Lady of the Canyon
16 april mmxii
An interview with belle artiste and furniture design virtuoso, Ana Kras
If you ever spot a clever, breathtaking beauty cruising down Baxter Street full speed ahead on a skateboard, clicking away on a janky old picture-taking contraption, strings of every saturated hue entangled in her graceful fingers, pencil furiously sketching the scene before her, consider it an auspicious sign to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon known as Ana Kraš. If you’re lucky, perhaps some of her creative energy will rub off on you. In Los Angeles, Ana has built an entire world for herself—one she has created with the help of her brilliantly imaginative mind and nimble, productive hands. We stumbled across her whimsical multi-colored lamps, strong oak clothing racks, and cosmic coffee tables and were very impressed. Feverishly, Ana handcrafts her Bonbon lamp structures, threading each as if an infinite-stringed guitar.
We love how detailed Ana’s responses are; it mirrors the details found within her work. A newly minted Angeleno, she shares radiant glances of her life with us including her childhood in Belgrade, Serbia, her design process (not only does she make furniture, she’s also a photographer and illustrator), what’s cookin’ in her kitchen, her affinity for palm trees, and a dear attachment to a couple of magical sweaters, one made by Grandma and one belonging to her love. Ana has very much envisioned and shaped a wondrous orbit around her, thrives in it, and does so on her own terms.
Recently, a happy, pink Bonbon lamp graced the cover of The New York Times Style Magazine. Presently, you can see her Bonbon lamps hanging brightly at Nanashi in Paris. And in the future, it won’t be too long before an entire retrospective of Ana’s remarkable work will get a spotlight all its own. One day, after Mark builds our rammed earth house, complete with a Roman road, greenhouse, and acres upon acres of bountiful vegetation, flora, and fauna, it would be a dream to commission Ana to furnish our cozy maison with her furniture creations, her striking, subdued, washed out photos framed and haphazardly hanging on our earthen walls. For now, our little quarters in a 19th century Manhattan walk-up just might need a pop of color and light emanating from a Hive lamp. Possibly, a Bonbon, appropriate since we do live above a bakery!
Infinite warmth and thanks to you, Ana, for revealing a bit of your inspiring world to us!
Doris: You are an industrial designer, photographer, and illustrator! Please let us know the secret to balancing all of your creative energy.
Ana: I don’t even see all those things as very different skills. It all has elements of one in another and is pretty much merging into the same picture of interest. I wish I could also make music or do some science and engineering and some sport really well, then I would be a Renaissance woman. But I am just messing around in a very small circle. There is no secret in work, I guess there are people who work better focusing on one thing and there are people who do the best when they multitask many things at the same time. Being younger and more insecure about work, I remember trying so hard to choose one thing and focus on it and give my best, but as soon as I tried and as soon as I realized I am unhappy doing one thing, I just had to happily accept that I love doing many things parallel. Yes, it does make me messy sometimes and it does give headaches when all the deadlines come at once. But I also noticed that working on a few things at the same time, especially when they are in different fields, actually serves as some kind of relaxation. The brain takes a vacation and flies from one subject to another. While I am busy doing one thing, I can think of another one and work it out. It saves time in a way. Especially with those Bonbon lamps I make. It’s such a long hand work, feels almost like playing a string instrument for hours and hours and hours. And it’s the best time for thinking about other things. Like thinking on a plane.
D: You’re originally from Belgrade. Tell us a little bit about your childhood and a fond memory you have of Serbia.
A: Yes, I was born in Belgrade, raised in Belgrade, and have been based in Belgrade until some years ago. Almost all my family is there and all my oldest friends are there too, so I love Belgrade a lot. I will avoid talking about my growing up during the war because when you have that situation for such a long time, it becomes normal and you live as if it was a normal reality. But that reality has many lacks, and it’s not normal at all. My early childhood was beautiful, for what I remember from my little pieces of memory and photographs and stories. My family had a beach house in Montenegro where I would spend three months each summer swimming and jumping from the rocks and raising dogs and whatever else kids do in summer. Stealing figs and then when they catch us, we would lie that our grandmothers sent us to get them some figs so they can put some fig milk on their moles because it makes them disappear. I was growing up with my 11 years older sister and she was my hero. She was kind of a punk. Then when the war started, all changed of course. And then war after war for over a decade. The situation in Serbia is still very bad and I fear it will forever be. It’s very sad and it breaks my heart. Politics is just such a powerful, mean thing and unfortunately it affected very badly all the people here including myself. But it is not the end of life, it is just a different life there.
D: What are your favorite places to absorb positivity and creativity in Los Angeles?
