Kustom creations by Amfiria
Hi, I am Amfi. I was born in Istebna in southern Poland in 1985. I've been painting from an early age — to the affliction of my parents — on every possible surface. I was self-taught and since always I dealt with many fields of art. I joined Art Association "Brzimy" and went to Silesian University to study Art. I participated in many Art Camps in Poland and abroad.
I organized three author's exhibitions with friends and my works were involved in many group exhibition in Poland and abroad (Hungary, Italy, Greece). Educated as a sculptor I still couldn't find a field of art right for me. I was mainly creating fantasy which slowly turned into automotive art. But I am constantly looking and experimenting in the means of artistic expression. After University I had problems finding a job in Poland so I moved to England for a few years where I ended up as a bus driver. I was still creating but it was hard to combine two works — and in a tiny flat without a workshop. I went back to Poland last year and decided to devote my time to art full-time.
I used to do a lot of murals and oil painting. Over the last 20 years, I did a lot of sculptures, plaster reliefs, graphic designs, and oak dolls. My works are in collections (mainly private) in Poland and abroad (Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Norway, England, Canada).
At the beginning of this year, I signed up for a pinstriping course which opened my eyes to a lot of new possibilities. I started to exhibit my works with friends at many different Custom Shows and these kinds of events, where they met with really positive reactions. Now I deal with the broadly understood fields of Kustom Kulture. Pinstriping in Poland is still not very popular art, however, I hope that it will change eventually.
I'm going to spend 2019 in Canada where I wish to continue to develop artistically.
Tell the Gnarly readers about your pinstriping course and what it has done for you as an artist?
I've been painting since I can remember. A few friends have been persuading me for a long time to try pinstriping. However, it was not popular in Poland. Demand was minimal and materials were expensive and hard to get. I forgot about it. After I came back from England and decided to develop artistically, I was looking for some artistic course to learn something new. I thought I will go for some airbrush course (I tried it a while ago, but didn't feel confident in it). But everything was far away. Completely by accident, I found out that really close to me, an artist named Dixon was conducting a course in pinstriping at Lepian Customs workshop. (Later this year he won your Pinstriping Art Competition.) I didn't think long and I signed up at the beginning of March. I do not regret it and recommend it to everyone who wants to try something new. Courses can save a lot of struggles and help you improve a lot quicker.
First I thought it was not gonna work. My hands were shaking, I completely didn't feel the brush. But after two days I knew that my "adventure" was just beginning.
I fell in love with 1 Shot enamels. And straight away started thinking about how to use them beyond pinstriping.
Can you tell us more about the American culture boom in Poland?
This is not official, but it can not be denied that Poles love America. Years ago when I was looking for an American classic car (one of my dreams), it was hard to find anything good. And now, I can see it clearly, especially after a few years away in England, that things changed completely. Huge American culture events began to organize in Poland. American cars, restaurants, food, music, and style is easy to find everywhere. Harley Davidson is the most desirable motorcycle here. Miss pinup competitions are popular at picnics and various events. Male rockabilly hairstyles are increasingly visible on the streets. There are many examples. Pinstriping still isn't as popular but looking at this progress, and how high-level Polish kustom is starting to be, I believe it all will change. Of course, it is still easy to find someone who doesn't understand it at all. They prefer cheaper sticker or will ask, "What does that symbolize - grass?" But that just makes me want to show them what it's all about.
You mentioned to me that you want to spend a year in Canada and also visit the USA while you're over here. What do you hope to get out of your visit to North America when you come over for 2019?
I hope to see some bears and mooses ;)
But seriously, my plan to stay for a year in Canada began a few years ago when I was there for holiday. I always loved to travel. But it is always different to go somewhere for few weeks than for longer. I applied and got visas. I dream to continue to develop myself artistically there. Learn something new, meet people. But time will tell. I'm open to new experiences. So if you are in Canada and you have an idea for some cool art projects, and you like my work, let me know!
Who are some of your favorite artists right now and what draws you to their work?
This is a very difficult question. I've never had a favorite artist. I used to love artists like Zbigniew Beksiński, HR Giger, Norman Rockwell and a lot more. But always there were some works I loved and some I didn't like as much. It's like with music. I'm not into a specific style — in every kind of art I can find something I really like. I always pay attention to something different and unique. It does not matter if it is a custom lamp, street art or unique jewelry. Nowadays with the Internet, it is easy to follow loads of amazing artists around the world. And it is easier for them as well to show their work to the world.
In looking at your Instagram profile, I see that you work in many different mediums. Which is your favorite to work in?
I still have problems finding the right medium for me. I like to mix styles and techniques. After studies, I still feel enchanted with sculpting and spatial possibilities. But at the same time, I always keep saying, "You can paint everything." It is not as easy with carving.
Right now I'm focused on mixing classic painting with old-school style painting. I love details and colors. That's probably the result of many years working in Children Hospital where I decorated walls. I have painted my own characters on the passageways walls. It was important for me to paint many details on every wall. Kids, who spend long weeks in the hospital, could find something new in my paintings every day.
Also, I really enjoy enamels. Pigmentation and quick drying give a lot of possibilities. I like functional art. That's where my custom high heels come from. And that's why I love to do art that combines with cars and bikes. Another medium I really enjoy working with is polymer. I love to invent new characters which, at least in the photographs, live their own lives.
Is the Kustom Konwent Fest the only one of its kind in Poland? Can you talk about your experience there?
We now have a lot more of these kinds of events in Poland. To be honest, If you're looking for it, and have time, you could spend every weekend at different events: classic car shows, motorcycle shows, kustom events, tattoo conventions or American culture-themed events during the whole summer season.
