Image: Detail of sunny pająki. Courtesy of SELVEDGE and Karolina Merska.
Pająki (pronounced: pah-yonk-ee) are traditional Polish chandeliers, made by hand, for special occasions— delicate, colourful, intricate structures, made of rye straw and coloured paper. It was believed that rye straw held magical properties, and would bring a good crop, health, and good luck to a household. Symbolic of happiness, then, pająki have been made— traditionally by women —since at least the mid-18th century, as domestic decorations for Christmas, Easter, weddings, christenings, harvest, and the New Year.
Image: Karolina Merck with pająki. Courtesy of the artist.
Where once they could be seen suspended from the ceiling of many a village house, amongst colourful paper cut-outs, paintings, and paper flowers, this festive tradition is practised less and less today.
Inspired by Polish folk art, Karolina Merska determined to keep this tradition alive so, in 2015, she began making her own pająki. Merska is originally from Poland, having moved to the UK in 2007, shortly after graduating with an MA in History of Art from Jagiellonian University, in Krakow.
Image: Mertska at work in her studio. Courtesy of Karolina Merska.
Bringing her knowledge and insight to the project, she now shares her passion for pająki through workshops, both online and in her studio in East London. This is where she has also been running her folk-art shop, Folka, since 2019.
Image: Karolina Merska in her studio. Photo: Ola O Smit.
Her work has been celebrated internationally; by Channel 4, World of Interiors, House and Garden, Elle Decoration, The Telegraph, Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, amongst others. She has exhibited her work at the London Design Festival, London Craft Week, and at Bengaluru’s ByDesign Festival.
In 2021, she published her first book Making Mobiles. Create Beautiful Polish Pajaki from Natural Materials. (Harper Collins)
Image: Book cover. Courtesy of Harper Collins and Karolina Merska.
Merska loves sharing her knowledge, and will join SELVEDGE on 4 December to teach us how to make Christmas pająki, decorated with five traditional Kalinka pom poms. Register early to ensure you receive your materials pack.
Image: Traditional Kalinka pom poms. Courtesy of Karolina Merska.