“Let your imagination run wild and don’t be afraid to make mistakes” – interwiev with Magdalena Cieślak

An interview with Magdalena Cieślak – make me! 2019 finalist and graduate of the University of Arts in Poznań, majoring in Design. During her studies Magdalena drew inspiration from Asia twice – the first time at a monthly workshop at Shanghai Normal University in China, and the second time during a semester spent at the Collage of Design at Shih Chien University in Taiwan.


Laboratory of the senses is a range of vessels help capture smells connected with the sense of sight, to close and direct our eyes at movements and ears at sounds which we can observe in the process of meal preparation. The inspiration was a tea-making ceremony, bringing together all the senses involved in that process. The main element of my research was to eliminate the fire and to extend the process of creating a meal so that the user could take part in it, but only from the perspective of an observer – the senses are then stimulated and the wait for the consumption ends in greater pleasure. In the spirit of Fine Dining, the experience was reinforced by designing a new set of experimental vessels. The granite base maintains the temperature after heating – this allows different processes to be take place in front of the user. The three places symbolise the 3 different processes selected for the presentation – frying, smoking and melting. Each of them involves the use a different glass dome, which covers the dishes. Made of boron-silicon glass, which is used to create laboratory glass – their sizes and shapes are adapted to the processes during the use to emphasize meals. This material allows the use of domes at high temperatures, it is also particularly resistant to rapid temperature changes.

Laboratory of Senses – experience more, design: Magdalena Cieślak / from designer’s archive

Laboratory of Senses – experience more, design: Magdalena Cieślak / from designer’s archive

The theme of Lodz Design Festival 2019 was „Good Life”. What does it mean for you? Do you believe a good life can be designed?


Magda: Can a good life be designed? We can design experiences that will affect its quality, but it depends only on the recipient, what a good life is for him. For me, a good life is living in harmony with each other, only then can we create relations with others.


Relations with others, the recipient’s relations with the project and designing experiences are issues that you often pay attention to. Today, when tangible relations with other people are kept to a minimum, do you also find good points in this situation?


Magda: I try to see positive sides in every activity. Now it is another attempt for me, which is certainly much more difficult because I have no influence on its duration. The first thoughts I had in my professional work were a list of fairs, trips and workshops that would not take place and exhibitions where my project would not appear – deep breath and exhale. Maintaining humility and inner peace is not the easiest task for me in my design work, but I am trying to face them. Now is the best time to learn how to work online, it opens up a lot of opportunities for “after” times. Although it was not easy for me to admit it in many fields, now I take this opportunity and thank people with whom I could discuss this topic. For designers, this certainly opens wide horizons for work abroad, sitting comfortably behind the screen in Poland. Privately, I miss relations with people that are close to me, it always positively drives me to work, but it turns out that longing can also be positive!


What inspired you to create the make me! project “Laboratory of Senses – experience more”?


Magda: I like to come back to this moment because these are very vivid memories and that were the purpose of my project, to keep the ephemeral. Combine sensual experiences with memories and relationships. What we remember from travel is most often culinary experiences. I lived for five months in Taipei, Taiwan during a student exchange. Together with my Taiwanese group, we searched for solutions related to tea selection, focusing on its aroma. During many meetings in the tea-houses, I discovered that stone can be a fragrance carrier and help keep the temperature, so my design path began …

Laboratory of Senses – experience more, design: Magdalena Cieślak / from designer’s archive

Could you please tell us about the process of creating a ready-made object for the exhibition?


Magda: The project “Laboratory of Senses – experience more” is my master’s degree, right after returning from Taiwan, I began to look for solutions that will tame the senses. The starting point were natural raw materials that will have direct contact with aromas. After the conceptual process, I started looking for craftsmen and companies in Poland that deal with granite and laboratory glass processing. I was able to implement the stone prototype in cooperation with Granex in Strzegom. I was looking for producers who deal with granite processing on my own and in this long search only Granex decided to take up the challenge and mill the structures I designed. At the same time, I established cooperation with Mr. Zdzisław, who repairs laboratory glass in a small basement, which is located in the Danuśka Student House in Poznań. Also for him it was an unusual task, but with a smile on his lips he accepted the challenge and helped me in the implementation of glass domes.


It’s great that a local craftsman was involved in the project! How is the work on the project like at the moment? Do you plan to develop it?


Magda: Over the past year, I was able to show “Laboratory of Senses” during two exhibitions in Poland, during Arena Design in Poznań and Łódź Design Festival in Łódź and at one foreign “YOUNG POLISH DESIGNERS: STUDIES IN REALITY” during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. This last event has allowed me to make contact with food design enthusiasts, which may result in cooperation, but I don’t want to jinx anything.


