September// Research paper – Essay

 folklore as a indicator of cultural affiliation


Every country promotes its folklore, in Poland we have something to be proud of.

Folklore is part of our cultural identity, source of knowledge about old times is enchanted with all their goods. By seeing them we can admire and imagine for example how in old times people were making them and using in daily ritual. Folk Art should be protected, and if possible, traditions should survive as long as possible.

It is Hard to define in one sentence what the folklore is. Folklore as the science of the phenomena of culture and social group. But this group it is not one uniform, it includes in it b “customs, rituals and beliefs associated with each other very closely, sometimes very old, even pre-Christian, though Christianized. Customs and rituals , a spiritual or secular, have a common substrate composed of beliefs and superstitions of the ideas and activities, simply magical. All this, however, is closely associated with the phenomena constituting artistic culture. “(Dictionary of Polish folklore, ed. J. Krzyzanowski, 1965)

Folklore playes a huge role in our daily life. It become an inspiration, and sometimes a indicator to our life succes.

On the example of the Kashubian folklore I would like to define the roles of folk art in nowadays crafts. To do this i will try to answer the following questions: how this culture and their art is alive in nowadays craft ?and why is it interesting for the present?, even for someone outside of the Kashubian environment like me? Also briefly introduce the history of folklore art in Poland.

I am going to divide my essay in four chapters.The first one it is an introduction to the history of folklore culture in Poland with special attention to the Kashubian region. The second chapter I look for the specific characteristics of Kashubian art and crafts.The third chapter explores different how Kashubian traditional design is shown today , where we can see it and what people thing about it. Chapter four define methodology and techniques of making used before and nowadays and what do they mean today.

Key words:



  • History of folklore culture in Poland p.2-4

    Folklore in PRL time (Communism Era of 1945–1952) p.2

  • Characteristic of Kashubian folk art and craft p.4-9

  • Kashubian crafts today p.9-12

  • Methodology and techniques of making used before and nowadays p. 13-14

History of folklore culture in Poland

“In order to strengthen the bonds of national community and to raise the cultural level of the population should be available to the general public and to facilitate the use of works of art ancient and modern (…) by organizing large-scale folklore festivals (…). Art is in fact one of the strongest and most direct voices of the national genius. Art and music, which draws its content from an extremely Polish folklore, will determine the national and homely character of our culture ” (prof.Jan Steszewski, 1991)

Polish folklore brings together tradition and the art of many regions. Folk art is a term that refers to literature, theater, music, dance, and songs, but mostly from
 fields related to material forms. Folk art in Poland was born in late XVIII century, and at the beginning of the XIX century. It was the impact of the abolition of serfdom and the awakening of social consciousness. It was both form and way of manifesting. Cultural, artistic way of expressing needs with specific and functional character. Of course, folk art is associated with folk culture and social life – it is connecting members of the local community, giving them a sense of belonging and a sense of separateness in compared to other regions, as the folk culture is created, operated and developed only in the form of regional varieties. A characteristic feature of Polish folk art and the phenomenon is on the one hand loyalty to tradition, on the other originality and artistic thinking, naturally resulting from respect and knowledge of raw materials, tools, techniques and execution. Also very important was sharing development skills from generation to generation, from master to students.

What has changed in nowadays folk culture ,currently it is not isolated area, field of social life.It’s functionality and also customers environment ,but beyond that it is created and continued almost in unchanged form. Significant impact on the current folk art and the continuity of its duration had and have institutions such as Cepelia ( folklore art shop) and the Association of Folk Artists and competitions created by ethnographic museums or regional fairs, festivals, folk art, workshops.

Folklore in PRL time (Communism Era of 1945–1952).

