Glass Biographies. Polish Women Glass Designers 1945–2022 [4]

The early 1970s, the period of prosperity under General Secretary of the Communist Party Edward Gierek, brought many changes in Polish glassworks which gradually installed automated or partially-automated production lines.

Glass Biographies

There was a growing pressure to export as the national economy needed hard currency. In the majority of glassworks jobs in design departments had already been filled and new talents were hired only sporadically. But “Vitropol”, the industry’s state-run supervising agency, tried to consolidate the community of glass artists and designers by regularly staging juried exhibitions featuring first of all studio glass but also including separate categories to honour prototypes of designs intended for serial production.

At the PWSSP in Wrocław, students were now mostly interested in art glass, keen on experimenting with form and technology, focused on the medium’s expressive potential and creative freedom. The only practical constraint was limited access to facilities: one had to plan in advance and apply to a chosen glassworks to schedule a team of professional glassmakers who would devote several days to realizing their project and to cover the cost of the material. These individual exploits had yet another important aspect: in contrast to the majority of in-house designers, glass artists were no longer anonymous – and many would not accept the industry’s standards concerning the designer’s position.

In response to this situation, two facilities were established as venues for experimentation and artistic activity. One was a small glassworks in Kraków operating under the auspices of the Institute of Glass and Ceramics and animated by Jerzy Słuczan-Orkusz. The other was the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój established on the initiative of Zbigniew Horbowy. Słuczan-Orkusz and Horbowy both envisioned hubs of activity attracting scores of glass artists, like Murano near Venice. Although this dream did not fully materialize, both glassworks offered opportunities for some talented women to venture into glass design as an episode in their careers.

She studied at the State College of Fine Arts (PWSSP) In Wrocław. MFA In 1973 (class of Professor Ludwik Kiczura). In 1973–1981, she worked at the “Sudety” Utility Glasswork in Szczytna and then the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój. In 1981, she exchanged her designer activity for a teaching job at the State Secondary School of Fine Arts in Jelenia Góra (1981–2005). In 1994–1998, she was the school’s deputy headmaster.

She came from a family with ties to the “Sudety” Glassworks: her father worked there as an accountant. Upon graduation, she was offered a job there and joined the established design team headed by Zbigniew Horbowy. When Horbowy got involved in setting up the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój soon afterwards, she and the experienced young designer Stefan Sadowski (MFA 1969) took over some of Horbowy’s responsibilities, including reconnaissance trips abroad to gauge Western markets and customer preferences.

Her designs showcased the style characteristic of the 1970s. If emphasized Cubist-like volumes, subtly rounded shapes with massive, well-defined bases, often decorated with embossed motifs or a single large air bubble seemingly suspended in glass. Among the artist’s most interesting achievements are the Iskra (1977) and Wigry (1978) multi-element tableware sets.

Her one-off prototypes inspired serial production of vases distinguished by their original, club-like shapes, with a flattened disc-shaped belly and long neck with a softly-modelled lips. Particularly striking are those made of twice-heated metal: the process produced very unusual gradation of colour, from deep ruby red to energetic yellow. Collectors named them Hercules.

In terms of form, proportions and how set elements play off one another, her works are decidedly subtler and more refined than most designs by the famous trio active at the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój: Ludwik Ferenc, Kazimierz Krawczyk, and Czesław Zuber. It is apparent in her handling of the popular motif of segmented shapes which they also often explored, for example in the Rubin series of vases with characteristic long necks and lips accentuated with delicate rings.

(b. 1950)
She studied at the State College of Fine Arts (PWSSP) In Wrocław (MFA in 1974, class of Professor Zbigniew Horbowy). In 1975–1979, she was an in-house designer at the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój and then for several yeas (1980–1984) sat on the faculty at the Department of Ceramics and Glass at the PWSSSP in Wrocław. She also ventured into set and costume design for theatre and film. In the late 1970s-early 1980s, she collaborated with Jerzy Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium.

In the young designer team of the “Barbara” Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój, Lucyna Pijaczewska stood out because of her somewhat different approach to form which may be regarded as early Postmodernism in its questioning of harmony and symmetry, exemplified in the glasses of modular, seemingly layered stems.

