(MENAFN - AFP) Having grown up with the shortages of the communist era, a bright new generation of Polish designers is capitalising on the spirit of ingenuity those hard times bred to win recognition worldwide.
Typical of Polish design is the "vice clock": a small, metal three-sided cube with a clamping mechanism so it can be attached to any number of household items, from drainpipes to bookshelves to a stack of post-it notes.
"I try to design simple and smart objects. I like to use simple materials, like metal and especially wood," said Bartosz Mucha, the 37-year-old behind the idea.
"I heard that resourcefulness is characteristic of Polish designers," he added about an industry that is becoming a growth engine for Polish commerce.
"Because we are still not a rich country. We were in the east communist bloc and this history influenced us," he told AFP, referring to the quintessential Polish talent of creating something out of nothing, of seeing the possibilities in objects and transforming them.
Considered one of the country's best designers today by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which promotes Polish culture abroad, Mucha represents the young generation of artists who are making up for lost time.
- Paris, London, Hong Kong -
After having experienced a slowdown under the communist regime, Polish design has taken off in the new millennium.
From Paris to London to Hong Kong, the number of Polish exhibitions abroad increased fivefold between 2012 and 2014, from six to 31.
One industrial designer, Pawel Grobelny, favours minimalist designs and projects destined to mesh well with the urban environment.
He designed the angular street furniture for the Zhongshan Park in Shanghai and the Monolit benches -- wooden with a twist -- for the Albertine gardens in Brussels.
Between 2009 and 2013, Grobelny and his collaborator Agnieszka Jacobson-Cielecka organised the UNPOLISHED exhibition, which has been shown more than 20 times around the globe.
"We realised that this generation of designers, who were in their 30s when we were preparing this exhibition, had a common way of thinking," said Jacobson-Cielecka.
"They use very simple material, which is inexpensive and easy to get. They use simple methods. They also often include an ironic context, so there is a sense of humour that is hidden in the object," she told AFP.
Take Oskar Zieta, for example. He invented FIDU, a production technology used to make furniture -- like the Plopp stool -- by welding together two steel sheets and inflating the form with air at high pressure.
Giving the illusion of flimsy inflatable plastic furniture, Plopp has enjoyed global success, just like Roman Modzelewski's cult curvy plastic armchair, made in 1958 but which became popular 40 years later.
Or the Dia rug from the Moho design studio, which is laser cut from wool felt to resemble traditional Polish decoupage folk art.
The economy ministry considers industrial design to be a factor in economic growth. To that end, it invested 186 million euros ($207 million) towards research and development in the sector in 2007-2013.
- 'Designed in Poland' -
Beza Projekt, a Warsaw design collective, no longer keeps track of its successes at home and abroad.
Its wooden cuckoo clock, made for Discovery Channel, chimes just after the work day ends at 5:00 pm and prints out a slip of paper with a different slogan every day: "Why are you sitting here Things to discover are waiting!"
"Polish furniture makers have long been inspired by, and copied, what was being made in the West," said designer Zofia Strumillo-Sukiennik, a Beza Projekt member who has created items for global furniture giant Ikea.
Polish manufacturers are increasingly recognising "that design brings real added value to furniture," which is helping develop the industry, she told AFP.
"We went from 'Made in Poland' to 'Designed in Poland'," said Jacobson-Cielecka, a professor at the School of Form in western Poland.
Poland's furniture industry is one of the world's most competitive. Around 90 percent of its production is sent to France, Germany and even the United States.
Poland is also Ikea's second largest supplier, after China.