This month, I’m excited to introduce you to punch needle artist Monika Danowska! Based in Poland, Monika works under the name Pan Cukierek and has developed a recognizable free-form style of artwork that uses both the looped and flat sides of the punch needle stitches. With patience and dedication, she covers everything from large canvases to pillows and hats with her colorful designs. In this inspiring interview, Monika talks about the day she first discovered punch needle, her process, and how she has taken the leap to make punch needle her full time work.
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. What led you to the work you do today?
I always was a creative child, who just needed a pair of scissors and some random trash to get busy for hours. I was just excellent at mess making!
I never considered myself an artist though, as I haven't graduated from any school of art or didn't take any art/fiber classes. However, the need to simply make things with my hands has led me to the point, where people around me started to notice my true colours better than I did at the time, and helped me properly credit my work and my creativity, which, I can proudly say now, is one of my biggest assets and life fuels. When I fully realized that - I decided to take a big risk, leave my job and do punch needle full time, and never looked back :)
How did you get started with Punch Needle? What about this technique appealed to you?
I remember very well the gloomy, November evening when Instagram algorithm decided to provide me with Rose Pearlman’s account - after maybe two minutes I said to myself - this is it, I’m gonna make rugs. I was completely mesmerized! It’s funny how someone can flip your life over without even knowing about it:) I found a medium allowing me to achieve a goal of mine - not only to create an object, but to make it usable, when needed. My works are definitely not minimalistic, but it was indeed the simplicity that has appealed to me in the technique itself. Before I started creating with punch needle I definitely didn't realize how much patience I'm able to put into a single project, sometimes it seems ridiculous. Hours and hours of repetitive action might not sound appealing to some, but it just highlights my strongest assets - patience and wild imagination. It was just meant to be!
We’d love to hear about your creative process. How do you come up with new ideas? What inspires you? Do you have any practices or processes around this?
I’m keeping my process really simple: I don’t ever plan or pre-sketch my pieces before getting started (with few exceptions for figurative shaped pieces, for example dog shaped pillows). Following given lines would sometimes make me bored or somewhat trapped in the concept.
I choose to create freely and luckily, my clients trust that vision.
When making a piece for a customer I like to ask for their inspiration/concept before - this could be anything; pictures of the room, moodboards, some of my previous works or just a chat about their favorite colors, shapes, maybe interests. Then I come up with a few colour schemes for them to choose from, and rearrange if needed. Once the palette is confirmed - I just go with the flow! Working with intuition is a crucial part of my process - when something doesn’t feel right I don’t hesitate to pull the yarn out and start again. Luckily most of the time I'm honestly obsessed with what I create. Don't want to come across as narcissistic, but it really makes me wanna scream and jump and run wild!:)
While making pillows or other sewing based projects - I stick to my hand and a needle. I just feel weirdly intimidated by the novelty items, and - you can laugh at me - sewing machines are definitely one of them to me:)
There is something so soothing, almost terapeutic in relying on your hands work only.
How has your work evolved over time?
I became much more conscious and confident both in running a creative business (which is a whole other subject!) and punch needle itself. I feel like my style got really vivid and recognisable. I’m a major overthinker - so having a clear path in my mind and that confidence now is a blessing.
What is your favorite part about the work that you do?
Process-wise - definitely the fresh canvas moment. When I start new piece I have no idea what it's going to look like at the end, but as I said , I trust my intuition, so there is just a freedom, joy and excitement left.
But also, I couldn’t stress enough how incredible it is to see my works in new owners hands, and how they become part of their homes. This is something I definitely don’t take for granted, so I try to stay as appreciative as I can.
What do you hope others see / gain / take away from your work?
I’m trying to radiate joy and optimism, I believe that well chosen objects we surround ourselves with might create a sense of a 'hygge' atmosphere in our spaces. Hygge is a Danish word meaning a quality of coziness and comfort, making you feel at peace and content. That's exactly what I'd like to bring to people’s spaces through my pieces.
On the other hand, I will always advocate following your gut and encourage anybody to just do whatever they want to do! I must admit it wasn’t easy to flip my life upside down by leaving my 5-7 job, moving cities and learning to navigate how to run a business, but I would’t have it any other way, I hope people can see that and take a courage from it - if I could do that - you do too!
Tell us about a favorite piece that you worked on, or one that had a lot of meaning to you.
First that comes to my head is definitely my first big rug called “July”. I was working on it for almost two months at nights, after my regular job, squeezed in a tiny room in an apartment shared with 5 other people. I was tired, I was melting away with heat, I was confused with my life path, but it didn’t matter - the urge to create was stronger. The appreciation and love I got on that piece really overgrown my expectations. Right after the decision of big change was made.
What punch needle materials and tools do you use? Do you have any favorite supplier recommendations for tools, material or yarn?
I use a wide variety of tools and materials, but Oxford needles and linen fabric are THE ones for me! I’d still opt for cotton, monk’s cloth or jute, as well as other brands needles (SKC, Lavor, DMC), but being honest - 90% of time you will see me with my Oxford #10 regular. Speaking of yarn, I’m mostly using blends of wool and acrylic. For tiny pieces I enjoy playing with cotton yarn.
Unfortunately, punch needle is still really niche where I live (Poland), so I struggle with finding some of my supplies (e.g. there is no such thing as rug yarn over here), but you know, if there is a will, there is a way:).
What advice do you have for other artists or creatives looking to try punch needle?
I’d say just go for it and have fun! It’s easy to put pressure on yourself or compare your work to others (in not a healthy way) - we’ve all been there, but try to go at your own pace and see where it takes you.
More practical tip I often give to people reaching out is to buy yourself a few different small pieces of fabric - matching it with your needle and yarn might be tricky at the beginning, so it’s good to have some backup options to not get frustrated.
Where do you see your work going in the future?
I hope to reach a wider audience and make people familiar with punch needle. Actually, I’m planning on releasing some beginner kits soon to make the craft more accessible here in Poland. However my main goal is always to… just keep creating - that’s when I’m the happiest.
I’d love to have my own workshop at some point in the future but I’m definitely not rushing.
How can the punch needle community support you and your work?
Feel free to hop on my Instagram profile at @pancukierek where I’m sharing all of my works and show behind the scenes over my stories, I would love to have you around! You can DM me to order a personalized work, or grab ready to go pieces are up at https://www.etsy.com/shop/PanCukierek
What is something that you are excited or curious about these days?
I feel like it’s about time I jump on a tufting rug bandwagon! Excited to experiment with that tool. I wouldn’t mind learning how to knit this Autumn as well as weave a basket! Other than that - I’m just excited to see what comes next for my little business and how punch needle evolves in Poland!
What are 3 other fun facts about yourself that you would like to share with the Punch Needle Community?
I’m a big animal enthusiast! I graduated in Zoological Gardens and Amateur Animals, writing my thesis on red pandas. I had internships at the zoo and seal sanctuary. I also worked as a dog groomer for about 1,5 years. And the name of my brand - Pan Cukierek - is the name of a cat I used to own as a child. Animals are my tribe!
I see myself as an aquatic creature - feeling at peace by the water, the bigger the better!
I've been pretty much addicted to The Sims game since my early years and I’m saying it proudly. I’ve even set an actual Simstagram account for my game screenshots! No need to be that serious all the time, Sims for life!