Ania of Koko Gallery was introduced to me by a mutual friend who thought her work would be a great fit for my boutique. He was more than right–I had to fight temptation to keep some of her heartfelt work for myself! Some of my favorite organizational finds for a kid’s room or nursery are Ania’s wool felt baskets lined with printed basil or fruit. And how about a felt lined pencil or makeup case for a teacher’s gift? Read on to find out more about what inspires Ania’s work…
Tell us a little bit about your background
My name is Ania Witkowska. I studied history and art history in Poland. I taught at the high school level in Poland before emigrating to Ireland where I collaborated with well-known Irish poet Dave Lordan on a project, “Akavade and Machine,” that used prose and photographs to illustrate both real life and the life of the imagination on a newly built Irish housing estate.
Since coming to the United States I have traveled frequently with my life partner Joe to see the beautiful space and nature of this land. We both love travel and the shared experience of things around us. We are also very fond of bicycles and we try to cycle everywhere we can.
I have always loved creating things with my own hands and sharing my love of craft and design with everyone who appreciates things that are carefully made with a lot of thought and attention. I first began sewing when I was 11 years old. Making things with my hands really relaxes and rejuvenates me. In some way it is giving and taking.
How did Koko Gallery begin?
The designs of Lena Corwin inspired me to begin creating my own stamps and fabric prints. I used these fabrics to design and sew original gifts for my friends. They liked the gifts so much that they encouraged me to begin sharing my creations with other people. One friend, Petrina, invited me to her house for “sewing days”–a kind of group sewing party! Another friend, Agata, surprised me with a wonderful gift: a new sewing machine. And my partner, Joe, always believes in my art work and encourages my creativity. And here is the beginning of KOKO Gallery, where friends played an important role.
What’s the inspiration behind your work?
Nature was always important for me: infinite forms and structures, variety of light, colors…
I was fascinated by French Impressionists in hight school and this led me to photography. I began looking for photographs showing the human touches in the objects and forms of everyday life. I strived to preserve the many images around me that showed the delicate structure of life.
Sewing and printing are a way for me to develop artworks that provide sensory reminders of the past–something delightful, soft and fragrant like basil, grapes, apples or garlic. I would like to touch people senses through my products, wake up their imagination through simplicity. I work with linen, felt, silk, cotton–all fabrics from nature.
Who are your favorite designers/artists?
The great masters always occupy an important space in mind: Michelangelo Buonarroti, , , Henfi de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin. and his emphasis on nature–like incorporating the outdoors into the indoors, or always building in harmony with nature by, for example, never placing a home on a hilltop “because then you take away the hilltop”–are ideas that constantly inspire me. I also admire the photographers E Atget, , D. Arbus, J. Pierson, Tomasz Tomaszewski, T. Sikora…
Music also inspires my creativity.
What’s a typical day-in-your-life at the studio?
I draw every product first and then I think about how to make it real. When the project involves a stamp, I carve it on rubber and affix it to a plastic board. Then I use a brush to place paint onto every part of stamp. Next is printing.
Some of my projects began in my mind during sleep. I wake up and I tell Joe all about my night dreams: lights, forms, pictures and artworks.
When I’m creating something, I never pay attention to time. I stay focused on my idea. Sometimes the results differ from my original idea and I like this too.
Creation is part of life. Life is creation.