LDF2021 make me, Marlena Norowska, Obvara – ceramic urns

Obvara – ceramic urns Marlena Norowska

Project: Obvara – ceramic urns

Designer: Marlena Norowska

Project description:

The project is an exploration of the obvara firing technique. It involves dipping pieces, taken straight from the raku kiln, in a fermented mixture. Obvara, often named baltic raku, has its roots in Eastern Europe of the 12th century. It was used mainly by the Balts (the territories of today’s Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, as well as parts of Russia and Poland). Research in Baltic mythology led me to the urn idea. Nature was the main element of beliefs and the goddesses of the Sun and Moon were of particular importance. There was also common worship of fire, which had purifying properties for the souls of dead ones.

Marlena Norowska
Marlena Norowska

As part of the project, I also built the raku kiln, which allowed me to conduct a lot of material tests. The visual effect dependents on many factors but it allows to create unique patterns that give the urns a special character.

Considering the growing need of urns for our animal friends, I have created two separate sets.

Pet urns

I wanted to break the historical pattern in which animals’ remains were just an accessory for a buried human. My goal was to create a form dedicated exclusively to animals. A form, that would not refer to human culture or be associated with a ceremonial or religious object. After losing a keeper or a member of the herd, it is common for animals to watch over the body or at the place of death. That’s why the shape of urns refers to the animal’s wake.

Human urns

The set breaks with the widely adopted archetype of the urn – rotating, resembling a vase. The shape of an object results from its function, with is resting. It’s also a ceremonial item, so it should be a considerable size. The function of the upper surface recesses is to personalize. Its curvature is thoughtful and designed, but as a result of handwork, each is slightly different. The recesses can be also used as a place for putting small souvenirs after the deceased.


Born 1996. Graduated from The Faculty of Design of The Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2020) and current student of Graphic Design at The Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. Exchange student of National College of Art and Design in Dublin. (2019)

Honorable mention in Coming Out Best Degree Pieces of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw 2020. Laureate of the Graduation Projects 2020. She completed an annual internship in the August Design Studio in Warsaw.

She’s interested in visual information, experience and emotions. In designing she values direct contact with material.

Contemporary Lynx is a proud media partner of Łódź Design Festival 2021. We have been publishing a series of articles on innovative and talented designers who have been finalists of the make me! 2021  – an international design contest for young designers at the Łódź Design Festival.

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