Friday, October 03, 2008

Polish Folk Art

This is the first in a series of 4 articles I'll be presenting in honor of Polish-American Heritage Month. Each of these articles will be featuring Polish art pieces from my personal collections. Some are folk art, hand crafted in cottages throughout Poland. Other pieces are manufactured by skilled crafts people in small factories in Poland. They are but a small sample of the Polish heritage I am so proud of.

The first piece I'd like to show you is an example of wycinanki, or paper cutting. The art of paper cutting really began in Poland in the mid 1800s. When paper became available the peasants would cut designs into it and decorate their cottages with it. Most had no money for oil paintings or even art supplies. But with paper they could create poor man's art. And they created beautiful pieces.

Two distinct regional styles of paper cutting developed. The Kurpie style is cut from a single dark piece of paper while the Lowicz style starts with a dark cut piece but adds layers of colored pieces to it.

Wycinanki is usually cut with scissors but back when Russian invaders confiscated all small scissors and knives from the Polish peasants they trained themselves to cut with sheep shears. I can't imagine it myself but I'm told they were able to cut very intricate patterns that way.

The image that footnoteMaven used in the poster she created for Polish American Heritage Month shown above is an example of wycinanki (the Lowicz style). Here is a piece from my collection, also the Lowicz style. Roosters and flowers were the most common subjects of the Lowicz style.
The next pieces I'd like to share with you come from my wood working collection. Now I know that wood carving (like paper cutting) didn't originate in Poland. But it too was another poor man's art form adopted by the peasants. Poland is far enough north to have very long winter nights and many Poles passed the time mastering their wood working skills. Some of the pieces in my collection are hand carved, others are machine tooled. Either way, they are examples of Polish folk art that I treasure very much.
This first piece is one of my most treasured. It was given to me by my father when I was just a kid. If memory serves me correctly, he bought it for me at a Polish festival in Windsor, Ontario. There were a number of carvings on display and he allowed me to pick which one I wanted. This peasant couple was my choice.
This next piece was purchased at the Polish Art Store in Hamtramck, Michigan. Before my mother's Alzheimer's disease reached the advanced stage, she and my sister-inlaw and I used to take field trips to Polish neighborhoods in Detroit. When we visited Hamtramck we did some shopping and both mom and I bought these matching combs. Whenever I see it, I think of her. She actually used hers to comb her hair. She really liked it. I keep mine in my curio cabinet.This piece was sent by my Mizera cousins in Poland. It was a Christmas gift for my son, a Harley Davidson motorcycle! The picture doesn't do it justice. It has amazing detailing. It too has a place of honor in my curio cabinet.

And last but not least, my favorite collectible item... jewelry! I bought these pieces at the Polish Art Store in 2007. I got this set for myself and a contemporary choker for my daughter. These are made from hazelnut wood and are imported directly from Poland. They come in an amazing variety of colors and style. If you like unique and inexpensive jewelry and you're looking for a way to celebrate Polish-American Heritage Month (and join Donna's challenge!), I recommend you check out the beautiful collection available online at (tell them Jasia sent you!).

Rich, Chris. The Book Of Paper Cutting: A Complete Guide To All The Techniques--With More Than 100 Projects. New York: Sterling, 1994.
Parma, Anna Sieradzk Christian. Poland's Living Folk Culture. Warsaw, Poland: Parma, 2005.

My series about my Polish art collections:
Polish Folk Art (Wood Carving and Wycinanki)
Jasia's Amber Collection

Polish Pottery and Crystal
Polish Christmas Ornaments