which crafts will survive? What is the legacy of the digital age? Why do we buy new shirts and sweaters instead of going to a tailor? Over two days, I, CULTURE volunteers shared their thoughts and predictions, threading together an informal history of craftsmanship, along with ideas on how to illustrate their own independent designs. Each volunteer received a sewing machine and a quick guide to sewing skills and techniques, ranging from 'treadle' to 'appliqué'.
Participants of all ages each had a turn at a sewing machine to create something of their very own in addition to contributing the collective I, CULTURE project. Out of scraps of fabric and various accessories, participants made their own bags, scarves, pillows and folk-style brooches. People also brought all sorts of items that they hoped would get a new lease on life: trousers to be mended or skirts to be hemmed. The youngest craftsmen learned from other craftsmen about how brushes and brooms are made, even the on-site upholsterer, Bronisław Gajowy, shared stories of his craft while creating a whole new armchair from an old abandoned piece of furniture and some updated fabrics. The outdoor workshop buzzed with activity - even those had long forgotten how to sew, engaged in the sewing project, including Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski. Adam Mickiewicz Institute Director Paweł Potoroczyn tried his hand at some embroidery.
Volunteers (Igor ,Kuba, Agata & Agata, Ola & Ola, Iza, Danka, Julia, Edyta, Magda, Dominika, Karolina, Julita, Pola and Agnieszka) encouraged the audience to take another look at the cherished traditions of the past and urged them to carry them forward into the future. Monika Jakubiak belives that if we don't darn, fix umbrellas or seam stockings the craftsmen disappear into oblivion . And we end up with a pile of broken umbrellas and ripped seams. When no longer used, skills can become exinct. According to Jakubiak, it is our duty in the digital era to actively support the crafts, and search for ways in which the role of the craftsman could be adapted to a contemporary reality. Can going to the tailor, repairing one's shoes and umbrellas become hip? The Polish designer believes that it is up to the young to ensure the crafts' future role.
Digital advancement has revolutionised our lives, and the crafts and arts also benefit from it enourmously . Yet a threat that the comfort of a digital civilisation seems to carry, and not solely with respect to the crafts, is our demand to obtain everything at the speed of one "click". Craftsmanship produces quality products, which are capable of lasting. It also ensures their longevity through various fixing services. But it requires time to bear its fruit of knowledge, experience and manual expertise.
According to the opinion poll held at the Warsaw event, most people expressed that tailoring has the greatest chances at survival.
The evening in Warsaw launched the international I, CULTURE project, which continues on to each of the remaining 11 cities over the course of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. There, local participants will continue to put together the global I, CULTURE puzzle.
Polish "Łucznik" sewing machines were used during the Warsaw workshop.
After the first leg of the project was complete, I, CULTURE volunteers in Warsaw gave their feedback on what it was like to take part in Jakubiak's Contemporary Craft Workshop
I never thought that I would use a sewing machine. I used to watch my grandmother when she sewed, but it didn’t really interest me. Up until now - I signed up for the workshops, sat down in front of the sewing machine and got started. I called my parents after the first day of workshops, asking them to find out for me if anyone in our family might have a machine. I really got in to it. I can create something for myself, something unique. That’s what art is about. I also never considered pondering over the work of craftsmen, not to mention observing it closely. Their incredibly interesting stories and experiences made reflect upon their devotion and their lives. Many new experiences and great fun!
"I, CULTURE" - that's exactly it. Though perhaps I’d better say "culture and me"? I was never interested in the input that anonymous individuals brought to culture. I just wanted to be a part of this broadly understood term, and that is what I concentrated on. But during these workshops I ran into magical and moving stories of craftsmen. They had their time of glory, but now they seem to have found themselves passing a lonely time in their studios. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because we desire so strongly to be modern and we neglect this beautiful tradition of craftsmanship. The workshops have taught me humility and respect for the work of a craftsman. I used to take if for granted until I sat by a sewing machine and… I fell in love! I love the sound the machine makes, the tranquility and concentration that I experience during work and most importantly, the explosion of creativity that I feel when I find myself in a room full of cloth, thread and buttons. I was able to make a bag and a stuffed animal in the shape of a whale – and I’m not planning on stopping there.
I think the finale of our workshops exceeded my expectations. Many people were interested in what we did, and as they came to watch and I was able to show them what I learned. It’s a really building experience. If I was to sign up for the workshops again, I wouldn’t hesitate. I think that everyone should have a chance to take part in such an event, and meet so many great people. I wish luck to all the next teams taking part in our project.
For me the encounter with a sewing machine was a great experience and an adventure that I’ll never forget. I am incredibly happy that I was able to take part in this project. Not so long ago, I had no interest in the crafts whatsoever. I would never have the idea to simply go into some workshop studio and listen to the stories of tailors or shoemakers. I fell in love with sewing. I’m setting off my machine and beginning to sew this summer!
It all started so innocently. My sister showed me an ad in the paper and said “Look, there’s something for you. A meeting with a fashion designer and sewing clothes. You just have to go to the meeting.” I thought to myself, why not? I was a little disoriented after the first meeting, I was not sure what it was all about. But I think that the way Monika and Ula spoke about the project persuaded me. They were so excited. You could tell that it is a great pleasure for them and that they really believe in it. After the following meetings, I also began to feel animated. I spoke to my friends and family. I really didn’t expect that I’d love creating and embellishing clothes so much. The biggest satisfaction for me was that people really like the shirt that I made, and all these questions like "Excuse me, can I take a photo please?". I didn’t expect such a huge turnout at the finale.
Date: 14th of May, 2011, 19:00 - 24:00
Venue: Adama Mickiewicza, ul. Mokotowska 25, Warszawa (courtyard)
I, CULTURE is a Flagship Project of the Polish Presidency of the EU Council. For more information, see: I, CULTURE
Organised by: Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Next stop: London - 2nd and 3rd of July
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute