The last time I saw you, I noticed a trace of an accent. Where were you born? What brought you to New York? And can you tell us about your educational background?
I was born in Poland and lived in there until I was 11. In 1991 I moved with my parents and my sister to New York City. My parents moved here to pursue economic opportunities available in the
U.S. that weren't so much available there, so my sister and I came
with them. I studied graphic design first at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I took a break from school to work and travel, and then finished at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. I've been in New York City my entire life since moving to this country. I have a lot of family in Poland, so I try to visit on a somewhat regular basis.
That's a great story! I imagine going back to Poland regularly helps you keep in touch with your cultural roots. New York and Poland must be very different, right? Do you feel that both places contribute to your creative process and your world view?
I guess I tried to process what was happening in my own way at
the time, that things would never be the same. Poland, like so many places outside of New York City, isn't very diverse.
Like in many
other European countries, everyone is pretty much from there. No one
ever asks "what's your background," etc. And it's a LOT
smaller in size and scope compared to the U.S. So it was rather a huge culture shock: to come here and see
people from all walks of life, from every single place on earth
imaginable. It was very eyeopening. At the same time,
Poland was always a
cultural place. My parents would take us to plays, films, and
philharmonic concerts when I was young. A lot has
changed since then. Every time I go home for a visit, it's fascinating to discover the new trends,
fashion, ideas, etc. It's surprising and wonderful to see all the new changes.
As to my world view, I do strongly feel that both places have
influenced me so much. New York City was, as I said, eyeopening, and in Poland, during my childhood,
I received this foundation which makes me value family and nature,
preserving it, and living a "non-disposable" lifestyle. And we had good
homemade food all the time.
Food is definitely a cultural marker. You create cards and other items via letterpress printing. Most people have seen letterpress printing, I think, but I bet most don't know the process.
I agree with you that most people know it once they see it, but often don't know what's behind the finished printed piece.
Exactly! For the letterpress newbies like me, can you give us a brief history lesson?
Letterpress printing goes all the way back to mid-1400s. (Well, there are accounts of earlier presses in Asia.) Johanes Gutenberg invented/developed a movable printing press which utilized movable type. He created individually cast-in metal letters and punctuation. At the time, this was revolutionary as it allowed for speedy composition and printing multiple copies quickly. (Quickly is a relative term, however, as it still takes a painstakingly long time to compose something letter by letter, line by line. Even so, it was way more efficient than the options existing before: copying the entire thing by hand, one letter or character at a time.) It was THE method of printing for over 500 years and it was just known as printing, instead of "letterpress printing." Traditionally, printers had entire cabinets filled with different typefaces and sizes of individual metal and wood letters, using those to compose newspapers, theater bills, and all kinds of printed media. In addition, one could (and still can!) use a linoleum block (a semi-soft rubbery block) and carve a design into it. You would carve out everything else except what you want printed, so the part that remains is raised. Essentially, letterpress is "relief printing": the part that you want to print is higher than the non-printing area and the ink covers the raised areas. It then makes contact with the printing surface (paper). Rubber stamps are a form of relief printing, too; the raised parts are coated in ink and then transferred directly to paper.
In the 1960s newer methods and techniques replaced letterpress printing, especially in commercial settings. A group of old school printers kept the presses alive (although many didn't survive). In the meantime, digital technologies allowed printing plates to be made directly from digital files. Eventually letterpress printing went through a revival; book artists and artisans elevated the somewhat forgotten printing method to new levels of craftsmanship. So these days, many letterpress printers have their digital file (created in Illustrator, for example) made into a photopolymer--a kind of plastic--plate. This allows for infinite designs to be press-ready.