What makes me happy? I could go on forever

Artist and designer Joanna Kaminska-Wujek talks about her new exhibition, designing scarves and daring to dream
What makes me happy? I could go on forever
Artist and designer Joanna Kaminska-Wujek. Picture by Mikolaj Wujek

TELL us about yourself;

I moved to Cork in 2005 when I was seven months pregnant. I felt the Irish hospitality straight away, especially from my great neighbours of the time in Victoria Village. They were very supportive — taking care of babies gets lonely at times and without them I think I would have packed my suitcases and returned to my home town straight away.

I have a background in journalism and languages and have held a variety of different jobs, including working in an advertisement agency, a doctor’s office, and with jewellery companies, but in Ireland I really became myself. I went back to creating art and a few years ago I opened my first online shop where I started selling my art. Last year, I launched my first collection of silk scarves with my own designs and I received great feedback.

Where were you born?

In the south of Poland in a town located near beautiful mountains. Most weekends were busy with activities and my parents would take us hillwalking, mushroom picking, and in the winter we would go skiing.

Where do you live?

I have lived in Cork for the past 12 years and am very happy here. Cork is very picturesque and easy to navigate. People here are relaxed and have a specific sense of humour which I love.

I remember about six or seven years ago we landed in Cork Airport and, as I was walking down the stairs, a member of the staff looked at us and said: “Welcome home”! I will never forget that moment.

Pictures by artist Jokamin
Pictures by artist Jokamin


Two healthy, good-hearted and curious boys — I could not ask for more. The rest of my family is in Poland, Austria and the UK.

Best friend?

I am surrounded by lovely people, well-wishers, friends. I don’t want to name my friends in case I forget to mention somebody. I have two good friends in Poland; we might not talk for half a year or longer but when we meet up it feels like we were never apart.

Earliest childhood memory?

Tough one, I don’t remember what I was doing yesterday. I do remember playing in the garden, skipping happily as a seven-year-old and I see my son doing it sometimes. It puts a smile on my face.

I remember organising a funeral for a dead bird in the garden.

I remember getting lost in Bulgaria when I was about four or five years old. It probably lasted a minute or so when I lost sight of my parents but it was traumatising.

And I also remember spending time with my grandparents. They had a big library and I loved browsing through art albums and looking at the pictures of paintings.

Person you most admire?

It is hard to choose a single person. I admire people with great energy, people who laugh a lot, I love to be surrounded with creative, open-minded people. I admire people who don’t judge and let others be themselves. I admire people who help others too.

Person who most irritates you?

I try not to concentrate on it. Once you set your radar on irritating people, they tend to show up like mushrooms after rain. Basically, I think life is easier when we have an awareness about people around us. In other words: don’t do to others what you don’t like.

Pictures by artist Jokamin
Pictures by artist Jokamin

Where was your most memorable holiday?

One of the most memorable was a trip with my friend a long time ago. To plan the next day, we would toss a coin! It was totally spontaneous and beautiful. The National Parks in the US were beautiful and very memorable too. I remember snorkelling for the first time in the Key West and I felt like a child again; it was pure happiness and magical looking at a totally different world.

Favourite TV programme?

I don’t watch too much TV. If I do it is documentaries on TG4, nature programmes, Room To Improve or sometimes The Late Late Show.

Favourite radio show?

RTÉ Lyric fm from 2pm to 3pm. I am usually on the road then picking up my boys from school and they play good jazz and contemporary music. When I am working, I listen to the Bruce Lee Podcast.

Your signature dish if cooking?

I asked my boys and one said it’s my spaghetti with tuna and the other mentioned stuffed potatoes. I have one major rule about cooking. Preparation cannot take more than 30 minutes. I love cooking when I have time — usually though it is a challenge trying to feed the family healthy food with a short preparation time.

Favourite restaurant?

Café Paradiso in Cork.

Last book you read?

The Hidden Life Of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.

Best book you read?

I don’t have a favourite one but I liked The Gift Of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Hank Wedel: Living In The Land Of Love.

Favourite song?

It is hard to choose one — there are so many good songs out there. I like to listen to pop, jazz, reggae, country, folk, classical music — depending on my mood. I love listening to music in the car. Sometimes the volume is too loud!

One person you would like to see in concert?

Elton John, but I would have loved to have seen Prince too…

Do you have a pet?

Officially I don’t, but a stray cat has adopted me and I feed him. He sleeps in the shed when he feels like and visits when he is hungry or needs company. Other than that, sometimes I mind my friends’ dogs. My boys keep asking me for a dog and I think about it because it is a good way to teach them responsibility.

Pictures by artist Jokamin
Pictures by artist Jokamin

Morning person or night owl?

A night owl. I like the quietness of the house. I can gather my thoughts easily and concentrate on a project. But I discovered recently that if I manage to get up early the day is astonishingly long and I have more time, I wish I could be up on my feet after four hours of sleep but it does not work that way for me.

Your proudest moment?

When I look at my sons I am proud. I guess that’s typical for a parent. But this is not an ecstatic proudness; I see they are balanced and have the potential to be independent, happy grown-ups which makes me proud.

A milestone for me was in 2015 when I was invited to UCC as a guest speaker. Standing up in front of about 60 students and talking for one hour about myself, my art, and my work, not in my native language, was a breakthrough moment. I don’t remember if I felt proud afterwards but I do remember the feeling of being more powerful. It was a feeling of achievement and conquering my fears so I am proud when I look at it from that perspective.

Spendthrift or saver?

I would say both, with the inclination for spendthrift at times. I have a different approach to buying than let’s say 10 years ago. I buy less but when I do buy something it is of a better quality.

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Sometimes I see too much rubbish on the streets. I really don’t like it when people throw trash on the streets. I was recently on a train to Dublin and I saw people leaving their rubbish on the seats and tables at the last station. I know somebody is going to clean it but if everybody would clean up after themselves the world would be a better place.

The same goes for throwing garbage in the forest or on the trail. I have no words for it… and while we teach children in playschool to tidy up after playing, it seems that as adults we have forgotten how to look after the environment in which we live, work and play.

What makes you happy?

There are so many things that make me happy, I could go on forever mentioning them. For example, when people from different parts of the world buy my art and I receive good feedback afterwards, it reaffirms to me that I am on the right path.

Movement makes me happy too — going for a walk, riding a bike, training in aikido at the Aikido Open Centre in Cork, doing tai chi, hill walking or riding a scooter. Having time for myself — which is rare.

Travelling with my boys, travelling on my own.

Having a good laugh with friends, listening to music, going to see a good exhibition, helping people makes me happy as well. I like quietness and stillness at times too.

I love being in nature. A walk on the beach or in the forest always clears my mind.

How would you like to be remembered?

As somebody who dared to dream big.

What else are you up to at the moment?

I am working on new scarf designs and shall start planning for Christmas, as I will be selling my scarves and my art in the RDS in Dublin for the first time. The scarves are designed by me in Cork and made in Italy, on 100% crepe de chine silk.

All artwork and scarves can be purcased at www.jokamin.com

Joanna’s exhibition continues at Quay Co-op for the month of May.

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