As she hikes amongst limestone, pine, and the remains of Polish castles, Paulina Ciepał imagines holding it all in the palm of her hand — a world of its own wrapped in glass, always a shake away from a winter snowfall.
A self-taught craftswoman, she embraces the power of 3D printing to capture these fairytale landscapes in the form of enchanting snow globes. But in Ciepał’s workshop at Juriperus, the 3D printer is just the beginning. Her design, woodworking, and painting skills are what make each globe exquisitely unique.
Intrigued by how a craftswoman combines modern tech with old world craftsmanship, we asked Ciepał to share her journey with us.
How long have you been making snow globes? What got you started and how did you learn the craft?
It all started with a search for an idea: What I could do to be happy? In 2013, I wasn’t able to find a job related to the profession I had learned at polytechnic school, so I decided to do something on my own.
My thoughts went to snow globes — I had never owned a snow globe, but had always wanted one. In the 80s, it was hard to get such souvenirs in Poland. Later on, Chinese-made globes appeared, but they didn’t have the same charm. So I set out to make the snow globes of my dreams.
In particular, I envisioned a beautiful sphere containing a snow-covered Christmas tree, a cottage, and mountains. By January of 2014, I started to learn and practice for my future profession. So far, everything I’ve learned has been through trial and error alone.
Can you walk us through the full creation process?
I call my craft modern because of the use of 3D printing. I begin with what should be in the sphere, like the ruins of a castle in Smoleń, Poland. I create the design on a computer, and when the design is ready, I 3D-print it and add the paint and other treatment. Finally, I put the finished model into the glass sphere and choose the shape and type of wooden base, which I usually do on a lathe (a tool that rotates the workpiece).
What are your thoughts on modern technology and old world craftsmanship and their relationship to one another?
Nobody knows what will happen in 10 years, what will be tomorrow, what will be invented. I think that one must enjoy the moment, use what we have, have an open mind, and look more broadly at the world. After all, if mankind was not creative, we would still have yet to invent the wheel. I think that we have a lot of creativity — to tap into that creativity, you simply must create.
What materials do you use in creating your snow globes?
I use ABS or PLA to print my models. Although during further processing, I use many other materials that do not react to water, so I’m limited when it comes to the type of materials I can use.
Tell us about the ruins of the Polish castles and landscapes you choose to place within your snow globes. How do you choose these places?
It’s very simple; I live in the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland. It’s my home. I love hiking in the woods and seeing the limestone emerging from the forest. These incredible rocks date as far back as 65 to 85 million years ago! The ruins here remind me of the beautiful times when Poland was under the rule of King Casimir III the Great.
How do you craft the beautiful artificial snow?
Creating artificial snow is the only secret to my craft. I worked on developing it for half a year! Unfortunately, I cannot reveal this secret.
What’s your favorite snow globe that you’ve crafted?
So far, I like the ruins of the Krakow-Częstochowa Upland and an order from a client, a globe titled “Nature.” However, I make all of the globes as if they’re all for myself, so each sphere is unique and special to me.
If you loved our interview with Paulina Ciepał, be sure to check out “The Glass Builder” in the Winter Issue of Craftsmanship Quarterly – you’ll meet another incredible craftswoman who works with glass!