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“My father knew everything” – an interview with the designer’s daughter, Katarzyna Chierowska

Born in 1927 in Lviv, Józef Marian Chierowski would celebrate his ninety-fourth birthday on 21 July. As a child, he showed artistic talents. Despite the ongoing war, he finished primary school and later on spent one year at the School of Arts and Crafts (1944-1945). He passed his lower secondary school leaving exam following the secret classes. In 1947, he enrolled at the Faculty of Interior Design at the State Higher School of Visual Arts. He was a father and a husband for his close ones, and a designer, a creator and a teacher for the others. In a conversation with his daughter Katarzyna Chierowska, we tried to uncover as many stories from his life as possible, and make them last. The entire interview will be available in an extensive Album about Józef Marian Chierowski we are about to publish soon.

When you think of your father, what is the first memory that comes up?

It always seemed to me that my father knew everything. He was a real handyman, he had great patience and manual skills, he could make or repair many things himself. He had a workshop in the basement, where he kept all of his tools. During the war he was an apprentice to a watchmaker, so he learned how to repair clocks or make a lamp.When I think of him, I see him designing, creating and tinkering.

Was DIY his biggest hobby?

He had many hobbies! Because of his profession as a furniture designer, he was very interested in carpentry. He made various pieces of furniture himself and we had a lot of his unique pieces in our house. He couldn’t live without it. When we went on holiday to visit my grandparents in the countryside, he was making furniture even there. The table and benches under the birch tree, the cupboards and stools – they still serve me to this day. But DIY was not his only hobby. He played sports, rode his bike a lot and took me on bike trips. He also liked skiing, kayaking and hiking.

And how do you remember the time you spent with him at home?

My mom worked in the suburbs of Wrocław, at the BOBO Clothing Industry Plant as a clothing designer. She would go there for three days and for three days me and my father had to take care of the house. He was good at it. My dad liked cooking and he was a good cook. We always cooked traditional dishes with my mom, but when it came to cakes, baked goods or dumplings, it was always my dad’s thing.

Did your father reminisce about his childhood?

My father was born in Lviv [currently a city in Ukraine] to a large family with five children. He had three brothers and two sisters. Their life was tough those days – my grandfather lost his job and the Germans threw them out of their apartment. My dad went to primary school and later spent one year at the school of arts and crafts, and passed his matriculation exam during secret classes. When the war ended, my grandparents and their children were deported from Lviv to Bytom [a town in Poland] in one of the last transports. Almost exactly 50 years after that departure, my father and I took the same route on a sentimental journey to Lviv. He took me and his grandson there to show us his roots so that we could see and explore everything.

There were many versions of 366 Armchair before finding its final shape. Do you remember what they looked like, how were they different from the armchair we know?

When my father brought the first prototype, he carried it on his back and took it by tram from the university, because it didn’t fit in a taxi. It had a blue upholstery with white dots. I liked it a lot because it was unconventional, completely different from what I had seen in my friends’ houses. Later so many versions of the 366 emerged that it is probably impossible to count them all. Sometimes my father went to supervise the production. In communist Poland there was always a shortage of something, so if some of the materials or elements were impossible to get the product was quickly redesigned. Then there was less and less supervision or none at all, and when my father stopped working, they did whatever they wanted to do. He did not have any influence on it, there were narrower, wider, lower, higher and differently shaped versions. The best prototype was created at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, it was made by master carpenter Grzegorz Jarosz in the Academy’s carpentry workshop, and it is still at home with me. According to this model, the armchair that Agata and Maciek produce today in the 366 Concept was made exactly.

How did it happen that the armchair is back on the market? Why did you agree to work with 366 Concept?

When Maciek and Agata approached me – and I have had many different proposals – I was in the middle of negotiations with someone else. They seemed to be the best partners from the very beginning, I liked their plans very much, both promotional and production ones. They came to visit me, we agreed on everything and with some help from the lawyers , we drew up a licence agreement. I felt that they had an artistic sense, I knew I could rest assured. It all came out very nicely, I liked the ideas for the wood and fabric combinations, I had no reservations. They had, and still have, it all worked out really well. They make a really good duo both in terms of design and business. Of course, I also own their re-edited version of the 366 Armchair. I received it as a gift and am very impressed with both the quality of the fabrics and the wood. Now my father’s Armchair 366 is fully polished and looks exactly as it did in his sketches.

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