She didn’t always recognise how well she worked with colour. “The tutors at Central Saint Martins very quickly see something inside you that you don’t even know is your strength. They pull it out of you and build your work upon that,” she says, explaining her evolution from a black and white with bare-minimum colour BA showcase, to her most recent collection. Of course, taking in feedback from tutors is not always as easy, she quietly adds. “I was really sad and angry with myself when I didn’t fare well and had to re-do my project. It is always a bit unpleasant when someone is criticising your work, because it is YOUR work and you’re sensitive towards it.” Her first year MA collection lacked focus and the tutors didn’t see a clear idea come through. Moping came easy at this stage, however, Joanna pulled herself out of it soon. A trip back to Poland to her family, a regained clearer vision of why she wanted to be on the course, and what she wanted out of it, kicked in. This clarity is what makes her tick even now. “Making a collection is hell. But it is manageable hell. I get stressed when I can’t control certain things, but there is always something you can do to turn the situation around if you are planned and organised,” she says as a suspiciously serene smile settles on her face.
She owes her interest in abstract shapes and graphic elements to growing up in a “maximalist environment” at home. Her family lived in Nigeria before moving back to Poland when she was born. “Shady artefacts” like tortoise shells, lots of animals at home, vibrant colours – were all a normal part of growing up. “My grandma would tell me stories behind every piece of clothing or intricately beaded jewellery she owned from back in Africa. It felt like folklore. I have always liked a folklore feel to things. It doesn’t show so much anymore, but my initial collections were inspired by this.” She goes to explain that when she initially painted the designs by hand, they looked like giant paisley leaves. After heat transferring, pressing of the prints onto the fabric and random placement on the pattern, the familiar paisley was lost – and she loves this surprise. “A lot of people mistakenly think that it’s a digital print. It’s quite nice that it looks digitalised, but I wanted the fabric to move so it didn’t look like it came out of a digital printer.”