Passion & influence
Hi Marija! Tell us, please, what did your families do for a living & how big of a role did that play in your life?
I grew up in the artists’ family, so I never perceived creativity as a particular thing. It was “normal” for me. However, my parents secretly hoped I will get some education of a hard science or at least that I would become an architect, – they liked to joke that it’s enough to have poor artists in the family. Even though I was never too crazy about drawing or painting I would always handcraft something or I would do some refurbishing at home as a child.
Now when I think, I also remember our house full of inspiring people, charming bohemian ladies, and men with a great style, appreciating every day’s beauty. I also saw my father renovating antique furniture, designing bags and hats for himself.
It was my mom who suggested to try design classes in the art school I was attending. Apparently, I happened to be good at it and my teacher highly recommended me to choose design studies. However, the biggest influence and believe in design comes definitely from ambitious, curious and talented friends I made during studies, both in Vilnius and Eindhoven.
In retrospect would you choose studies or internship?
Rating studies versus work, it definitely depends at which school you are and what kind of commissions or works you do afterwards. Two years of MA at Design Academy Eindhoven were the best of my life, super challenging and inspiring, individually helping to find your own talent and signature. That period is still an example for me how I should feel while working. Now it is way more relaxing but less inspiring, you have less time to concentrate and do research. I would 100% choose studies at a strong university rather than an internship at a very good studio. Both experiences are important but they are not comparable. Another important aspect is people that you meet during studies, they are the most useful contacts later on in your life.
And how much, you think, location infects work & career in general?
It is relatively important. However, your motivation is even more important that the location since distances don’t play much of a role anymore. If you know what you are doing and you participate in the international context, I believe you can live even in the middle of the woods. A big city with an active cultural context might be not only inspiring but also very distracting. I would say it is important where you present your works, not so much where you live.
So how you chose your location?
I didn’t choose my location, it chose me. I love Vilnius since I always had a chance to know it from the best side. And it’s a very convenient place for me to materialize the works.
The idea & start
Yes, I think Vilnius is awaking and has many hidden talents. Speaking of which, how the idea to become independent object designer was born? Did you take a lot of time to plan this? What and who were your influences on your way?
I appreciate my own freedom and I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve. And seeing that other people appreciates what you do really make you motivated. The idea of planning holidays a year ahead scares me off, I believe life has to be exciting and surprising.
For the self-employment, you need to work a lot more in the beginning and to prove your competence. And also you need to be clear on what you do and don’t do. A strong spine, guts, and self-discipline are crucial. It took me 3-4 years to reach it. I can not say I’m at the point where I would like to be but at least I see I’m getting there and my work excites me.
Most of the things you have to learn from your own mistakes, however seeing most of the friends coping with the same problems keeps you going forward.
Yes and it’s strange how many of us goes through the same and learn from actually doing it. Someone said “fake it till you make it”. Would you agree or disagree with this?
I would rephrase it in a way that you need to believe in yourself and in what you do and then people will believe in you too.
Can’t agree more! So what was your first project as an independent object designer?
I was involved in a project ‘Šiaurė’ where we mixed contemporary design approach and traditional local crafts so I had a great chance to work with the craftsmen from different fields. That was an excellent experience.
How much did you know how to run your own business when you started?
Everything started from the wish to make stuff, not from the wish to make business, so I guess I can say I knew very little about it. You simply trust your rational side and find out things step by step.
What were the main things you had to do to start your own business?
The professional photos are the most important for a good representation. Then comes a website design and meaningful descriptions. The best is to ask help from the professionals. I truly believe that half of my jewellery success came from the collaboration with the photographer.
The work & lessons
This jewellery collection was a continuation of my MA graduation project. For this practice-based research, I took an approach that the human body can be a good design tool, a starting point. I always look for objective explanations for my designs. I try to find some given phenomena, some obstructions or unexpected things in the way to shape my design solutions and I stay just a director of the situation. It feels a bit ritualistic. I’m moved by the physical connection between us, as bodies, and the material environment. So I guess it was an obvious step to make a collection of objects that you place straight on the body and this integrity of creating and using becomes obvious. In the end, what makes this line different from others is first of all comfort and harmony with your own body. The jewellery piece doesn’t stand alone, it goes together as an extension of the body.
I guess I’m quite in integrity with my own works – you can call me a soft, gentle, embracing personality. At least I think I have this side for sure.
I would say that when other creatives inspire me, they do it in a more abstract, personal way: they spark me to continue my own path, to develop and purify my own language, to seek for perfection. I admire Aldo Bakker for his refined sensitivity for the shape, Formafantasma for their research and sense of aesthetics, usage of innovations in a humanistic way, and Vincenzo de Cotiis for enhancing luxury in roughness.
