The text has been published in Tygodnik Powszechny nr. 12 (3428), 22nd march 2015
When she found out that Dom Kultury (the cultural institution) at one of cracovian housing estates, losing its permission to exist, she had sewn up a new shelter for it. She made it in a form of an immense skirt-like tent. Among the grey, inelegant and hated blocks of flats that grew in front of her window she made a little ship floating on the top of the water. Once she grabbed some string and a tambour, she look around at the buildings and staircases and took some scrawled catchy phrases that were written on the walls. She started to stitch them on cute tapestries.
Monika Drożyńska has finished the Cracow ASP. She lives and creates in Cracow, but dislikes when people call her a “Cracovian artist” – I travel a lot, I don’t feel tied up to any particular place, if anything it would be Gorlice. My childhood city. If I’d have to choose to be an artist from “somewhere” I’d feel most at ease with being a “Gorlice artist”
When Monika set up a dress rental in her workshop, she named it just like a boutique from a dictrict of Gorlice where she was raised – Trendy Trinket (in polish: Modny drobiazg). As a child, almost everyday Monika was passing the advertising sign with her initials “MD”.
-I used to think that I was the fashionable trinket-
-And what was this fashionable trinket like?-
-I was a kid that liked to dress up a lot. I have a few memories about that. I remember when I stayed at my grandmother’s place waiting for my mum to come back. She promised me that she would bring me something and I really wanted that it was a star speckled suspenders. I also remember the time when I was comminga back home from school and puting on colorful leggings, swimming suit on the top and a headband. I was putting music loud and practicing aerobic.
She calls herself a fashion victim. She has 140 pairs of shoes and loves vintage fashion.
-Many people are aware of the fact that there used to be some pretty amazing shoes in the past- She replies, pointing at the red leather boots (in polish: kozaki) currently on her feet, a pair from her great collection.
-They often had metal heels, imperishable! But what really matters is when you walk in these shoes you make the rhythm for the entire street - She smiles. Her lips with orange lipstick that contrasts with her blue eyes. During her studies Monika began to sew and reimaging clothes. After her studies she set up a shop “Point” where she was selling her very own designed clothes and extras. After closing down the shop some dresses were left over, she added some clothes from her personal collection and opened up a rental.
-I want people to visit me here, not just people I know. Dresses can be rented by anyone, everyone can take one for a party and then bring it back, as long as they don’t barf on it or ruin it irreversibly - The dresses are hanging on coat hangers, all sorts of shapes and styles, one with propwer round holes, another orange-green mix with “Polish Martyr” stitched on the back. Above the dresses is streched a large fabric painted in various colorful animals. In the middle is the earth diligently guarded by a little monkey and a monster to whom entire schools of lobsters, swordfish, beetles and rootworms are being sucked into. The fabric is a piece of artwork collectively created by Monika and her five year old son Tymon.
- Trendy Trinket is not only a clothes rental, it’s also a stitching school “Hands of gold” for women and men, that is also run by me -
"Sewing a local cultural centre" project that deals with housing issues at Wola Duchacka was discovered by her via newspape. She came up with the idea of collectively sewing a giant skirt, made of various clothes.
Everyone could donate their own clothes that contain their own personal memories and emotions or bring just something that is lying on the back of their closet. The artist has been constantly visiting Dom Kultury for half a year and has been sewing with everyone who appeared.
Miss Maria from the senior club “Max and Jaro” has been a great help. Sometimes someone wanted to have a look on what was happening, people was also stopping to helped a little bit or they were just maundering for a while. Sometimes Monika was comming out on the balcony, whistling and calling to the children down below. Finally this spring the project was finished and the artist dressed in a great skirt was strung up on thick ropes.
-I hang on the ropes, down below the local tenants were observing me from the distance with a litlle doze of hesitation and doubts. Did they participate with me in this event? Did the common activity somehow unite them?