Of only several designs by Lucyna Pijaczewska for “Barbara” that went into production, particularly successful was a set for serving beverages with a cylindrical jug encircled by a massive double ring. The same feature also appeared in cylindrical glasses with softly moulded mouth and barrel-shaped base.

(b. 1952)
She studied at the State College of Fine Arts (PWSSP) In Wrocław (MFA in 1980, class of Professor Henryk Wilkowski). In 1977, when she was still a student, she received a grant to make a study trip to Lingköping, Sweden. In 1980–1981, she was part of the designer team at the “Barbara” Art Glassworks in Polanica-Zdrój. In 1982, she emigrated to Italy and settled there. In 1984–1985, as an independent artist she realized her projects at the glassworks in Tarnów in collaboration with the master glassmaker Bronisław Münzberger. From 1997, she has pursued monumental glass installations: Adonalia (1997), Labyrinth Definitely Infinite (1998), Daedalus and Icarus / Reason and Passion (2002), among others.

In the artist’s dossier, the brief episode of collaborating with the “Barbara” Art Glassworks started when she was still a student. She was offered an internship and she also realized her diploma project there: a beverage serving set. Significantly, it went into short-run production although it departed from the glassworks’ signature style. Rather than choosing coloured glass very popular at the time, she opted for colourless glass only enlivened by the original touch of delicate brown thread that imparted painterly lightness.

As a young designer, she saw her situation at the glassworks as ambiguous. On the one hand, she did not work full time and thus enjoyed a considerable degree of creative freedom from everyday hustle-and-bustle, on the other not being present onsite all the time limited her ability to work with glassmakers, oftentimes otherwise occupied, to fully develop her designs. After leaving her job at “Barbara”, she would occasionally venture into design using the facilities of the glassworks in Tarnów.

In the late 1960s, a small glassworks specializing in making bottles and laboratory glassware, operating in the Kraków district of Zabłocie in Lipowa Street 3, in the factory established in 1931 as the private firm of the Chazans and Bąkowski, became an R&D facility for the glass industry (named Zakład Badań i Doświadczeń Przemysłu Szklarskiego in 1968). Talented designer Jerzy Słuczan-Orkusz was entrusted with setting up the production facility and initially given free hand in hiring a team of glassmakers with whom he soon produced first product lines. Soon, the so-called “Kraków glass” proved surprisingly successful on the market. This, however, did not prevent conflict between the designer and management which finally persuaded Jerzy Słuczan-Orkusz to leave.

After he had left, new locally-based designers joined the designer team: Michał Gołogórski, Michał Jakubas, Barbara Świstancka, and Zofia Pasek. They mostly continued the approach and style initiated by Słuczan-Orkusz. The designs often referred to historical types and shapes, like amphoras, pitchers, jugs, tumblers, and tankards, and were distinguished by unique, handmade appliqués and ornate, expressively modelled handles. Characteristically, the wares were made of coloured and alabaster (semi-opaque) and also opaque glass, the latter infrequently used in other Polish glassworks.

(ur. 1948)
An alumna of the Department of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts In Kraków (MFA In 1974, class of Professor Antoni Hajdecki), she briefly worked for the Kraków branch of the Institute of Glass and Ceramics in 1974–1976. During this period, she produced some forty designs for short-run production. She also designed art jewelry and worked on reconstructing the original décor of the interiors of the rebuilt Royal Castle in Warsaw. She also taught sculpture at the State Secondary School of Fine Arts in Kraków.

(b. 1952)
In 1971, Zofia Pasek graduated from the Technical College of Art Ceramics at Łsa Góra. From 1976, she worked for the Kraków branch of the Institute of Glass and Ceramics for which she produced over two hundred designs for short-run production carried at the glassworks located in the Kraków district of Zabłocie in Lipowa Street 3.

(b. 1951)
She studied at the State College of Fine Arts (PWSSP) In Wrocław (MFA In 1975, class of Professor Ludwik Kiczura). In 1975–1979, she worked as an In-house designer at the „Violetta” Crystal Glassworks in Stronie Śląskie where she concentrated on developing decorations for tableware sets. In 1979, she briefly (some three months) worked for the Kraków branch of the Institute of Glass and Ceramics where she authored seventeen designs that went into short-run production.