As tough as it is, adversity can be such a gift. Olek grew up in socialist Poland and she describes it as cold, gray, industrial and full of coal mines. If you were sent anything valuable it was taken away, she recalls, and so her uncle sent her family colorful fabrics that they would turn into clothes unlike anyone around them. One was hated for their differences – if a shirt was unbuttoned on a school uniform, you were singled out, and Olek, in her printed DIY ensemble, was consistently called a clown. A quote that has been flying around this office lately, “Hurt people hurt others,” is so true.
Today, the visibility and invisibility of clothing is Olek’s artistic pursuit. She expresses her art, dreams and imagination through crocheting and makes everything she wears except for her underwear. It’s notable that in NYC, people come up to Olek in her sculptural, handmade masterpieces and touch her because they are so intrigued and inspired, no bottles thrown. In fact, when Olek put her one-piece crocheted camouflage suits on a group of people, with all sources of identification including their faces covered, and brought them to Harlem, her life’s message of losing old identities and creating new ones was completely embraced. A man came up to her and said, “I know what this is about, it is about peace. This is what Martin Luther King was about, this is about shaking hands with strangers.”