The journey to Poland played the biggest role in this project evaluation. The trip consisted of finding specific craftsmen with whom I could take on collaboration, and develop my project as intended from the beginning. Moreover, it was one of the greatest experiences the young designer could have; learning how to build relationship with makers, how to communicate and collaborate with professionals, compromising decisions while still achieving the intended goals and satisfying outcomes.
After the research I prepared a simple infographic with highlighted in a copper colour areas that I was interested in visiting. These regions represent the vivid culture and show possibilities of finding people who possess sought experience for the project and work traditionally with leather and wood.
Due to my limited time of staying in Poland I was searching for one specific place to go, where I could find both craftsmen, engaged in mentioned professions in one location.
The place that I have decided to visit was Bukowina Tatrzanska, village placed in Tatra County, close to the border with Slovakia, where the landscape is enhanced by the nature, distinct for the mountainous terrain.
The environment is certainly the muse (inspiration) for the artisan’s process of creation, where the patterns often reflect the flora. The important aspect was to stay focused and pay attention to its surroundings, getting inspired as I was walking along the streets and hills.
Throughout the visit I had a chance to understand, discover and feel the spirit of the Highlanders culture. Coming from another region of Poland, I could see a bit more of the cultural differences in the tradition of clothing, food and dialects.
My first instinct was to look for local galleries and the cultural centre the Folk House, where during my stay ‘Soul on hand’ exhibition was taking place, presenting works of local artists along with the traditional dance performance. This allowed me to have a closer look at traditional Highlanders costumes.
Meeting the representatives of chosen craft techniques
In the actual place I was visiting, there were few people that work with leather, although I was very fortunate to meet the most experienced of all Anna & Jan Gracjasz. They continue to keep this profession alive for generations, passing on their knowledge to other young artists.
The products that come out of their workshop employ centuries of old traditions, such as moccasins (kierpce), shepherd’s belts, unique Highlands clips, covers for the shotguns and the hunting bags. They are working with the best quality materials and the most precious parts of cattle hide (the full-grain leather) which is sourced locally and produced in cottage industry.
Another artist I had a chance to make contact with is Pawel Plucinski, multitalented craftsman, who runs the family business with daces of tradition, specialising in wooden and metal products which represent his origin and meticulous handcraftmanship.
His works the wood chiseled bowls were exhibited in the local gallery where I got his number from. From the very first call Pawel was willing to meet up the same day and start the collaboration together immediately.
The craftsmen run their workshops at home, which allow them to work flexible hours and for closer devotion to their professions, staying close to the families. Both of them agreed to collaborate on this project, despite having other responsibilities at this time, which reflects a deep passion for the profession. Although, my determination and an overall ambition played an important role in the process. The positive attitude and confidence throughout helped me to convince the artist to work together as a team.