Together with Dixon, we exhibit our works at events. For example, Silesia Outta Urban Life SOUL FEST in Czechowice, Kustom Konwent in Wroclaw, American Day - Liberator in Warsaw, Tattoo Days in Lodz, and we enjoy every single one of them. Everywhere is different but it's always good to talk with people face to face and paint live; to show them how that all works. At tattoo shows, we have contact with other artists as well, just different kinds. It's cool that we have the possibility to learn from each other and to talk to someone who is curious, who understands and can appreciate our work. At kustom shows, it is possible to start interesting cooperations as well and meet new people.
What’s your typical creative day like?
It depends. If I need to do some commissioned order it’s easy because I know what to do. When I'm doing my own project it is different. Sometimes it’s great improvisation and a big mess in the studio. Sometimes it's hard to tear me away from a project. There were loads of situations when at 3 am my boyfriend would come to the garage asking if I will be coming back home soon. Or when I totally lose track of the time or even the week! My friends laugh that I have thousands of ideas per minute, and it's fun when I try to do them all at once. Sometimes it works... sometimes.
When you are an artist it is not something you do Monday to Friday, 7 am to 3 pm. Your whole life is marked? anointed? conditioned? (I'm struggling to find the right word.) You can not escape this.
For example, when I was a bus driver I saw at a garage some yellow container protruding from the rubbish bin. 15 minutes later, to the joy of colleagues, I remade it as a Minion character, hiding in a rubbish bin. It stayed there for a long time. I can't help that "need for creating" in everyday life. It's stronger than me. I stopped fighting with it a long time ago.
What do you typically do if you’re having one of those creative block moments?
Sometimes I'm doing some of my everyday typical things and suddenly I disappear. It depends if I'm going to do some sculpture, painting or doll. I had cabinets full of tools and materials which I might need. (Wires, papers, fabrics, gypsum, brushes). When I have some new idea - I need to do it straight away. It just can't wait. I disappear in the garage, workshop, shed for long hours. Sometimes I'm listening to music (if I didn't forget to turn it on). I didn't have many toys as a kid. I did most of my toys myself. My favorite book was "Sew Me, Mom" and "I Like DIY." I was known for taking some "trash" from the kitchen (wine plug, pen spring, some piece of napkin). I’d disappear somewhere and 30 minutes later I came back with a ready handmade toy. That's probably still the best visualization of my creative block moments. All in all, it shaped my imagination for sure.
Otherwise, I work in strange positions. I have easels and tables, but mostly I end up on the floor. I will never forget ages ago I was at Art Camp. I went to my studio and saw one of the better known Polish satirists in front of my picture, on the floor, with my brush in his hand. I asked him what he was doing and he answers that he was just curious how the hell I could paint in this position! LOL
I saw the stuffed rat doll on your Facebook page and thought he was awesome! Do you make dolls as well? I imagine they are very time-consuming to create. Can you talk more about the rat and your Nasty Bunnies creations?
Hah. Yeah, they are my babies. The rat, named "Apple-core," is the youngest. Did it not long ago. Nasty Bunnies have been around about 10 years. That was the result of one of those moments where I had an idea and needed to do it right then! I used anything I had handy. I was always in love with time-lapse animation. I love Tim Burton films. I was trying to do something while I was at University. "Bunnies" was one step forward to doing my own movie. Before that, I just did a few plasticine projects. The bunnies are prototypes, but movable. The idea of the Bunnies film was forgotten about for a while but was reborn again this year when a few friends visited me and saw them. After numerous people said that they love them, I was forced to create a Nasty Bunnies fan page. Now I'm working to improve them — to give them more movement and more mimic possibilities. It definitely is time-consuming. First I have a vision which I need to expand in my head. Later I disappear and I spend long hours, few days - (even 18 hours a day) to make it work. Everything is handmade (teeth, skeleton). I'm not even using a sewing machine.
Who are some of the more well-known Kustom Kulture artists in Poland?
That's actually a hard question for me. But I definitely need to mention:
Richie Chlaszczak - Polish artist who moved to Oslo - Norway.
Heard about them before and love their works. I know there are a lot more for sure. I just don't know them (I hope that will change soon). Loads of them are forced to work abroad. Polish market is not gracious for this kind of art, unfortunately.
I will mention Dixon one more time. He's not famous (yet) but what's worth to say is that he runs pinstriping courses, as I said before.
That's important, as maybe someone right now in Poland will read this and wish to try pinstriping (same as me years ago), but don't know how to start. Don't be scared. It's worth it!
Have you heard of the Brushmasters Getaway? If you’re going to be in North America in 2019, and you can swing the trip to San Francisco in April, I highly recommend their workshop, taught by some of the top kustom artists in the industry.
I read about it just never thought I can go there. I'm not sure if in April I will close all matters and have a chance. But if yes, I will travel there for sure! Would be great!
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
Time will tell. I don't like planning as I do not like to be disappointed later. We'll see where life will lead me. I wish to do art for a living. No matter where at in this world. I tried different occupations but always, in the end, I felt like I just lost time. Don't want it anymore. I hope in 5 years I will be the same me but with a lot of amazing projects made with cool people in my achievements. I'm open-minded. I'm doing what I have to do and I am still waiting for interesting offers.
Find Amfiria online:
Thanks for reading this week's feature on Polish kustom artist, Amfiria. Be sure to check out our other features.
• BOMBOTZ: The Mural by Tyler K. Smith 11/21/2018
• Q&A with Daniel Mana, kustom painter from Italy 11/18/2018