Polish Folk Art

For centuries since the dawn of feudalism, a traditional folk art has thrived in the villages and small towns of Poland. This art is intimately connected with the everyday life and a local interest of the common people as well as it reflects the uniqueness of each of Poland’s regions.

Folk art includes not only such standard forms as painting, sculpture and wood engraving, but also decorative art, such as paper cut-outs, decorations made of straw, and painted Easter eggs. Folk art also includes weaving, embroidery, pottery, wooden vessels and household utensils and metal products.

Folk art is still very much alive in many regions of Poland. Today, its lasting artistic value and the specific features of its content and style give this art a high place in Poland’s national culture.

  • Wycinanki- decorative paper cut-outs are regarded by many as the most beautiful in the world. They were used to decorate the walls of ceiling beams in countryside cottages and given as gifts to family members and friends. The colorful cut-outs of flowers, circles and stars with a symmetrical arrangement reflect a particularly high level of artistry. In addition to the multi-coloured cut-outs of peacocks, roosters and other birds, there are also decorative scenes depicting special events throughout the year. The decorative cut-outs became popular throughout Poland in the middle of the 19th century, and remain a treasured form of Polish folk art.

Paper cutouts are divided into three groups:

-round/square-called “Gwiozdy” because of their shape of star,


-rectangular- called “Kodry”- usually they present scenes of life,


-vertical- called “Tasiemki” because of their shape of laces.


  • Embroidery




  • Wooden Boxes, plain or richly decorated, are miniature samples of trunks that were traditionally part of the bride trousseau. The Polish hand carved wood boxes have been made in Tatra Mountains of Poland for over a millennium. These wooden keepsake boxes were presented in the past as exclusive gifts to royal families throughout Europe and used to keep treasured possessions. The wooden carved boxes are adorned with designs based on floral and geometrical shapes.


  • Pisanki Eggs- richly ornamented using various techniques. The word ‘pisanka’ is derived from the verb ‘pisać’ which in contemporary Polish means exclusively ‘to write’ yet in old Polish meant also ‘to paint’. Originating as a pagan tradition, pisanki were absorbed by Christianity to become the traditional Easter Egg.

-Kraszanki are made by boiling an egg in a decoction of plants or other natural products. The colour of kraszanka depends on the kind of product used:

-brown: onion peels;

-black: oak or alder bark or the nutshell of walnut;

-golden: the bark of young apple tree or the marigold flower;

-violet: petals of the mallow flower;

-green: shoots of young rye or leaves of periwinkle;

-pink: the juice of beet.

– Drapanki or skrobanki are made by scratching the surface of a kraszanka with a sharp tool to reveal the white of the egg shell.

– Pacenka are created by drawing or painting. Traditional technique requires the egg shell to be covered with a layer of molten wax in which the pattern is scratched. The egg is then submerged into a dye. Finally, the wax preventing the dye to adhere to the eggshell is removed.


  • Pajaki (spiders) – another form of characteristic wall decoration at Christmas. Chandelier-like ornaments are fashioned of colourful paper and straw, to be hung from the ceiling. The name ‘pajaki’ came from the spreading effect of a spiderweb. The most common type of ‘pajaki’ were made from a bunch of wheat tied to one end and when opened, the grain formed a lacy border. This type of ‘pajaki ‘ was known as the ‘dziad’ (old man, grandfather) and was hung over the Christmas Eve table. The ‘pajaki ‘remained over the table until New Year’s Day, when it was carried on visits to friends and was beaten with a stick while chanting “For your good luck, for your good health.” After the visiting concluded the wheat was thrown into the fields when cabbages would grow in the spring or placed under a cow in the stable as a symbol of hopefulness for the harvest in the year to come.



  • Zalipie is a village in Poland, Lesser Poland Voivodeship and is the only place in Poland where house walls are still adorned with traditional floral ornaments. Every year on Corpus Christi a contest is organised for which local painters prepare elaborate floral compositions. It is for this custom that Zalipie has won international fame and recognition.





  • Koniaków’s Crocheted Laces

Koniaków, a village in the Beskid mountain range in the South-West of Poland is the home of a regional specialty famous all over the world. The items of crocheted lace incite the awe of ethnographers, who call them a “world represented through talented hands”. The lace’s patterns are inspired by the world of nature that surrounds the lace makers. There are over 2200 patterns that create delicate napkins, table cloths, liturgical lace, caps but also wedding gowns, collars, gloves, earrings and many more.

The folk artists are constantly searching for ways in which to adapt traditional ornamentation to fashionable, contemporary forms. This search once resulted in the creation of crocheted lace g-strings, an item which proved controversial as it divided the community. Some people are outraged that such traditional laces now decorate lingerie but some people appreciate new collection.

Handmade lace lingerie and wear were awarded several times on various exhibitions. In November 2005 in Berlin and in February 2006 in Hamburg the crochet underwear was presented on prestige exhibition of Polish modern design: “DESIGNED IN POLAND”.



  • The Foundation Cepelia, Polish Art and Handicraft


The main purpose of the Foundation “Cepelia” is to protect, to develop and to promote the folk and artistic handicraft, the artistic industry. The foundation is independent, but also has commercial partners, the chain of own shops and galleries in Poland. The Foundation cultivates and creates new values of the Polish art and culture in the country, but also abroad. It supports ethnographic research in the art and the handicraft sphere, organises contests, exhibitions, creates and leads art galleries, protect the regional folk groups, organises the contests, exhibitions, reviews, supports publishing houses, connected with the statutory activity of the Foundation, gives rewards in contests, organized by museums or associations. Cepelia’s ethical obligation is to protect ‘the dying beauty’.




Fundacja Cepelia. (2009). About Cepelia. Retrieved from http://cepelia.pl/en/ [Accessed 22/06/2014].

Legierska, A. (2014). Handicrafts Made in Poland. Retrieved from http://culture.pl/en/article/handicrafts-made-in-poland [Accessed 24/05/2014].

Polish American Cultural Center. (1997). Polish Folk Art. Retrieved from http://www.polishamericancenter.org/FolkArt.htm [Accessed 20/05/2014].

Silverman, D. A. (2000). Polish-American Folklore. [online book] Retrieved from http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=OSpC30_ppvYC&pg=PA150&lpg=PA150&dq=pajaki+polish+folklore&source=bl&ots=l7Rok1zyzj&sig=tqAsKqvRRs1SpmtUK_9zuNGVV7A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=zIt8U8vkKsSw7AbOjoCgDw&ved=0CEUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=pajaki%20polish%20folklore&f=false [Accessed 21/05/2014].

Wikipedia. (2014). Pisanka. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisanka_%28Polish%29#Kraszanki [Accessed 20/05/2014].

All images’ source: Internet


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