Folklore from the time of the era Young Poland has been fascinated yang generations of artists, and previously was an extremely important point of reference, for poets. Village life has become not only important subject for writers and painters, but also inspired many of the most important artists of the first half of the twentieth century. It was time were to look for sources for the creation of a national art differently understood. Zakopane style as the first in architecture was one of the most original phenomena of the first decades of the last century. In turn, folk weaving, ceramics and furniture were supposed to help in the revival of arts and crafts. Rural paintings on glass or wood engravings was very common subject to study. Folklore was also important in the era of communism. Willingly exposed relationships between politician community with the village environment, but more in symbolic form. Government started to treat a folklore as a useful propaganda. It began to pay more attention to folk music and dance.

Folklore also invaded the typography and book projects, especially addressed to children. Also in the era of the PRL the most famous animation ” wedrowki pyzy “was also inspired by folklore motifs. A good example are books compiled by Katarzyna Bogucka by pushing away from the dominant style dictated by the American animation, economical in form and color.

Kashuby it region stretched on most of the northern side of the country.

Kashubian folk art it’s based on a ancient tradition inextricably linked with this unique strip of Pomerania (north land of Poland).

Survived by enthusiasts who were captivated of Kashubian charm as Theodore and Isidore Gulgowski who devoted his entire life to saving this activities for the local arts. Their biggest achievement in the beginning of the twentieth century was the creation of the first ethno-museum of kashubian culture.

The most interesting and defining art of this region is embroidery. 
These were single-color embroidery, made of gold and silver thread. Bonnets decorated with floral motifs: tulips, pomegranates, lilies, camomile and others, which later moved to the multi-colored Kashubian embroidery.

The places were girls of noble families and middle-class could learn how to saw and make embroidery were in monasteries. After the dissolution of the monasteries by the Prussian government in the eighteenth century embroidery products almost dissapeared but skills and knowlege survived.

Multicolored Kashubian embroidery known as ”seven-color” embroidery, was created at the beginning of this century by Isidore and Theodore Gulkowski who in 1906 organized the first workshop of embroidery made for public. Since that time, Kashubian embroidery took first place and was extremely widespread, what in our time have contributed issued by the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association embroidery book. In addition to individual embroidery work teams and workshops, which are making embroidery with similar motifs and similar colors, and above all separate centers called ”schools of embroidery” that differ in compositions, techniques and colors. Between the I and II world war period and even after the war, the embroidery was very popular, collectively created about 20 schools which operate untill today. The same, the popular embroidery patterns were used to decorate traditional costumes and also in another very popular field of manual work pottery-art. (Damrosz. J 1992)

Characteristic of Kashubian folk art and craft.

Polish folk art associated with manual art forms can be divided into two groups. 
The first is called ”imaging arts ”, which include sculpture (wood, stone, bread-sculpture), woodcut and painting (on wood, glass, baking tray, paper, tiles).

The second one (where Kashubian folklore belongs), includes products of artisans and forms of crafts like pottery, plaiting, 
metalwork, paper cutting, woodcarving, carpentry, saddlery, weaving and embroidery.

Kashubian folklore art stands out from other regions because of its sofisticated designs, an extensive body of crafts and especially because its delicate embroidery. Kashubian embroidery uses unusual motives and beautiful color. Their embroidery patterns stands out above all, thanks to their delicate colors. Color palette consisting of seven main colors: three shades of blue, red, yellow, green and black. That code has been established already between I and II war. Until today, it is strictly observed. The main theme found in Kashubian embroidery is a floral motif. Frequently used: pomegranates, sea star, roses, tulips, forget-margaritas.

Kashubian outfit ( different dress for different profession ).

Kashubians relatively quickly stopped using traditional costumes, it happened already in the nineteenth century. However they have several different outfits depending of the job they were doing .

Different wore farmer and different fisherman. Today, we can se traditional costumes only in music performances or special occasions for example : Christmas .

