Stanisław Czarnocki, designer, creator of the KAL wall calendar talks to Bożena Kowalkowska about mindful living, social responsibility, salvation in nature and searching for fulfillment.
Bożena Kowalkowska: What would you feel like committing your time to these days?
Stanisław Czarnocki: I feel like I have hit a turning point in my life, a moment of reevaluating my goals and ideas, mainly in the professional context. A sense of what I want to commit my time to is still taking shape, but what I do know is what I definitely don’t want to spend time on anymore. I don’t see the point in creating more products and loading them with a false sense of value to justify their existence, mainly due to ethical and environmental reasons. We’re dealing with an overwhelming excess of visually appealing objects whose seductive exterior reveals a facsimile of something that already exists and functions in the world. I don’t see any value in that, and in the context of my profession I try to reduce my environmental impact and separate myself from what can be broadly defined as consumerism. I have been really trying to hold myself in check in this regard and focus on creating things that are truly indispensable.
B.K.: How does the calendar you have created, KAL, relate to what you’re talking about?
S.C.: KAL is a sustainable product, both in terms of production and environment – I have spent a long time working out the minimal amount of raw materials used to reduce its environmental impact, I also wanted for the volume of produced items to be representative of the demand. My goal was to introduce a visual language that would serve KAL’s basic function, that of a calendar. But my main motivation was the idea of timelessness – I really wanted KAL to come out unaltered every year, so that its users can expect the same layout and design year after year. This is my promise to the customers.
B.K.: So you wouldn’t say you are profit-oriented?
S.C.: No, absolutely not (laughs).
B.K.: Why do it then?
S.C.: I believe that in today’s overstimulated world simplicity takes on a new meaning and gains another dimension. I would like to make every day life easier for people, streamline it, let them slow down a little, and I truly believe in KAL’s potential to do just that.
B.K.: How about practicality, do you know what people do with KAL, the ways they use it?
S.C.: I have some idea, people often talk to me about it. Most people use it to write things down. KAL has a finite form, which pushes you to prioritize notes and only put down the really important stuff.
That’s incredible, I thought that due to its beautiful, minimalist form KAL creates a sense of distance, and that people would want to preserve it, that they wouldn’t dare write on it.
That’s true. There are customers who tell me “it’s so beautiful, I don’t want to write on it” – they buy it for its aesthetic properties, it becomes an interior design element, something between a poster and a graphic. People do get over that block after a while, and allow themselves to make notes on it, which brings KAL’s clean and strong layout to life, becoming an expressive foreground.
I know many people who keep certain calendar pages as a souvenir – to celebrate memories or events recorded on those pages. Just like my friend, whose best friend illustrated his calendar on his son’s birthday. He has kept that page to honour an important moment in his life.
B.K.: We’re talking about time. What do you waste your time on most often?
S.C.: Not sure I’d call it a waste of time, but I’m definitely someone who pays a lot of attention to details, I tend to spend time perfecting seemingly insignificant subtleties. I do it for my own peace of mind, to satisfy my own need, that’s not something I expect to be praised for. I’ve always been like that, I’ve always had this internal struggle – on the one hand I spend double the necessary time working on something, but on the other hand the thought of it reaching the finest quality gives me a lot of pleasure.
KAL is probably the best example of that – I’ve only perfected the form I am happy with and that I wouldn’t want to change three years ago. For the first four years of its development the project was constantly evolving. I really think we can’t keep creating products in the way the market has accustomed us to – from a designer’s desk, still in the development phase, straight to the production line.
B.K.: So, how about your free time?
S.C.: Leaving the city and contact with nature are really important to me – it’s been a really important aspect of my life for years now, it’s liberating and inspiring. Nature is the space where time becomes insignificant to me, I love getting lost in nature, falling into a kind of inertia, away from any pressure, feeling free and independent. The freedom of mind and soul is something I really need, especially as I have controlling tendencies and I’m often very critical of myself. The world of nature educates me, revising my habits and needs, it eliminates the need to control myself, my time or my activities.
I would really like to implement that mode into my working life. I would love for the borders between these two worlds to become more blurry, I would like these spheres to coexist, although the idea of leaving the city life behind is becoming more and more appealing. But then, I love being active, I find a lot of pleasure in work – for years I used to go to Scandinavia to work physically. My professional work gives me the same sensation – it’s the very act of working, the discipline, the execution, I feel very connected to all that. So if I was to change anything, it would only be the form and the goal.
B.K.: You sound like a dreamer!
S.C.: And yet I keep both my feet on the ground. It’s interesting how the more responsibilities I have, the easier it is to get my head around it all. You just focus, your mind becomes cleared. And when I have more time I forget all of it.
B.K.: Is it easy for you to take a break and relax?
S.C.: Oh yes. I can really recognize that moment where I feel like I need to slow down, take a break, read a book or meditate. I like mindful living, and as times goes by the experience of living more slowly and with more awareness is becoming more and more powerful. I try to escape the world of technology and digital devices. For a while now I leave my phone at home when I go for a walk, I don’t take it to bed. But it can be tricky. It’s disheartening if you think about it – it really reveals how vulnerable we are in this world we’re living in. I don’t want to constantly rush with no sense of direction or purpose. I am trying to free my life of the constraints of time, so I like to observe, digress, think.
B.K.: You’re not afraid to feel.
S.C.: No, I’d say the opposite is true (laughs). I would say I even appreciate pain, pain can teach you a lot.
B.K.: If you had some influence on other people, what would you wish them?
S.C.: A more aware and objective approach to life, their needs and responsibilities. Time has limited dimensions and a finite volume. We’re not going to change that. We’re wasting our lives measuring our existence from one task to the next, from activity to activity. I know many people who have chosen a different path – slogging away, chasing who knows what only to be able to eventually fly to the other side of the world, buy more stuff, live a lavish lifestyle. I’m not sure this can make you happy. I believe that true fulfillment comes from within, from your surroundings and close ones. This has a huge impact on the quality of life, health, wellbeing and environment. We don’t have to believe it, yet every single choice of every single individual has an impact.
In conversation: Bożena Kowalkowska
Photos: Maciek Niemojewski
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designed by Stanisław Czarnocki: here