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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 14:18

Amber Is Part of World Design - an interview with Sławomir Fijałkowski

Written by  Anna Sado

Sławomir Fijałkowski is a designer and the manager of the Usable Forms and Jewellery Design Workshop at the Faculty of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. He is telling us how the "Trendbook 2011+" was created and why it is worth investing in patterns.

How was the "Trendbook 2011+" created?

The publication was created on the initiative of the President of the city of Gdańsk's Office. Within a year I had visited a few of the most important trade fair events where I was looking at the trends and trying to capture the most important ones, in various fields - from architecture, through design, to jewellery. On the basis of systematised observations, and having analysed a lot of available data, including that from my everyday observations in my work as a designer, a design "brief" was created, which was a kind of theoretical assumption for the new collections. The trends distinguished in the brief have become a benchmark for the new collections. The next step was launching the cooperation with future designers - the students of the newly created Usable Forms and Jewellery Design Workshop that I manage at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. That's how the projects inspired by the theme of the trends which we had distinguished were created. After a careful selection of the students' ideas, I turned to two trade organisations at the beginning of December - the International Amber Association and the Amber Chamber with an offer to create prototypes of selected projects and to work on the project together. Only 4 companies have expressed an intention of serious cooperation and support for the prototype's realisation - which is not a great result considering the importance of patterns in amber industry. Therefore, it is so important to thank them and name them again- the companies were: ART7, S&A, Jubilex and Z. Strzelczyk's Workshop. As a result of the experiment 50 prototypes were created - ranging from image projects, to the ones suitable for mass production and rapid commercialisation. The works were presented at a special exhibition, accompanying the publication, at the Amberif trade fair in Gdańsk. Further exhibitions are planned in a few other places, such as: the Malbork Castle and in Rotterdam, as well as during the international artistic university symposium in Zimmerhof, Germany, and the "About Design" trade fair in Gdańsk - this time open to the public.

What kind of trends have you described in the "Trendbook"?

We have distinguished 5 stylistic macro-trends, which have been confirmed not only in the forecasts concerning jewellery market, but also in almost all the areas of original design. We have named them: "RE:interpretations", "Story telling", "Inspired by nature", "City guide" and "Artvertising" respectively. A detailed description of each theme is complemented by a selection of photographs featuring all branches of patterns. Top product designers, such as: Marcel Wanders, Jaime Hayon, Gijs Bakker, Frank Tjepkema, and many designers of the younger generation, as well as international companies producing furniture, ceramics, interior decorations, usable accessories, watches and jewelery, have given us their consent to publish their photos. The publication is comprised of 220 pages with up-to-date information about modern design.

What is the aim of the publication?

The aim is mainly promotional, and it was really important for the initiators to show amber not only as a part of jewellery, but most of all as an element of modern design. We do tend to perceive amber as something special, and unfortunately this might make it exceptional, but not necessarily in the positive meaning - that means that amber is seen as an ethnic curiosity, or part of local folklore.

The intention of the publication was to try to show amber as a material for creating modern, European designs that are an integral part of the general "premium" product stylistic. I think it is quite a common point of view, but this kind of promotion has a chance to receive better feedback from the expert audience than being martyrs to emphasising the Polish nature of amber. Paradoxically, such a universal context contributes more to the promotion of Gdańsk as the World Capital of Amber - not only for historic reasons, but also as a place where innovative, futuristic products are created.

Is investing in design profitable?

Not only is it profitable, but also it is currently unavoidable, in order to develop and build the brand. Although the pattern awareness in the amber industry is still quite small, it continues to increase - more and more companies are cooperating with designers, looking for their own way based on design.

Currently - that is at the time of growing aversion to synthetic materials and with showing off wealth being poorly perceived - amber has a chance to become a good and buoyant theme. It is only waiting to be packaged properly and sold skilfully. This is why it is so important to think about amber in the categories of image, and showing it in modern context and the proper surrounding. If we don't start making the effort now, soon it will be hard to build positive associations, therefore the "Trendbook" is trying to show amber as an integral part of world design - maybe, thanks to that, more people will be interested in it.

Are you planning a continuation of the "Trendbook" in the years to come?

A serious declaration has been made by the publisher - the City Hall in Gdańsk that there would be a continuation. It would be a pity if it was only a one-off event, especially that the logic of the first edition of the publication shows that the "Trendbook" has become an excuse to create a mechanism of cooperation between prospective designers and production companies, based on professionally systematised professional knowledge that is usually dispersed, and it would be difficult to make the full use of it, without such a professional compendium. Based on the initial reactions I assume that the desired promotional and image effects will be achieved. The publication will be sent to all the important opinion making centres dealing with patterns, and I think it is the most effective method of amber promotion and finding new amber fans. I am convinced that the publication should be a periodic event of the Amberif, and a tool supporting premier collections by young designers, not only from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk - universities from Germany, Czech Republic and Lithuania have already expressed their interest in taking part in future edition, so perhaps the project itself will become international.

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Anna Sado

Anna Sado

Trade journalist specialising in jewellery related topics. Since 2007 has been co-creator of the amber portal amber.com.pl

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