Meaning of the colors

royal blue color – like the beautiful Kashubian Lakes

blue – sky of Kashubia;

navy – as profound depth of the sea;

yellow – like grain ripening in the fields;
green – like forests rich of animals;

red – like blood, which every Kashubian willing to shed in defense of their land;

black – like the earth on the field waiting for seeding

Other symbol of Kashubian craft is amber

Thanks to close access to the Baltic sea, in Kashubia most of the popular decoration were made of that stone, like : Earings, pendant in the shape of a cross or a heart rings, buttons, mugs, snuff bottles, boxes and others..

Another popular object of Kashubian region are snuff boxes made of amber, cattle or deer horn.

One of the oldest areas of Kashubian folk crafts it is Pottery. Kashubian ceramics has a long tradition. The most popular products comes from three families Meissner, Necel and Kaźmierczak. The best known

samples of their work are stove tiles, vases, mugs. Kashubian pottery are characterized by specific motifs in the form of a Kashubian star, ichthyosis or tulip, then replenished with wavy lines or dots.

Shortly after the war, Kashubian culture besides embroidery started disappear slowly.

Luckily today is different than 20-30 years ago. Kashubian language is reborn, it becomes fashionable, language is daily used , kids can learn it at school, and even listen it in Kashubian radio, read newspapers and even many places of northern Poland are named in Kashubian language. The last two decades is the time of the Renaissance, (in the Kashubian region there are over a hundred folk groups, many artists, there are numerous open-air contests , exhibitions, folklore experiencing a revival in a music stage etc..)

Kashubian crafts today

Today we can see how Kashubian folklore and folk art are accepted and practiced by people who do not have Kashubian roots . On the other hand, in that folklore and folk art are elements that, in principle, it never occurred like cutouts. . Kashubian ceramics has a very positive public acceptance has today, one of the oldest folk crafts. Which various processes of creation you can see from time to time on display at the Kashubian museum. Currently, Kashubian embroidery cultivate various schools to promote this craft and cultivating native traditions. The best known of them are: Chojnice, Pucka, Slupsk, Wdzydze, Wejherowska and Żukowska.Today Kashubian embroidery design is also used to decorate dishes, ceramics, everyday objects and souvenirs from the region. Example for promotion of these motives are Katarzyna Turczyńska i Rafał Jarmołowski who a few years ago joined the love of Kashubia and love for their son and created a company which designs and manufactures items for children. KASZUBEBE produces today teethers, blocks, educational games and stickers, all in a very modern style, but inspired by the tradition of Kashubian embroidery. – their philosophy it is importance to educate children from an early age with design cultivated for hundreds of years in the region where they were born. It cultivating Kashubian heritage. KASZUBEBE products are recommended by the Institute of Industrial Design, has been awarded the prestigious competition Lodz Design Festival and represent Poland at the shows in Milan and Berlin.

Today we can also talk about new projects inspired by the fashion of the Polish folklore, and for a moment perhaps we can called as a manner. Recently we can observe various of events one of them famous in Poland workshop situated in Poznań “ New Folk Design”, during which design graduates learned the old handicraft techniques characteristic of the Polish countryside. Folklore becomes one of the sources of inspiration. Certainly very important, but not the only one. Browsing the portfolio of many designers you can find many refer to quite different style patterns. Today, developers derive from very different traditions. After all, indicate quite different work, inspired by architecture and design of PRL times (and there were quite a few). Nowadays they are more frequently discover and exploted. But now, in a multitude of different designs and sea of inspiration, “with such easy way, you can imitate others, and create projects using» cut and paste “, but what is known, familiar, tame, has the strongest power” – (Michal Kopaniszyn 2010).

Folklore has not discourage it is the opposite – it attracts: it becomes one of the main sources of inspiration for artists and designers. Proved of that

it is one of the “flagship” examples Polish Pavilion of folk architecture at the EXPO in Shanghai in 2010. Taken by Marcin Mostafa and Natalia Paszkowska of WWA Architects. Building proposed by them resembles a bent piece of paper covered with ornamental pattern of folk cutouts. Simple, modern, and sculptural form was contrasted with ornate decoration. The particular importance of this project it is a game of light and shadow, thanks the penetration of sunlight, emphasizing the folk motifs , the building intrigues and attracts. Architects says it was about finding a formula appropriate for a building having a talk about Poland. They tried in a modern way to present the country, its specificity and diversity. Pavilion at EXPO is an attempt to translate the ancient patterns on contemporary architectural language. While turned attention to what happens in the Polish design, on how to work with our folklore for young designers and “translating” them into modern language. This way of thinking decided to make a symbol of Poland in XXI century.

