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Q&A Interview with Sylwia Walczak, Research and Development Director at Tignum:

'Our goal is to create creative environments for children, especially those with special needs'

Recently InteriorDaily interviewed Sylwia Walczak, Director of Research and Development at Tignum. Tignum is a manufacturer of ecological furniture for adults and children, situated in Pabianice, Poland. We talked about their recent Animali collection, made for blind or visually impaired children, the challenges the company faced last year, and the plans for the future.

Sylwia Walczak, Director of Research and Development at Tignum

How and when did Tignum Living start?
‘Over 30 years ago, five wood enthusiasts decided to fulfil their dream by founding Tignum. Today, three of them still work, and the second generation, the children of the partners, actively contribute to creating new chapters.

The history of Tignum has been full of challenges, with one of the greatest tests being the moment of the fire in 2007 when a significant part of the factory burned down. In the face of crisis, the solidarity and determination of the partners allowed for the rebuilding of the company, making it even stronger and more determined than ever before.

Currently, we collaborate with three German partners, delivering furniture for over a decade, gaining recognition in the European market. However, we have also decided to revive our brand and started producing furniture under our own label. This decision resulted in the creation of new, innovative collections developed in collaboration with talented young designers.’

At Brussels Furniture Fair you presented the Animali collection, produced for blind or visually impaired children. What inspired Tignum to make this collection?
‘The concept of the Animali collection originated after the announcement of the PARP Design for Entrepreneurs - Accessibility Plus competition. Our goal was to create an eco-friendly collection of children's furniture for visually impaired and blind children that not only stands out with interesting colours but also with shapes enabling children to recognise individual elements.

Additionally, the collection incorporates extra functionality - rows of perforations in each piece of furniture to facilitate Braille alphabet practice and fine motor skills development. We successfully obtained funding for the project and soon commenced collaboration with a young designer from our region. Together, we combined years of experience in manufacturing children's furniture with innovative solutions.

During the furniture testing phase at the Early Development Support Team and Preschool Departments of the Special Educational and Care Center for Visually Impaired and Blind Children in Łódź, we gathered valuable feedback that allowed us to refine the final version of the collection. For example, we use solid alder and pine wood, formaldehyde-free adhesives, and the oils used for finishing the furniture carry LFGB safety certificates. These are crucial considerations, especially for a visually impaired child who may rely more on other senses, including touch and even taste.’

The Animali Collection

What challenges have you faced in the last year?
'The current situation in the furniture market in Poland and Europe is complex and influenced by various factors, including changing consumer trends, economic conditions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. The pandemic has affected consumer preferences and shopping patterns. Furniture companies, including Tignum, face various challenges such as reduced order quantities, closure of some brick-and-mortar stores, changing consumer trends, supply chain issues, and increases in the prices of raw materials such as wood, plywood, and fittings.

Collaborating with three German companies for whom we produce furniture under their brands provides us with a certain stability. However, we have noticed a decrease in the number of orders. Together with our partners, we have decided not to raise furniture prices to ensure that sales continue to exist despite the challenging situation. Nevertheless, one of the smaller German companies withdrew from collaboration with us during the pandemic, possibly due to overall market pressure, decreased demand, or an adaptive strategy to the changing situation.

Despite the difficulties, we remain resilient and continually seek new sales opportunities. Given the changing market situation, it is crucial to continue monitoring consumer trends, adjust offerings to current market needs, and explore innovative sales solutions. We strive to adapt to the current situation, even though it is not always easy.'

What are the plans for 2024?
'Our goal is to demonstrate the possibilities of creating a creative environment for children, especially those with special needs. We aim to promote the Montessori method, which inspires our design, and its principles have been applied in the design of the Animali collection.

We also plan to intensively promote the Tignum brand in Poland and Europe. Our main goal is to reach a wider audience and establish strategic partnerships with new distributors in Europe. We are open to collaboration with international partners who not only wish to incorporate our furniture into their portfolio but are also seeking professional subcontractors for the production of their own collections.

Next year, we have plans to expand into international markets, starting with participation in trade fairs in Germany. Although we are also considering participating in fairs in Brussels, our goal is to reach different target groups and present our furniture to a broader community. We hope that our innovative solutions will gain recognition both nationally and internationally, supporting families in creating inspiring and functional spaces for their children.'

More information:
ul. Słonecznikowa 22,
95-200 Pabianice, Poland
+ 48 42 213 97 38
[email protected]