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Photo by Jo Masterson.

Polish artists partner up for fun projects

By Jamie MacPherson on September 7, 2022

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Often, we find unexpected treasures where we least expect them. While “obsessively collecting all the Polish folk art designs in Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” Anna Paluch, owner and founder of Babuszkraft, a Polish art business specializing in cultural awareness, chanced upon the work of queer, non-binary, multi-disciplinary Polish artist Theo Fietka. She says the two felt “a literal spark” and have since begun a mutually beneficial partnership.

Provided by Theo Fietka.

Fietka runs Fleisch Church, an art company established in February 2021 to sell their work.“The name is actually a little silly,” Fietka says. “It’s a reference to the YouTube series Monster Factory! I was hoping to secure ‘fleshchurch,’ but it was taken. I opted for ‘fleisch’ since it means meat in German.”

The duo of Paluch and Fietka help each other with their artwork, table together at markets, mentor each other, and generally provide moral and artistic support.

Theo Fietka’s folk art. Photo provided.

Fietka focuses on “Slavic and folk-forward pieces [influenced by] horror movies and medieval manuscripts” and sometimes begins a piece digitally on their iPad, but other times works in acrylic and gouache paint. Nonetheless, they always prefer painting on natural materials like wood and bone. Their resulting merchandise covers a wondrous spectrum: labels, pins, pet portraits, book covers, illustrations, paintings, and tattoo designs.

Nature’s a major influence, and Fietka regularly makes art in natural settings such as Lac Philippe. In the studio, unique pieces are always crafted with nature front and centre, like recent artwork made from balsa wood decorated with Posca markers that were on offer at the second Vegans Who Snack Festival. Fietka thrives in event forums because they love “making a connection with their customers. It’s nice to see faces and be able to chat one-on-one with folks.”

Photo provided by Anna Paluch.

Paluch, for her part, experienced life-changing moments at Konekt Camp, near Barry’s Bay, while doing a folk workshop. She was tired of the lack of Polish folk art workshops or shops near where she lived. “I decided to provide the services I wish I had growing up.”

There’s a cute story behind the name of her business: Paluch says she is “jokingly referred to as a babuszka (a Polish elderly woman/grandma)—I’m an old soul that loves to collect vintage folk art.” The name immediately came to mind: “babuszka + craft = babuszkraft. I’m stupidly proud of that play on words.” Their logo combines elements found on Canva and evokes the doilies or wycinanki (Polish paper cuttings) located across Poland.

Wycinanki art. Photo provided by Anna Paluch.

Paluch makes diverse art, including pisanki (Polish Easter eggs), paper cuttings (wycinanki), pantry doll talismans (gryczanki), and Polish willow branch baskets. Forms vary from fabric to paper to digital, and each calendar month brings new product offerings, as well as various workshops and lectures teaching history and legend.

She derives inspiration from her family and background. Being far away from home plays a role, too. “I had a moment of not knowing how I fit in with my culture, but folk art and family stories were where I felt the deepest connection—and that inspires me,” says Paluch.

Babuszkraft’s Polish-inspired artwork. Photo provided by Anna Paluch.

At markets, Paluch shines because she can tell onlookers how and why things are made. “I purposefully write my products in Polish so I can engage and tell the stories around each object and get so excited seeing people’s faces when asking questions and engaging with the work. Sometimes it can get a bit repetitive, so I recently made a zine that explains everything that I sell.”

Paluch and Fietka tabling together. Photo by Jo Masterson.

When these two passionate artists with different styles but similar themes partnered up, it brought each of them fresh outlooks. They believe collaborations create and strengthen community and offer support spaces where artists build each other up. Their mini artist classrooms provide “actual practical help” to those who take them.

At art markets, Paluch is always in a noteworthy company that brings an “excitement seeing each other’s work,” the family-type feeling familiar faces establish, and positive crowd energy. Art businesses make markets visually pleasing scenes accompanied by the loveliest soundtracks: people talking and laughing together.

What’s next for this new duo? Follow them to see what their partnership will inspire. Right now, they urge you to enhance your work by linking up with fellow artists.

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