I’m in a process of accustoming myself to wear jewellery. Wasn’t doing it for many years, however, I’m a big admirer of it! All the pieces I have are mostly presents. And yet the last jewellery I bought was some cheap, kitschy, glossy, golden – like trash with many fake diamonds. I saw it in a button store and couldn’t say no. I thought it would teach me how to be brave not only for my personal image but also with my creations as well!
How would you describe your profession with 5 words?
Observe, notice, imagine, reinvent, and propose.
Can you describe how you plan things, what your work process is & how projects actually start, changes and finish in real life, please?
If you work for a certain brand or a company, they have their vision or sometimes even clear guidelines. First of all, working with a client you present several ideas, then you complete the one they choose and then you wait for the samples and prototypes. Then you prepare corrections for the prototypes.
And yet with some of the companies, I work already for a while, so our process is way more freestyle. The thing you need to learn is “to kill your darlings”.
Working for yourself, I try to make models by myself and then I go to a certain craftsman to help me with a prototype. Many elements change during the process but that’s the fun part, I always let coincidence to intervene.
How much of the time you spend working? Do you do 1 project at the time or a few? Do you have projects you work on a side for free?
Usually, I have 2-3 main collaborations going on at the same time besides my own projects. I try to fit in 5 days per week but it’s hard. However, even when I’m not “working” I always think and design in my head, it’s not that you finish your working hours and you leave your work behind. I used to have quite some collaborations for free but now I’m trying to avoid it, especially when you work for yourself “for free” intensively. But it doesn’t mean that you refuse to help your colleagues or friends.
How you decide what to charge for your own creations?
The easiest way is to charge per hour or per day. You calculate how much time you will need to accomplish the task and you know the price. However, when you create a product, there are other options, mostly it depends on the company’s politics and a deal you make. Sometimes you get paid per product, or you get less paid per product but you get some royalties from sales.
How did you get your first clients?
It is hard to recall my first clients but I guess it came through personal contacts or friends. Even though we have an amazing possibility for the exposure online, all the important “deals” mostly happens personally meeting people and being recommended.
And how long did it take you to actually make a profit since you started as independent?
This is a painful question. It took a long time but that wasn’t a focus as well. You need to be very patient with the profit and not to give up. One day it pays off. The most important is to enjoy what you do.
How media, social media and exhibitions play a part in getting clients?
Being known, recognized doesn’t necessarily means that you get clients. It depends what are you aiming for. Usually, it happens slowly, you participate somewhere, then you are invited to some more important exhibition, then maybe someone important notices you. That’s one way. However, from my own experience, I can say that you benefit more from media and social media rather than exhibitions.
How many ‘hats’ you wear when working for yourself? Is anyone helping you? Is it easier or harder for you to work as independent?
I do everything I can by myself but I like to discuss or ask another opinion, an advice. I would say at the beginning it is easier to work independently, you can avoid compromises.
So if you do everything yourself, how you combine creative work with business handling, PR, marketing, accounting, etc.?
I combine it quite badly. I would rather focus completely on a creative work and give the rest to the people that are good at it. For now, I’m managing all of the roles but I see that my creative productivity suffers.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
I let myself to relax and do nothing and then the best ideas come.
What are your top 5 best resources that helped you with your career?
Friends, publications, hands-on practice, dreams and experiments.
What are the best lessons you had learn so far while working as an object designer?
It is important to leave your “signature” in each work you do, to stay coherent, to learn how to say no and to stand for your ideas.
What would be your advice for those who seeks to be object designers?
To choose the best school. It’s not only about knowledge and experience. It brings you contacts, you automatically become part of a design community and, frankly speaking, being alumni of a known school works as a “green light” in many occasions.
I wouldn’t call it planning, I would say I aim or wish for certain things. And they happen naturally. Let’s say in general I plan bigger things in 3 months ahead and then I have more of a gut feeling for the smaller things I have to do in a month.
I don’t plan holidays (unless I feel I’m really exhausted) cause they are the best when they happen spontaneously.
I would like to spend most of my energy making my own collections and presenting them in the galleries. I also would like to make collaborations with various brands.
I had a few dreams about certain objects and strangely they all are coming true.
Ok. Let’s do so! I would be a historian, archeologist, anthropologist, antique dealer, an actress or a dancer living in Paris.
There are several ones. First of all, they say I was a “pocket” child, which you could bring wherever you wanted, I was causing no troubles, I could always keep myself entertained. At home, my favorite game was the theatre. There was a prepared row of chairs in the kitchen, tickets for everyone, including pets as my audience. And my mom likes to tell how I was dressing up our cat and dog. Once they both had a sudden fight and my father freaked out thinking that the dog severely injured the cat, he was screaming to my mom that HER dog released the cat’s bowels. Fortunately, it was just a long amber necklace on her.
It’s a gathering of young creatives that share similar sensitivity towards design and art and help each other to be seen.