We keep our fingers crossed! Is your project already implemented on the market? What kind of investors are you looking for, with whom would you like to cooperate?


Magda: To prepare “Laboratory of Senses” for the open dinner, you need financial resources to produce several sets of dishes. I have already found producers who are able to undertake the implementation – Granex in Poland, which originally produced the prototype from granite, and a laboratory glass factory in the Czech Republic. During the production process I need financial support the most because of the minimum number of orders that affect the price. For the organization of dinner, I already have willing partners – chefs – who would prepare a menu. I would like my project to be perceived as a tool for chefs and entire restaurants in creating innovative dishes, such people I would like to interest in the topic and establish cooperation with them.


Are you working on something else right now?


Magda: There’s always something going on, if I’m not working on anything, my loved ones are starting to worry! Every day I work as a packaging designer and develop new constructions made of solid cardboard. Recently it is the paper that I look through as a natural raw material, and in this field I would like to use knowledge and have an impact on the industry. This year, I decided to broaden my project horizons and started studying Innovation Management at SWPS in Poznań.

I am working, together with my friends, on the POLISHED Association, which will promote design activities, Polish design abroad and educate in a creative way. I am still moving on topics related to granite to influence the stonemason’s community and divert its attention from everyday projects related to the funeral industry. My articles can already be read in the bimonthly “Świat Kamienia” where I started to run the “DESIGN” department, and I am also working on new products made of stone.


Was the participation in the make me! final and the exhibition helpful? How do you perceive participation in the contest?


Magda: It helped a lot! Especially face-to-face meetings with participants. Joint workshops and meetings with designers motivate me the most. A lot of emotions accompanied me during all stages of the contest, which positively influenced my further motivation and satisfaction that my project was noticed and given many valuable words. It’s good to meet designers from Poland and other countries to see how much we have in common, it opens thinking in creation. Watching people curiously approach the “Laboratory of Senses” and interact with it freely is the biggest reward for me. Design is to arouse emotions and I feel that I have achieved it. I hope that this year the winners will be able to experience it, despite the current difficulties!


What are your plans for the next, let’s say, five years?


Magda: Continuing to acquire knowledge related to paper, in the context of packaging, and expanding the topic towards sustainable product development in Poland, but I can also freely reach abroad. However, my greatest fulfillment will be running my design studio and navigating in various industries, showing an innovative perspectives on everyday topics. Now I focus on gaining new experiences that I can use in my individual work in the future.


What should young designers pay attention to the most? What advice could you give to people who want to enter the make me! contest?


Magda: Let your imagination run wild at the beginning of the search! Visualize your projects in the design process and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. This is what often prevents us from creating a new, crazy solution and young designers stray on a very reserved track. The design process is complex, go through all its stages to be able to create a really good product that will move others. Don’t be afraid to ask and look for specialists who are good at their technologies. Surprise them with your projects so that they get solid, creative challenges.

make me! 2019 exhibition / from ŁDF’s archive

Lastly, we have a kind of a questionnaire prepared for you:


If you could be the designer of any project in the history of mankind, what would it be?


Magda: A wheel.


What do you think will be the next breakthrough technological invention that you will live long enough to see? What are you most looking forward to?


Magda: Moving back in time, I wonder if anyone will succeed …


Who is the most important designer these days?


Magda: The most important is a difficult description, I certainly maintain that good projects are created in interdisciplinary teams.


Can you name the most interesting designers in Poland for you?


Magda: For me, it varies depending on the project, no one has stolen my heart yet but … Szymon Klejborowski still amazes me with his works.


What should be on the best-designed pizza?


Magda: Good cheeses and rucola.


What book worth recommending did you read lately?


Magda: “Chrobot” by Tomek Michniewicz, opens eyes to many matters …


Your three favorite TV series are:


Magda: The mentalist, Black Mirror, Narcos.


Favorite movie scene:


Magda: In the film “Amelia” enjoy the pleasure of dipping your hand in a bag with peas.


You have a one-way ticket. Where would you go?


Magda: I would go back to Taiwan.


The Rolling Stones or The Beatles?


Magda: The Beatles


Rihanna or Beyonce?


Magda: Beyonce


Star Wars or Star Trek?


Magda: Star Wars


Superman or Batman?


Magda: Batman


Cats or dogs?


Magda: Dogs


Thanks for an interesting conversation!