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You are here: Home > amberology articles > an interview with amber artist dorota kos
Andzia's interview with award winning amber artist, Dorota Kos of Gdansk, Poland

It's no secret that I love amber, Poland and all things Polish. I had met Dorota Kos at the Amberif Trade show in Gdansk a few years before and bought just two pair of earrings. They were amazing; I gave they away as special gifts and the receipients really appreciated and admired them.
amber mosaic dorota kos amber jewelry

Dorota Kos Heart RealityLast year, I took the time to really look at her work many times over the course of five days, walking the floor of the largest amber exibition in the world.

There were many amber artists there, and many outstanding new offerings by new artists as well.

Yet I found myself going back time and time again to admire and touch the amber and the wood. It's like most things in life: when you take the time to really look you'll see things that you never thought possible.

As much amber and amber jewelry that I have handled over the years, these pieces by Dorota are extraordinary. Each piece is thoughtful, meaningful and full of life.

Since my Polish language skills were not quite up to the task of interviewing award winning artist Dorota Kos in her native Polish language, I enlisted Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, the knowledgable host of Polish Culture host and contributing editor of The Polish American Journal.

Bear in mind that both women, Dorota and Jagoda, are also fluent English speakers.

But I wanted the interview conducted in Polish, a language as rich in meanings as amber is to those who fall under the spell of its magic.

So, I gave the interview questions to Jagoda and asked her to phone Dorota. Jaga was kind enough to do so... and here is the result.

Many thanks to Jaga for her excellent translation skills and to Dorota for her time and talent.

Please note the English alphabet available to these pages lacks a means to represent certain Polish characters.


Dorota Kos Amber Artist
Dorota Kos

Dorota's achievements include her presence at exhibitions and art shows spanning very diverse fields: sculpture, photography, jewellery, design and collaborations with fashion designers. Her work has been exhibited in Legnica, Krakow, Poznan, Warsaw, Prague, Helsinki, Stockholm, New Delhi and other places.

Andzia: Can you tell us about your background in the arts? What attracted you to amber art specifically?
Dorota Kos: All my life I lived in Gdansk, near Baltic seashore. Amber was always in a reach of my hand. When I was a girl, I used to go to the beach in Stogi (a district of the Polish coastal city Gdansk).

I saw the pit holes dug in the ground in the forest next to the beach, in this way people excavated amber illegally. At that time, I was upset their activities were destructive to the natural environment. Now I look at this from slightly different perspective.
What were your first experiences with art generally and with using amber in art? Were you involved with amber in art for a long time or it is a relatively new experience in your professional life?
I was associated with the art my whole life. I graduated from special high school in Gdynia-Orlowo, with a profile in fine arts. Later I graduated from the Fine Art Academy in Gdansk. My diploma work advisor was Professor Franciszek Duszenko.

I started using amber just by chance. My workshop was near the amber cutter's workshop. I really liked the smell of polished and cut amber I was also allowed to use the remnants from the amber workshop, thus I started using amber for my art.
How did you start using wood in connection to amber?
This was also by chance. My girlfriends worked with wood and again´┐Ż I liked the wood smell.
What types of wood do you use in your work?
Mainly precious types of trees which grow in Poland: black oak, elderberry and also the wood of fruit trees like plum or pear. I also use exotic woods.

Why do you combine wood with amber?

Wood is a "warm" material, just like amber, therefore their combination is also warm. Wood and amber is a good match. We need to remember that amber originated from trees many millions years ago. The combination of wood with amber is like the combination of the past (amber, which was created millions year ago) with a presence since a tree was fresh just a while ago. Moreover, the colors of amber and wood - brown, match well.

I have an interesting story to tell. A woman planted a tree for the birthday of her son. Her son is now about fifty and a tree had to be removed since the road had to be built. This woman let me to use this tree (I am not completely sure, but I think it was a plum) since she knew that I would not waste the tree. This tree would be alive through the art which would be created from it.

People learn about my art interests. They offer me the wood knowing that it would not be lost.
2007 Elektronos Silver Medal Amberif amber jewlery award

Dorota Kos

How did you get an idea for the Elf? (Just a reminder --"Elf" was the Amber Prize winner in the 2007 Elektronos competition. It is so intricate and labor intensive--it looks like a labor of love from the heart. It is both a serious and also a whimsical piece).
Amber is a very gentle and fragile material. It is not that hard and resistant as diamond. It requires some care from the owner. Elf is also a symbol of gentleness and fragility. It is related to a temporality of our lives.

When I was creating Elf I had a song "Natural Mystic" by Bob Marley in the background.
Did you work on Elf exclusively or create also other amber pieces and then go back and forth to it?
"Elf" was done of inspiration. I did work on it exclusively for few weeks. Sometimes I did not even go night to sleep so that I could work on it.
You are a member of the board of the International Amber Association in Poland since 2003. How did this come about? This is a very respectable position. What is your function in the Association?
I am a member of the International Amber Association the second term already. Recently I was active with solving the problems of the art education, especially amber art. I graduated with the degrees in arts from the secondary school and also the university (Gdansk area) and through all my school period I did not have any lecture related to amber. This needs to be changed. Students need to become more familiar with amber art and amber mythology.
Unfortunately, we have a tendency not to appreciate what is the easiest, the closest to us. I hope to change this. So I am involved in work to help popularize amber.
How amber was incorporated into the folklore beliefs?
Amber is seen as the object very close to the sun due to its color and clarity. It is warm, organic, fragile and temporary.
We are aware that there is a deficiency in amber supply and that amber price is rapidly increasing. Do you have any trouble to find a right amber for your projects?
I do not need big amounts of amber for my projects. I have good suppliers. I do not experience the lack of the material like some big companies.
What is your favorite type of amber?
Lately I use natural amber in orange, grapefruit and lemon colors. The shade I use depends on the combination with the wood I have. Generally I like all shades of amber.
Your work seems so careful and measured. When I run my fingers over the combination of amber and wood together I can barely feel a seam - the pieces seem to be as one. The organic combination of the wood and the amber is perfect. How did you get such mastery?
The idea is to combine the materials so that they form a unity. Wood and amber is the combination of the present and the past, the combination of two materials representing warmth, light and life.
Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you lot of success in your future artistic activities!

September 27, 2007

Visit Dorota's website here (gallery views only work if you select the Polish language version of the site). Or view's DK Collection Gallery here at Blog for Amber

We are presently unable to post the Polish language version of the interview due to coding problems which make some Polish charaters appear as gibberish & raw code.

Further reading
Elektronos 2007 Amberif Design Awards

Grand Prize Angelina Stoykowa (Sophia, Bulgaria)
The Amber Prize: Dorota Kos (Gdansk, Poland)
The Silver Award: Klementyna Pielaszkiewicz (Gdansk, Poland)

The Winner of Elektronos: Dorota Kos