past & present: pajaki chandeliers + get your own


A couple of years ago, these Polish paper chandeliers began popping up on design blogs. And a couple of years ago Grace asked me to write a Past & Present column on them. So two short years later, I finally decided to dig into the pajaki chandeliers. Luckily, they’re still as colorful and cheerful as ever. The literal translation of Pajaki is “spiders of straw” and these paper chandeliers were part of the elaborate Christmas celebration of Polish peasants. {Big thanks to Izabella Waszkielewicz for help with the Polish translation!}

Image above: Illustration by Julia Rothman


Image above: Pajak from PolArt, $129.95

There is a strong folk arts and crafts tradition in Poland and it was particularly strong in the Lowicz region of Poland – an area located little more than 50 miles outside Warsaw. And in the winter, when much of the outdoor work was suspended, Polish peasant families passed the time by preparing for their two major holidays – Christmas and Easter. Paper cutting became a popular folk craft in the mid-1800s when Polish peasants would create elaborate cutouts to decorate the walls and ceiling beams of their homes. These cutouts were called wycinanki and decorated the walls of peasant homes. For the ceiling decoration, pajaki were crafted using colored paper and straw.


Image about: Pajaki from the Polish Art Center $135

The most common type of pajakii 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 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.

Books to Read
Polish-American folklore by Deborah Anders Silverman


Image above: Pajaki chandeliers from the Polish Arts Center, $95 – 175


Image above: Lena Corwin’s modern take on the pajaki

If you want to bring a Pajaki chandelier into your home, you can find ones made in Poland at Polish Arts Centers. But you can also try your hand at making your own like Lena Corwin (above). Sarah Neuburger from the small object has also tried her hand at making these mobiles and if you’re attempting your own, she suggested these Swedish straws. If you’d like to see a tutorial, Tea in The Sea made a pajaki with just things lying around her house! And if you’ve made a Pajaki, we’d love to see it! Put a link in the comments.

BowerBird

These are fabulous! Thank you for sharing the tradition behind them. I think I could leave one up all year!

emily

Ha, Anne beat me to it– Jordan’s does rock. I would love to see another tutorial or two on how to make these (seems pretty labor intensive). Awesome post. Thanks!

European Chic

Beautiful, these Pajaki chandeliers. I quite fancy one myself to brighten my room. They are such fun!

As Emily said above please post a tutorial how to make them – at least a mini version.

jeanne

I’ve always wanted to make one out of leftover fireworks shells and the copious amounts of plastic tubing that comes from my dad’s dialysis. Seems like a fun way to recycle other things too…

jessica

this makes me want to make one in a more traditional style! they are so delightful. i have made two paper chandeliers inspired by cori’s post back when. one is made from pixy stix and cupcake liners and the other is palm-sized an miniature! now i’m off to find “real” straw. thank you for the loveliness!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jek-a-go-go/4368357541/

Liliana Sol

I didn´t know it and I felt in love whit it. One of my favorite stlye is folk and this handicraft is georgeus, fun, with good vibes and lovely meaningful. I should make one for my own.

Maya

Thanks for this post! I’m Polish and our folk art is indeed wonderful.

ula

Dziękujemy za polski akcent / Thank you for Polish accent ;))

Aimee

So excited to see your post about pajaki! I’m Polish an love to keep the folk arts of my heritage alive. I’ve made a few pajaki myself and I’m very happy to see others enjoying their beauty. If you’re interest in these, please take a look at Polish paper cutting (Wycinanki). No doubt you will find them equally as inspiring.

anna

I remember them from Polish kindergartens some 30 years ago, beautiful, colorful, nice to see them back

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