‘The Polkymraes Project’ (Polk- from Polka – in Polish: Polish woman, -ymraes from Cymraes – in Welsh: Welshwoman) is a reification of the Welsh cultural influences colouring Polish identity. It is the process of exploration of blending of Polish and Welsh identities which is portrayed through typography and naturally dyed fabrics with flowers and colours representing the two.
Taking inspiration from the work of Yinka Shonibare, who works with his double identities as British-Nigerian born, and Shelly Goldsmith who creates a story through the medium of textiles, I explore own uncertain identity of not being Polish nor Welsh enough and lost within both societies. Due to my military heritage, I am inspired by my elder’s military uniforms and mix their conservatism with feminine Slavic-Celtic pattern in order to create something personal and unusual; contrasting military uniform that is culturally believed to be traditionally masculine with flower pattern where flowers are traditionally associated with the feminine and, by extension, the female, a group that has been underrepresented in the reception of the liberties the uniform was argued to provide. This contrast was particularly prescient, as during the project the Black Protests erupted over Poland, highlighting that while the fight for Poland’s liberation has been won, the one for women’s liberation within Poland continues. The black bias tape with hand-stitched red eight stars represent these protests and are included in the design as a personal criticism of political situation in Poland. The uniform’s patterns serve as a symbol of mixture between the Polish-Welsh identities, inspired by Slavic and Celtic pagan rites Gŵyl Ifan and Kupala Night, known as St. John’s Night, and plants that were used during these celebrations. To represent Polish upbringing and Welsh engagement in early adulthood, the base pattern was created using naturally dyed fabrics with roses, daffodils, violet and orange chrysanthemum. Depending on the design their bottom shifts into the red-pink (Poland) or yellow-green (Wales). Following David Carson’s footsteps in layered graphic design, I pay homage to my upbringing in a Polish military family through typographic composition of handwritten war stories of my great-grandparents; incorporating them into the pockets inspired by the ones in the uniform they wore while serving in Home Army during WWII. To keep the connection between the countries, and with the use of Polish and Welsh national colours, I created fourth pattern that became the Welsh translation and the lining of the uniform. The final step in this exploration was the collaboration with Laurentina Miksys as an experiment on how others may perceive the story shown through the uniform. Similarly to Polish folk outfits, my hair was braided and to match the uniform the Polish and Welsh designs were used. The wreath is symbolical for both cultures; roses for Poland, daffodils for Wales, and fern leaves for the St. John’s Night.