Image: All images courtesy Karoline Merska
Inspired by the folk art of her home country, Polish artist Karolina Merska started making decorative pająki mobiles in 2015. Her modern take on these traditional, richly decorated chandeliers caught the attention of the interior and design world and her work has been celebrated in broadcast and print media since. In her first book, Making Mobiles, Karolina shows how to create these enchanting folk decorations and shares the stories of three artists who are as passionate about pająki as she is. We’re thrilled to have a free ‘How-to’ based on one of the designs in the book for readers of our blog. Take a look at the craft project here: Make a sunny pająk.
Steeped in history and symbolism, pająki (pronounced pah-yonk-ee), are enchanting folk decorations, traditionally made from straw, paper, wool, feathers and dried peas. Variations can be found all over Eastern Europe and Scandinavia (see our blog about straw crowns), where, delicate and light, the chandeliers hang from ceilings in winter, spinning gently in the breeze for the season’s celebrations. Their origins and full history are difficult to uncover, as few original early designs survive today. It is the scarcity of pająki that drives Karolina’s passion and drive to keep the tradition alive.
Straw and rye are key elements of a pająk, mainly because of their length and strength, but also because they were an important, symbolic part of country life. After the harvest, spare pieces of straw were kept to be used for making pająki and other decorations. As well as being scattered on the floor and under the table to protect the house from evil spirits, it was believed that the straw of a hanging pająk would bring a good harvest, prosperity and happiness in the coming year. This Christmas pająk was then burned as a symbol and to affirm the awakening of nature.
In Making Mobiles, Karolina shows how to create these enchanting folk decorations and shares the stories of three artists who are just as passionate about pajaki as she is. Combining history, heritage, time honoured techniques and bright modern designs, the book features everything needed to start making mobiles. From the traditional to the contemporary, there are projects for every interior and skill level with step-by-step instructions throughout to make pajaki from simple materials, including rye or paper straws, yarn and even fresh flowers.
Karolina loves sharing her knowledge and teaches pajaki workshops in her studio in East London and around the world. Since 2019 she also runs her shop, Folka, where she presents unique crafts including pajaki.
Try your hand at creating a pająk.View the free craft project from Making Mobiles here: Making a sunny pająk