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At the 2012 Łódź Design Festival

Over the past two years, there's been an explosion of design weeks popping up on this side of the pond, in smaller, more far-flung American metropolises like Portland, St. Louis, and Baltimore. But Europe's had a hold on this whole second-city-hosts-a-worldwide-design-event for years now. Take Lodz, the third-largest city in Poland, whose design festival is already six years strong. The Lodz Design Festival plays host to homegrown talents like Tomek Rygalik, as well as designers from abroad — both of which were a draw to our newest correspondent and dear friend Thorsten Van Elten, the London-based producer and retailer who reported on the event for us last week. But the real attraction, says Van Elten, was the city of Lodz itself. "At the beginning of this year I went to Transylvania, and I decided that I really need to travel to more places I've never been to. Poland was high on the list so when I saw a link on Facebook about the Łódź Design Festival, I checked for flights and hotel and managed to find two nights for just over £100. There really was no excuse not to go!"
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Zieta may be a designer, but he’s first and foremost a researcher: He’s spent the past eight years working on his PhD while refining the industrial processes behind his FiDU technology, the fact that he ended up with a hit furniture line on his hands being merely a bonus. At least part of that focus can be credited to his geneology: “My grandpa was a metalsmith, in a very, very old way," he says. "He made horseshoes, and we make this very innovative and modern art.”

Oskar Zieta’s Metal-inflating Facility

When Oskar Zieta was given the honor of creating a site-specific installation in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s sprawling central garden during this year’s London Design Festival, he had a fairly significant advantage. With his own high-tech metalworking factory in Poland capable of producing large-scale inflated-steel structures, he had the means to fabricate whatever flight of fancy he and his team might possibly dream up, no matter how ambitious. And yet standing in his way was an obstacle far more prosaic in nature, one it would take ingenuity moreso than technological muscle to surmount: teeny tiny doorways. “The doors were really small, and all the ideas of getting to the garden by a helicopter or by a crane had to be rejected because of the risk of destroying the museum’s façade,” he told the fair’s bloggers at the time. But for someone like Zieta — who’s spent the past eight years monomaniacally experimenting with the proportions of the metal sheets he welds at the edges and then blasts full of air — it read like an intellectual call to arms.
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