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Person of the Week: Agata Nowotny [INTERVIEW]

Agata Nowotny

On Tuesday, March 12th, she will open an exhibition entitled “Resources. From Raw Materials to End Products” at the ARENA DESIGN in Poznań. We will see how iconic bentwood chairs by Fameg (photos below), plates by Jan Drost, crystals from the “Julia” Glassworks or cutlery by Hefra are manufactured. Agata has taken a photographer Krzysztof Pacholak for a trip to nine Polish factories. We will see the outcome of his work at the exhibition in Poznań.

It is a fascinating story of the origins of the products which we tend to use on a daily basis, praise of local manufacturers, hard work of designers and workers, visual poetry of the industry. Straight from Poznań, the exhibition will be presented throughout Poland and worldwide. It will regularly be expanded and supplemented.

Agata has a degree in sociology but she does not deal solely with theory or history of design. The “Resources” project has a chance to change much in practice – encourage factories to employ designers and offer students internships and make students discover specifications of particular materials for themselves. “I work with designers and I teach them to better understand the world where they function. So that they don’t close themselves in their own bubble of nice objects”, says Agata.

Resources is a perfect term however, a little bit overused in a corporate jargon yet extremely broad: material resources, human resources…Do we have all these resources in Poland?

– Yes, we do. We have factories which are in the process of restructuration. We have specialists. We are one of the biggest producers and exporters of furniture in the world. The foundations are solid. My task is to connect designers with industry. We have to work out a new formula because in the previous era a designer was someone who was permanently employed on site. Nowadays, a designer rarely decides on this model. And producers are afraid of any additional costs. It would also be worthwhile bringing fresh air into these rigid structures.

Factories got a bit lazy because there is demand and thus they are unwilling to experiment.

Why is it worth cooperating with designers?

– Because they are business partners, who analyse the market, deal with promotion and sales. The role of a designer does not finish with submitting a prototype to production.

The “Julia” Crystal Glassworks in Piechowice is a fine example of this modern way of thinking. They have ascended from the ashes thanks to the family private investment and have done a great deal of work. They base on traditional designs but they are simultaneously working on something new, continuously cooperating with designers. Chors – a new brand from Wrocław – employs designers, has the technological know-how, its own production line.

China is hot on our heels. It’s good we appreciate our locality.

– We have to ask ourselves whether we can and whether we have something we can compete with China. It is not sufficient to produce and sell but you have to stand out somehow from the crowd.

What was a direct impulse to explore the subject of resources?

– Actually, there were two such impulses. The first was my visit to the design school in Tokyo, where to my surprise, I noticed the surrounding cotton fields. I was told that since they had the textile department students had to be aware of the way fabric was produced.

Whereas, at the “Koło” factory I’ve learnt that a toilet bowl doesn’t much differ from a teacup which I use on an everyday basis. It is actually made from the same material. What’s interesting, a toilet bowl which we will showcase at the exhibition was manufactured in Włocławek, in the very place where famous porcelain services were created.

Do you collect design? Are you a collector?

– I have a few objects of sentimental value inherited from my grandparents who lived for the most part of their lives in Sweden and Denmark. So it is some Swedish design. I also have some dream objects which I have always wanted to poses, created by famous designers. However, I already feel satisfied and I don’t have such a strong need to own things anymore.

However, on my shelf, you can find an element of car bearings. Once during the classes with my students, we deconstructed a car. Everyone could take a piece which he felt somehow fascinated with. And this car bearing lured me because it was simple, extremely precise. It has tough metal inside and soft inside.

It ‘s so you! And which objects showcased at the exhibition have you got at home?

– We have Chors lamps, Rotor plate by Drost, crystals from the “Julia” Glassworks. At my aunt’s home, we tend to eat dinner using the Hefra cutlery. I will never look at this set the same way again. I grab a fork and I think: Oh! I know on which machine these tines were crafted!

interview by: Agnieszka Kowalska
photos: Aga Bilska (portraits) and Krzysztof Pacholak (photos from the Fameg factory as a part of the “Resources” project).

ARENA DESIGN IN POZNAŃ – 12-15.03.2019, creative director: Maria Jeglińska, www.arenadesign.pl
“Resources. From Raw Materials to End Products” – curator: Agata Nowotny, research: Anna Łyszcz, design: Grynasz Studio, photos: Krzysztof Pacholak.

Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Krzysztof Pacholak, zdjęcia z fabryki Fameg, projekt ZASOBY
Agata Nowotny
Wystawa "Zasoby" podczas ARENA DESIGN
Wystawa "Zasoby" podczas ARENA DESIGN

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