A: The way I feel about Los Angeles changed so much from the moment I first got there ’til now. At first I was comparing it to Europe and it wasn’t comparable, and all seemed so wrong in my eyes. Distances, long drives, different values…Los Angeles is such an unique body of life that becomes nicer and nicer in time when you start loving it for all those differences that at first you hate. Those long drives I used to hate now became one of my favorite things to do. The most beautiful thing about Los Angeles is sun. And houses. It’s so beautiful to live in a sunny house with a big garden where squirrels run up the trees and butterflies sit on roses, and there’s a lemon tree so you make lemonade, and there is an avocado tree that never gives avocados but it’s cool to say you have an avocado tree, and there is jasmine tree that makes you high on that smell in spring. And the garden is big and hidden enough so you can lay naked and no one can see you except from helicopters cursing around. They love helicopters in Los Angeles, I will never understand why they are trying to catch lil criminals with helicopters. It sounds expensive. Then ocean, I don’t know, maybe because I didn’t have ocean around all the time growing up, each time I see it I get goosebumps. Another thing that melts my heart daily there are the palm trees. Thin and tall, like ink drawings in the sky when the sky gets darker and palms get black. All those LA things are very romantic to me. If I have to pick places I love in LA then it would be these two:
-Pizza Buona on Sunset and Alvarado is one of my favourite places because in the evening the car headlights hit the windows so nicely and the light inside is always moving and there is a jukebox and you can even dance slowly with your lover.
-Baxter Street. I love driving down Baxter Street, it’s like a rollercoaster. I always imagine if down there the street would end with a big swimming pool so I can stand on a skateboard and just gooo down and end in water. It is so steep.
D: If you had to wear one color, head-to-toe, what would be the lucky chosen hue?
A: I would be all in navy blue, like a policeman.
D: What is that one favorite article of clothing that you’ll continue to wear until it disintegrates?
A: I don’t really connect to clothes unless it used to belong to someone dear to me. I love one black sweater my grandmother made for me. It looks like an elegant black tuxedo. And a navy sweater I shrank. It used to belong to my love but then I shrank it and it belongs to me now.
D: Describe your style in five words.
A: My style is nothing special.
D: We love hearing about what people like to eat, especially meals shared with loved ones. Is there anything special you like to prepare (or have others prepare for you) in the kitchen?
A: Ooh yes. And there is nothing I love to talk about more than food. I love to make creamed spinach with milk and butter and garlic, and then I do sunny side up eggs and serve it with beet salad. I love making vegetable soups. I like to have chunks of vegetables inside because I think those soups are more exciting to eat. Each bite tastes different while cream makes it all the same. Then I love to make rosemary, honey, lemon juice potatoes and carrots in the oven. And my very favourite thing to eat and make is mashed potatoes. Wine leaves meatballs with Greek yogurt! Pumpkin pie! Rice pudding! I love when someone cooks anything for me. It makes my heart melt. It is such a sweet act.
D: I found you through your ingenious home objects. I am especially enamored by the Ksilofon clothing racks and the Bonbon and Hive lamps. What is your design process and do you build everything by hand, one-by-one?
A: Thank you for your sweet words Doris. :) I don’t build everything by my hand, that would take so much time and wouldn’t look good at all. :) The only thing I make myself by hand are Bonbon lamps. I enjoy making them and I like that each one is unique. Most likely soon I will have to start a production of those lamps because I can make only very small editions by my hand. My work process when it comes to furniture works like this:
-It comes as a thought in my head and then I try to make a model or a lil sketch and then a prototype and then I see if it is okay or it sucks.
-I usually think of things that are very simple so it’s not hard to test them in reality, making simple paper models or so.
-I also start asking myself the question—would people enjoy using this thing or at least would I enjoy using this thing?
If I am working on a commissioned furniture project, then it is very much like doing mathematics, a problem solving process. And making sure it fits into the ideology of the brand and still matches your own ideology at the same time.
D: I spent some time pouring over your Ikebana Albums. The grains, dust spots, over and under exposures—the beautiful imperfections of shooting with film. When you take that shot, what are you thinking about?
A: I don’t think when I am taking a photo, it is such a quick moment, a second. Sometimes I feel there is nothing easier than taking a photograph. Photos are my hobby, not even a hobby, I don’t know what to call it. A pleasure, maybe. I usually take pictures of my very close personal life members and objects, and the entire act of selecting what I want to capture, then later developing and seeing it again and having it as a all life long memory, it is all very nice. I don’t see photography as my work. That’s why I have troubles selecting images because I like them all, they are all my memories of something I’ve witnessed. I am not trying to express myself with that, I am just enjoying what is around. Lately I sometimes get asked to do it as work, and I like that a lot, but I, again, try to make it be personal as much as I can, so even if it’s work I still have the same personal enjoyment while I am doing it. Taking pictures is so opposite from designing furniture. It is so instant easy, and careless and the result is quickly there, while furniture projects take so much time, work and tests to be developed, and then ages of production organisation and all the people involved. Luckily I have those two to balance it up.
D: Camera and film weapons of choice?
A: I do not care about the camera and film. I use cheap cameras and films (probably because I don’t care).
D: If you could collaborate with anyone on a special project, who would you pick and what would this collaboration entail?
A: I would love to work on something with Konstantin Grcic. His sensibility and approach are something I feel very comfortable with and I would learn a lot. Ooh I don’t know, I would love to work with so many people. I would always do any collaboration with my friend Sean Michael Beolchini cos he rocks and we would have so much fun. For example, I would love to go with him to Thailand to take pictures of local monkeys. I am doing an ongoing collaboration with one of my favourite photographers Sylvain Emmanuel P. Our project called Ping-Pong started some years ago, and it’s still my favourite lil thing to do.
D: Are there any new projects you’re working on right now?
A: Yes there are.
D: What are you currently reading, watching, listening to, making, and dreaming of?