According to a post at inyourpocket.com titled Gnomenclature: Wrocław’s Gnomes, “Although it sounds like little more than a twee tourist gimmick, gnomes have long held a place in Polish folklore, and their current iconic incarnation as symbols of Wrocław actually has a direct correlation to the political climate of the 1980s. Under communism gnomes became the absurdist calling card of the ‘Orange Alternative’ movement – an underground protest movement that used absurdity and nonsense to stage peaceful, yet subversive protests. Armed with paint cans and led by Waldemar ‘Major’ Fydrych, an artist and art history student at Wrocław University, the group specifically ridiculed the establishment’s attempts to censor public space.
“During communism, any anti-establishment graffiti or public art was quickly painted over by the militia; upon seeing fresh daubs of paint, the pranksters of the Orange Alternative quickly painted over them yet again…with gnomes.”
The gnome was used as a way to fight back against the Polish communist regime, but has continued on as the symbol of the city, and you can find more than 300 gnomes around the city. There’s even a websitededicated to the gnomes of Wrocław that tells their story and provides downloadable maps of where to find them.
By now, you’re probably wondering where 3D printing technology fits into this story. Poland celebrated 100 years of independence this year, and a man named Waldemar Plusa, along with the entire city of Wrocław, used the gnome as a way to commemorate the important anniversary.
Everything went swimmingly during the second launch, which took place early last month. This time, the 3D printed Wrocław gnome’s rocket made it all the way to stratosphere – a level of the atmosphere higher than commercial airlines fly.
In addition, the rocket sent out a broadcast of the gnome’s best wishes for his home country of Poland to the world, available through the organizers’ websites. The 3D printed gnome by Materialise, which is a symbol of “the innovative spirit of the Wrocław region,” was the first gnome ever to celebrate the country’s 100th anniversary in space…