Meet the artist reviving the colourful Polish Pajaki movement

Creativity seems to be busting at the seams of Poland right now. In London, creatives, filmmakers, photographers and artists from Poland are representing the creative spirit of their home country; particularly in London’s East. One such artist reviving traditional Polish folk works with present-day panache is Karolina Merska, of bobbin & bow, who’s reviving the art of pajaki making. ‘What’s a pajaki?’ we hear you wonder…well, read on to discover these wondrous design items and the meaning they possess…

Tell us a little about what you bobbin & bow, and how you’d describe your work…

I founded bobbin & bow in 2009, shortly after I moved to London. I was making a lace jewellery that time as well as running an arts organisation called Deconstruction Project.

The first pajaki chandeliers I made were in the summer of 2015. I was thinking about making them for a long time but being busy with other projects I’ve never had enough time for them. Now as they’re getting more and more interest I don’t have time to design and make any more jewellery pieces. I don’t feel upset about it. I had to walk through that journey to find myself where I am now.

Karolina Merska

We’re fascinated by your pajaki chandeliers; what inspires them? Where do you seek inspiration in general?

Pajaki are traditional Polish straw and paper chandeliers and their history dates back to the 18th century. They used to be made by countryside-based women to decorate their houses during Christmas, Easter and other celebrations like weddings or christenings. According to Polish beliefs, they are supposed to bring happiness.

They are so beautiful and unique. I studied art history and was interested in Polish folk art, so their rich history is important for me. Unfortunately, the tradition of pajaki is dying in Poland. You can see them mostly in folk museums. My idea is to bring them back to life. Seeing them hanging in new contemporary places around London makes me very happy. Probably they’re more popular here in the UK than in Poland at the moment.

Did you always hope to become a creative maker?

Yes. It was always my plan for life. It’s not that easy in London but I am not giving up.

What’s your creative process like? Do you have a rigid routine, or do you work when inspiration strikes?

I try to have a daily routine to be more productive. Usually I work on more than one chandelier at the same time. While not making paper pom poms I am drawing and designing new pieces, and planning photo shoots.

Where in the world do you live, and where do you seek artistic inspiration in your part of the world?

London; where I live still inspires me. I find inspiration everywhere: in art, design, places, people, surrounding nature. Visiting various folk craft fairs in Poland and meeting craft makers is always very inspirational for me. While making pajaki, I don’t only want to copy traditional designs. I am experimenting with new forms, materials and colours.

polska sztuka ludowa pajaki

What’s coming up for you this year? What are you planning next?

Last year was really amazing for me. Pajaki have been featured in various magazines like the World of Interiors, Elle Decoration, Harpers Bazaar and the Evening Standard. I was honoured to take part in ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas’ on Channel 4 too. I feel that it will be a creative year for me. I’ve just moved into a new, bigger studio, so I am planning to make more and more pajaki!

I am currently working on new flowery chandeliers, which will be shown during the Most Curious Wedding Show in March in London. Also, I would like to offer more workshops for pajaki lovers. My online shop should be ready very soon.

Later in September, I will be showing my new installation during the London Design Festival. Unfortunately, I have to keep some of my projects in secret…

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the creative process behind the pajaki. Designing and making new pieces. Also, meeting and working with interesting people on various projects. It’s very rewarding for me that so many people come to my workshops so I can share my knowledge with them. We stay together a whole day while talking and making pajaki. It’s also very therapeutic. So important to see that pajaki tradition revives in London.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a maker?

Getting more paid commissions is the most challenging thing I am facing at the moment. London is not the cheapest and easiest place to live for a freelance craft maker. I still need another part-time job at a cafe to make sure I will pay all bills on time. Also, being well organised is very important.

What’s your advice for those hoping to follow their creative dreams this year?

Dream big, work hard and don’t give up.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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