Czesława Samsel


Category I. Plastic arts, ornamentation, handicraft and folk crafts, music and dance folklore

Field of activity:
Paper-cut artist, embroiderer, master of decorative and ritualistic handicrafts, flower bouquet artist, promoter of folk arts


Czesława Samsel – lace, tissue paper flower, Easter palm and kierce artist. She also bakes two types of ritual bread: the byśki and the nowe latki. She produces embroideries and intricate lace, and she weaves on the loom and the spinning wheel.

Zalesie, Mazowieckie Voivodeship, Kurpie

Czesława Samsel was taught the Kurpie traditions in her family home. That was where she learnt how to make ritual breads, the so-called byśki and nowe latki, baked, similar to regular bread, with the wholewheat flour, as well as traditional Kurpie-style kierce made out of lupin, pea and tissue paper flowers. She also passes the traditions on to her own grandchildren.

She is one of the most well-known and acknowledged folk artists from Puszcza Zielona (Green Forest) in the land of Kurpie. She specialises in crochets and embroideries, including the highly characteristic napkins with kurki for Easter baskets. She was self-taught in the production of embroideries and lace.

The artist is an active promoter of the native culture. While performing she wears traditional folk costumes and she passes her expertise on to the younger generations speaking the local Kurpie dialect. Her unbounded enthusiasm and facility with which she engages in contact with young people prompt regular collaborations with schools and cultural centres. She takes part in all kinds of events, bazaars and fairs of folk art held throughout the region of Kurpie. She tells stories of the ancient customs of Kurpie, e.g. the wedding traditions and ‘May singing’. She frequently intersperses the tales with the traditional local tunes. She teaches how to bake ritual breads, how to make kierce, Easter palms, tissue paper flowers, and how to border napkins and weave lace. She disseminates the knowledge of the disappearing traditional activities specialising, in particular, in the initial treatment of flax.

The artist’s works have been frequently acknowledged by the juries of folk art contests as well as private collectors. Her creations have found their way into the collections of the Museum of Kurpie Culture in Ostrołęka and the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw.

Czesława Samsel has received, amongst other honours, the Starosta of Ostrołęka Annual Award, the Commemorative Medal ‘Pro Masovia’, the Medal ‘For Merit to Cepelia’, the Medal ‘For Merit to Polish Culture” and, in 2021, the ‘Kurpik’ award in the category of ‘Folk Art’ from the President of the Związek Kurpiów (Kurpie Association).