An architect by day and weaver behind Woven Journals, Ania Grzeszek shows us that you can pursue your crafty passion while having a full-time job. Weaving not only became a creative outlet for Ania to express herself, but it's mediative process also offers her a balance from her otherwise stressful profession. Working on a floor loom, Ania weaves "visual memories" of her life experiences into her pieces and uses self-dyed yarns to give her work that extra umph. We are swooning over all the beautiful colored fabrics and pieces she dyes using local plants from Berlin parks and are all thumbs up for her all-natural philosophy. Read on to learn more about her story.
5 Things About Ania Grzeszek…
Early riser or night owl... I used to be a night owl, but now I have converted to an early riser!
A song to get you into the creative groove... I get most creative in a quiet environment with no distractions.
What did you aspire to be when you were 5... I wished I could stay young and spend my life as a 3-year-old. Luckily it didn't happen!
3 essentials we can find in your bag... I do not carry a bag with me when I'm out. I keep my essentials in my pockets: keys, money and phone.
If you weren’t a weaver, you would most probably be doing… I’m a weaver and an architect. If I weren't weaving, I would be just the latter.
1. Tell us about your background and what led you to choosing weaving as a craft.
I always knew I wanted to do creative things for a living and dreamt of becoming a jewellery designer since young. However, coming from a small town in Poland, I was always told to get a normal and "proper" job. Architecture seemed to be a good compromise as it is a secure and creative profession at the same time. I have to admit, I loved it! The whole process of creating a vision, articulating it, and translating it into a building was great. But it was only when I started working as an architect that I realised that it wasn't an avenue for me to express myself. Architecture was not a creative business at the end of the day, but rather a rational procedure to do sensible things. This is when I started looking for another creative outlet. I decided to try a few new crafts after graduation, taking up nude drawing, pottery, bookbinding and goldsmith classes. They were all fun, but nothing got me as much as weaving. I built my first cardboard loom in August and 4 months later I already had a floor loom at home.
2. What made you want to take your passion to the next level?
I picked up weaving as a hobby initially. But when I started posting photos of my weavings on social media, I got such great responses! At first, I made a few prototypes of handwoven accessories for my friends and family. Gifting your work is great, but there is no feeling better than having someone actively choose to have one of your pieces at home. I wanted my art to travel and make people happy. This is when I decided to set up an online shop and see if people are interested in purchasing my work. It was a confirmation that my weaving is worth something.
3. Tell us about your interest in natural dyeing. Why do you like dyeing your own yarns and how difficult is the process.
I started dyeing my yarns as a craft project shortly after I learnt how to weave. I like having control over my whole design process and was curious to try if I can produce beautiful colours by myself at home. The results I achieved were so pretty and soothing, I just couldn't stop experimenting further. I believe that beautiful colours can be achieved without the use of chemicals and synthetic pigments and decided to use local plants collected in Berlin's parks. The process of harvesting by myself makes me feel closer to nature, slows me down and let me discover and learn new things. I got to know a lot of local flora and learned the alchemy of natural dyeing. The process itself is not complicated, but it’s a practice of patience. If you’re ready to embrace the outcome, whatever it will be, you will definitely love dyeing your own yarn. Natural dyeing is a slow and often unpredictable process, which makes it so exciting! It takes several hours to several days to extract the pigments from plants. After the dye bath is ready, fabric is added to the pot to simmer for few hours and left overnight to allow the colors to be absorbed by the fabric. There are endless factors influencing the colours so reproducing what was achieved before can be very difficult. I see it as my distinctness as all my yarns are uniquely colored.
4. Tell us more about Woven Journals.
Woven Journals started when I got myself a floor loom. I had no experience in weaving and have never seen a loom before, but I just decided I need one. It took tremendous effort and a lot of learning to familiarize myself with working on a loom. I started learning to weave a few weeks before the loom arrived – it took so much time for a newbie to set it up. But when I finally sat at the ready set-up loom, I felt tight at home. Weaving for me is a meditative process; repetitive and slow movement offer me a balance with my stressful work as a full-time architect. I decide what and how to weave as I go, without having a fixed plan. They are my visual memories. This is the idea behind Woven Journal: it’s an ongoing series, that explores the process of weaving as a way to reflect on own experiences and past event. The process is the focus while the outcome is just a transcript of my mood and imaginations.
5. What is your favourite piece of finished product and what inspired you to create it?
My favourite and most sentimental piece is my first handwoven cape. It was the first work I took off my floor loom and took endless hours of learning and experimenting. This cape was also the first piece of my Woven Journal series. Looking at it is like reading a diary of the beginnings of my weaving journey. This piece took me around 2 months to finish, from dressing the loom to making a garment. I put so many emotions in it and hope others can see the love I have woven into it.
6. How is the yarn scene like in Berlin?
Europe is slightly behind when it comes to weaving. There are amazing knitting and crochet communities in Berlin, some great yarn shops, indie dyers and spinners too. Weaving is not that popular yet. I’m very happy Weaving Berlinis offering weaving classes since 2016, and hope that more people will be interested in this beautiful craft. I also hope that there will be more exhibitions and shows coming to Berlin in the future. We still have much to learn, but we’re on a good way!
7. Is there any interesting or particularly memorable/interesting moment in your career as a professional maker?
My background is working in an office as an architect. It’s not a necessarily easy job, but as long as you’re working for somebody you don’t have to care about the whole process of leading a company. Being a maker has many more levels, like administration, promotion, legal issues, markets, etc. to it. It is still very new to me and every time a small win happens, I do a small happy dance. There are so many things that were memorable to me, like my first collection launch, first sale, first interview, first retailer. But I’m still waiting for more reasons to make a big happy dance!
8. Advice for those wanting to make the switch into crafting full time?
As mentioned before, I’m still working two jobs and am not intending to change it anytime soon. But if you’re looking to becoming full-time makers, my advice would be: don’t rush it. It’s a big and important decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Only if you’re certain you can sustain yourself for long enough to make your dream come true, do that! From my side, I recommend keeping your day job and crafting as a side hustle. It is not only because of financial reasons, but the thing I love most about that is it gives me a beautiful balance. Having two jobs means you simply don't have to stress over either one too much. It forces you to choose things that are essential and most important. There’s just no time to overthink and worry too much!
Photo Credits: Ania Grzeszek