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Can we break away from commemorative kitsch? Kotlina gallery shows new quality

13 of May '22

Is it still possible to find good quality souvenirs on Polish tourist routes and stalls in more or less popular cities? Are we condemned to pouring out trash in the form of refrigerator magnets from China and plastic jewelry? An unusual initiative has emerged in the Sudetenland to create unique souvenirs and souvenirs.

plakat ze schroniskiem na Szczelińcu

A poster with a shelter on Szczeliniec

© Galeria Kotlina

Galeria Kotlina has two stores. One is located in Międzygórze and the other in Polanica-Zdrój. Passing through the green shop window, we find ourselves in a world of unique souvenirs related to the Sudetes. T-shirts, posters and even socks. Everything relates to the culture and legends of the region. The gallery's creator is Jacek Szembel, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw. This is a phenomenon in Polish design, which will hopefully start a trend of creating valuable souvenirs.

Jacek Szembel, graphic designer and founder of Kotlina Gallery, talks about his inspiration from the Sudetes and what a valuable souvenir is.

Wiktor Bochenek
: How did the idea to create "Kotlina Gallery" come about?

Jacek Szembel: Kotlina Gallery was established in late 2018, initially as a gallery for regional painting. It quickly turned out that a few tentatively introduced souvenirs for the sake of completeness, sold out at a rapid pace. Over time, new ones arrived and began to replace the paintings until they supplanted them completely. At this time I began to take a serious interest in memorabilia. It quickly became apparent that there was a big problem with this all over Poland, and few places or localities could boast of something that could attract attention, had good aesthetics or a cool idea.

Pocztówka z Międzygórza

A postcard from Międzygórze

© Kotlina Gallery

: In Międzygórze, is there a chance to buy a ciupaga, amber or plastic dinosaur with the location's signature?

Jacek: In Międzygórze, outside of our store, of course, you can buy a ciupaga with the inscription Międzygórze, and you can also buy plaster magnets with a bas-relief of another locality in Austria signed as Międzygórze. Of course, you can also buy things not at all related to the village and the region, and you can buy everything that you would buy in any tourist destination regardless of its geographical location in Europe.

tak wygląda wnętrze sklepu w Międzygórzu

Interior of the store in Miedzygórze

© Kotlina Gallery

: What do you refer to in your designs? What is this regionalism based on?

Jacek: In our projects we are mainly inspired by history, places, architecture, details and legends we have heard. In Międzygórze, among other details, we use the window surround from D.W. Gigant as a ceramic magnet. The individual character of the window allowed us to create an original souvenir that directly relates to the place where we rest. In Międzygórze we are also inspired by the wolf, referring to the original name Wolfelsgrund, or wolf land. In Polanica, on the other hand, we have Gajowy and the Bear, which refer to the legend of the founding of Polanica. In our postcards and posters, we directly refer to the surrounding places, showing them in a landscape, graphic way, through which we can bring out their individual character anew.

What is regionalism? In my opinion, regionalism is about drawing from history, from the surroundings, from everything that is directly related to a place, without introducing foreign elements, such as Zakopane in the Sudetenland.

pocztówka z Polanicy

A postcard from Polanica

© Kotlina Gallery

: Your site in Międzygórze has a rather unique color - where did the idea come from?

Jacek: The reason is prosaic. I'm a big fan of the color green, which additionally fits perfectly with the forest climate and suits the created branding of our stores. And this shade particularly appealed to me.

w sklepie dostępne są też skarpetki

The store also offers socks

© Kotlina Gallery

: Do you believe that there is a chance to say goodbye to the trash from Polish resorts and hostels?

Jacek: To be honest, I am sure that trash will not disappear. Let me tell you why. I once had the idea to open a store in Karpacz or Szklarska Poreba, but because of the distance, I wanted to find a partner in those towns. I went from store to store and talked to the owners of so-called grandfather stores, offering them cooperation.

No one was interested, I began to wonder why. After all, I have good products, cool design, what's wrong? One day walking between stores, it suddenly dawned on me. They just don't have to make an effort! If only they wanted to, they could sell air. It's unfortunate, but in top places, it's the location of the store that's important, not what's being sold in it. Therefore, I think this is unlikely to change. I hope that cool initiatives will start to emerge and there will be more and more of them, but it will still only be a drop in the ocean of trash.

Wiktor: Thank you for the interview.

element sudeckiego folkloru - dziad leśny

an element of sudetic folklore - the forest grandfather

© Kotlina Gallery

Wiktor Bochenek

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