Sewing beside from solidarity, has shown as well that something is wrong here. It looked as if culture had come from outside like an unwanted guest-
-Did Dom Kultury get a new place? -
-Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an activist, I didn’t do this to change the reality we live
Her works aren’t supposed to change the world as much as make it somewhat more tolerable, just like the little boat did when her window view was interrupted by those ugly buildings. She replaced this grey picture with an image of the sea.
-The view of the sea covered everything I didn’t want to see and what was left I called a boat and I’m constantly counting on that boat to sail away-
Go "Stitch yourself"
The sun’s rays are coming in through the window, they are reflecting on the white table top. Monika spilled a bunch of napkins on the table. On one of them you can see a stitched slogan “Enough of this” on the another one in a chain formation one can observe “What matters in life is swag and good look” and on the next one, among cross-stitched hearts, lays a slogan “Attractions for tourists, evictions for the inhabitants” Every slogan was found slapped on some walls in the city. Monika photographed and collected them and later she rewrote them in her own way, by stitching.
-I don’t do handwork, I stitch, I like the double meaning of that word. I consider handwork to be a political engaged activity, especially in the context of public space dominated by the white heterosexual man. I gave these slogans back to the streets in a tamed form- In Cracow, Warsaw, Wrocław, Legnica and Opole Monika’s stitched work can be seen on multimedia billboards.
-They’re changing every month and that’s how the local calendar was created. It was supposed to be funny with a slight touch of irony, though, not everyone understood it - When in February an encircled slogan “Fuck off winter” was shown, the artist was given a lot of negative backlash.
The reason for the backlash: promoting swear words in public areas with support of governmental money (the project was implemented thanks to the scholarship from ministry of culture) She was receiving e-mails full of gush sent from defenders of the purity and morality of the polish language.
On the table, Monika unreveals the white canvas with fragments from the libretto “Halka” the canvas was supposed to be presented at the premiere of the spectacle of the same name in the Great National Opera Theatre. A certain phrase “The power lies within the absolving folk” is accompanied by a chain-supermarket logo, a symmetrically placed ornament.
-The company requested me to remove the logo from the project otherwise they would sue me which would be a precedent: a stitcher sued by large companies - On the tapestry with the description “Something’s strange in this city/somehow things are horrible for the countryside lady!” appear red stars with sickles and hammers.
Words: “he said: I must have!/and you are his” were stitched into a bitten apple associated with a well known electronic corporation. Without justifying themselves, the opera withdrew their partnership. In the project “Go and stitch yourself” stitching had the purposed of venting frustration “powerlessness, stupidity, lazyness, Facebook”
-I decode the densely placed stitches; on a piece of fabric everyone can stitch anything that angers them - Since 2010, over 1.5 thousand people have stitched something, words from various languages make an appearance on one piece of fabric such as Turkish, Hungarian, Slovak, Czech, German, Polish, French, English, Japanese , Romanian, Slovenian and Greek.
-I would like to have so many stitches that they would become unreadable,l want a single stitch to sink in the sea of frustration in order to create an abstract fabric -
Hands of gold
Once in a while the Trendy Trinket becomes crowded. Bits of string and cloth end up on lying on the floor. Monika Drożyńska runs the stitching school for both women and men under the name “Hands of gold”
-My artwork is my lifeblood which means that I am dependent on the money from scholarships. I wanted to start something on my own and one of the things that I do really good is stitching, hence the idea.
Recently stitching workshops with a man's act were held here.
-People like my idea, I found people willing to attend and I found a model, I came earlier to prepare the room. First I took out the table to make more space but then it occurred to me how small the room was. On one hand that boy (the model), on the other hand the group of people stitching. I put back the table, maybe he will find a place to hide a little bit behind it - She replies, after a moment of silence she adds
-You feel stress despite knowing that you want to do this. You want others to like it as well, but once it’s happening the stress goes away and you’re greeted with bliss, that everything is because of me, becuse of the way I am.