From more than one rubbish bin, you pulled out old trash with the thought of saving it. You have visited many antique markets in search of exciting loot. Sometimes you knew that you found a gem, and sometimes only your intuition told you that you are dealing with good design. This book is for enthusiasts of Polish design from the communist era.

I admit that although we have been sitting on the subject of old furniture, design from the People’s Republic of Poland, and housing design for a good few years, I still have doubts regularly when I came across various achievements myself. These chairs are Aga or just “ag-like” ones. Is this a  desk from Puchała, and the beautiful shells obtained at the flea market come from the glassworks “Julia” or “Irena”?

It is similar to when workshop participants came to us with furniture that I knew, but I was unsure what it was. As if that was not enough, I have passionately started buying old colored Polish glass for some time. Beautiful, but for me, it is an entirely undiscovered land.

 

Therefore, when I found out about Katarzyna Jasiołek’s book  Asteroid I półkotapczan, which was about Polish interior design, I knew that I must read it. Several such items have appeared on our market recently, including “Dom Polski. Wall unit with picas ”by Małgorzata Czyńska and  “ Start loving design ”by  Beata Bochińska. But I still lacked knowledge.

Jasiołek’s book consists of 4 main parts, which concern:

  • post-war reality
  • ceramics
  • furniture
  • glasses

This book’s advantage is undoubtedly a solid dose of knowledge about the hits of Polish design and an appropriate location in the historical and social context.

 

What caught me was pointing out that the designers we consider icons today would not function in the collective consciousness if it were not for the system, or rather institutions (such as the Institute of Industrial Design or the Central Folk and Art Industry Center, i.e., CEPELIA), which were then responsible for design projects and their implementation. This is, of course, a simplification. Jasiołek’s book tells about how post-war design was created in Poland in much more detail.

Above all, it tells about the people who created this design. Against this background, a fascinating figure is Wanda Telakowska, who emerges from Jasiołek’s story as a precursor of “abolishing the division of higher (pure) art than applied art.” In 1945, this visionary outlined the direction in which Polish art should follow (which she later implemented very consistently). Notably, she was also only a very efficient clerk (for years, she held high positions in various cultural institutions, including the IWP) and a friend of artists who, thanks to her efforts, could lead a decent life. Tuwim himself wrote about it like this:

  • Virgin guarding the wreath, 
  • Both Wanda treats us severely.
  • That Wanda did not want a German, 
  • And this Wanda doesn’t want anyone.
  • That Wanda legend is adorned with:
  • She jumped innocent and whole. 
  • Don’t let our Wanda do it,
  • Because the Vistula would have poured out widely.

There are plenty of colorful stories and anecdotes in this book. One of my favorites is the one about a new marketing idea to sell Marx and Engels’ busts. What exactly is it? You must already refer to the book.

Jasiołek, importantly, is not an art historian herself. On the contrary, she is a journalist who until recently wrote about technologies and media. But for years, he has been dealing with the subject of design. The fact that it is her passion, not education, is visible in the book.

But back to the design itself. It is worth reading the book because it scrupulously describes the differences and characteristics of individual steel mills, factories, or artistic cooperatives. Jasiołek explains in a simple way how to distinguish the works of different designers, what their characteristic features are. The crème de la crème of the publication is that the author reached the heroes, i.e., the designers or their relatives. It is her book that makes a compelling testimony of those times.

 

And I will emphasize it once again. Everything is set in a historical and social context. Thanks to this, we are not dealing with an encyclopedia of design. Of course, we won’t run away from dates, places, and names, but it’s not a dull academic textbook. Instead, we get a fascinating story about what our Polish industrial design, proudly called method today, was. And above all, where did the idea for the title “half-wall” come from?