– article

Moho Design

was created out of love for design, in 2004. It was founded by Magda Lubińska and Michal Biernacki, whose passion for creating the motivation to act. The idea behind the brand is to find new directions in the creation of objects using the new language of design. Carpets designed by the company is an example of a contemporary approach to the Polish folk tradition. They are made of pure wool, the traditional technique of making cloth highland.

Carpets from the Moho are one of the example how todays design is

ifluenced by folklore motifs, in this cays (paper out cuts) and it is not

only decorate the interior, but they are also an example of a masterpiece in design.

article from (2010)

Methodology and techniques of making used before and nowadays

Today we can notice the effects of modernization wrapping over the effects of the political transformation. Kashubia, especially in the area of the sea side and lakeland becomes a valley of tourism, where the service sector begins to dominate, and traditional crafts are more fashionable than ever. In spite of the risks of this trend most designs and techniques remains as in the example of Kashubian pottery and embroidery, where it can be observed that old methods are still in use. The Kashubian folk museum very often runs workshops conducted by Ryszard Necel (ninth generation of a family involved in this activity). The exhibition presents the various stages of the technological process, manual or mechanical treatment of the raw material (clay), vascular formation, drying, firing and decorating and glazing.

Changes in the social and economic sphere, could not stay without affecting the sphere of cultural identity in the Kashubian, sense of identity, self-esteem of Kashubs. Still, as an example of the vitality of folk art we can find the contest for young people “folklore talents” with thirty years of tradition and great prestige in the fild. Another example is the twenty-five years, outdoor folk event for artists from all over the region. Kashubian folklore is experiencing its rebirth. It is presented in all ethnographic museums in Kashubia and Pomerania, also became an important source of income for many artists who can show their work mainly in the tourist season, when various kinds of fairs and festivals going on. Folklore art hit also shops, art galleries specializing in sale of Kashubian souvenirs. People keep making their crafts by using traditional method passed from one generation to another. Knowing the history of their country, and while living in the uncertainty of what will be tomorrow. I think by keeping that knowledge, Poles, Kashubians try to maintain their identity, to remember who they are and where is their origin. By crafting in the traditional way they trying to show what is their advantage and characteristic element of culture. Culture which gone years ago through dramatic history in their past . And needs to be rebuild once again. Roles that today meets folklore in Poland can be compared to the period of Romanticism. When was born the modern concept of the nation as an “imaginary community”. On which existence determines “spirit of the nation “ not the borders of the country. I think that today, in the era of forming new culture in Poland, Poles are seeking that spirituality of the people in the original customs and traditions. We can say that the folk therefore becomes a kind of aesthetic.

What defines nowadays crafts I can say design growing in various forms , but maybe we should submit these forms onto a larger scale to go as an example of the famous pavilon for expo 2010. To show our identity and the element of which we are belonging, but to the bigger audience. Patterns from the immediate surroundings appear to be attractive, understandable, but also different from the mass of other projects emerging around the world. It is no coincidence also said today in relation to the architecture of “critical regionalism” or regionalism unsentimental, which is not an imitation of the past, but looking for a way to define their own identity in a universalist world.

Although specific Renaissance Polish folk, in subsequent texts on the promotion of Poland abroad might find a sentence that folk art captures the world of the traditional image of the country – backward land. Perhaps we are hostage of our own imaginations. Folklore has many faces, also very attractive. It attracts young generation of Poles.

Intrigued by foreigners. Folklore can provide patterns,

can be used to build distinctive statement.


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