Ana Kraš was born in Belgrade (Serbia) in 1984.
We had this intimate conversation at her studio in the lower east side NYC where she currently lives. She mostly works on furniture design projects, drawings and photography.
Can you tell us about your background, how was life in Belgrade?
Life in Belgrade was beautiful and very difficult at the same time. My parents had a photocopy shop and I would spend a lot of time there drawing, making paper sculptures and outfits, making custom notebooks for my buddies. There was a lot of paper waste that I could use for playing. I would make confetti too. I made my first magazine when I was 6. It was called Euro Show. Then later, when I was 7 or 8, I made one called Panda. Early childhood was lovely, and then the war started when I was 5 and it went on and on, changing forms, for over 10 years. There were some really ugly times. Everyone was suddenly poor and desperate. There were moments when with the monthly salary you could get only 1 liter of oil, or times when you had to wait in line for hours for a piece of bread. The political situation was very dark. When I was 15, NATO bombed Belgrade for over a month. All those things and much more, ruined the country in a way that I believe is impossible to truly recover from. Values have changed; the only people with money are people involved with politics. So many things are so deeply wrong. I miss Belgrade for so many reasons though. It’s a very special place, very rough and pretty to my eye. Some of the most incredible and talented people I know are from there; they are like secret jewels. Also my family lives there, as well as my best friends, so it’s very cozy and familiar for me to be there. Unfortunately I would never be able to do my work in Belgrade because it’s so poor and anything that is not a necessity cannot exist or grow there.
Jérémie and I came to your new studio in the Lower East Side NYC, can you tell us about New York, what brought you here?
I never planned to live in the USA, it happened as a surprise, I mean, I am truly still surprised that I am here! A few years ago, while I was on a vacation in Los Angeles, I met a man and we decided to stay in the states for some time. Prior to that I was always on the road – travelling a lot, mostly around Europe, and I was getting very tired of that. Then I spent some time in Los Angeles, and now I am in NYC. I am not good at making big decisions; I like to wait for things to happen to me when it’s time. I remember trying to think of where I would want to live, and there was no place that stood out as the right one. I liked many places in different ways so how could I pick one to commit to? I believed that I would end up moving somewhere for love and that’s how it happened at the end. At least it’s the most romantic reason to be somewhere.
You are a multidisciplinary artist, you design objects, you take pictures, you work as a model, can you explain to us how it all works together?
I like working on different projects in parallel. I make furniture and that is the most ‘serious’ and time-consuming part. I sometimes do graphic design and I sometimes draw or paint. I also take photographs. I don’t really work as a model but if someone asks me to do it and it’s paid right of course I say yes! Compared to so many jobs, it’s such easy money. I find it sad in many ways – that job is so overpaid for what it is. To answer your question how it works all together – I don’t know! Sometimes it’s smooth and lovely, and sometimes it’s a hectic disaster – very overwhelming, and I don’t have enough time to give to each of the fields. Also being your own boss is restless and difficult but also the best in certain ways. I never get to put my mind on a real vacation. Knowing what you do I guess you feel a similar way.
What brings you into designing and making objects and furniture, how did you start doing it?
My university introduced me to it, in a way. Growing up, I never really thought of that as a profession. I was never aware that someone’s job could be to make the bed I sleep on and chair I sit on. I really didn’t know that it existed as a profession. Since I was a little kid, I was always drawing and making stuff, and when it was time to pick the university – the university of applied arts was the natural choice. When I discovered the different courses they offered, I decided to try interior design and furniture because it sounded fun and something I never thought of prior to that moment. At first I thought I would switch to illustration or graphic design but then I really got into it and stayed.
You seem to be very attached to “the old side of things”, you build with your hands, you use old film cameras. Do you think the world goes too fast?
I would love for the world to be slower, but that’s not the reason why I make my lamps with my two hands. I do it simply because I feel that teaching someone to do it would take too much energy and this way I am in control from the beginning to the end. But that has to change and I am now learning to relax and hopefully soon some other people will be making bonbon lamps because I don’t have time to make enough. Some other furniture pieces I designed are made by carpenters, but usually in a very old fashioned, simple way. When it comes to photography – I don’t mind digital at all, it’s just not fun for me. I like to not be able to see the image immediately and I like how it becomes a surprise when you finally develop the roll. I also like that there’s a limit, so you don’t take 20 similar photos to pick one.
There is a certain type of light or non-light in your photography, “entre chien et loups” (in french) or at dusk time. This particular moment expresses the limit between the familiar versus the unknown, is it how you would describe it?
Oh I never thought of the light in my photographs! But now hearing you say that makes me think of how I actually love that kind of light. I like bluish dusk much more than sunlight. I am not sure why, maybe I find it more intimate. Even in total darkness when you take a flash photograph, you will capture things you wouldn’t be able to see with your eyes.
Can you tell us about the photography we use for the T-shirt, what’s the story behind it?
The pair of knees and hands belongs to my friend Kris, he was making a barbecue fire in a forest near Belgrade.
In your studio we listened to some very calm solo piano, what is your relation to music or sound?
There’s nothing that can influence the atmosphere such as the choice of music. Imagine two people sitting in a seafront restaurant and eating a grilled fish and then imagine a silent piano playing and then wild techno playing – those two situations suddenly have nothing in common. If I hear a loud fast music in a shop I never come in, nor in a restaurant. I hate eating food to loud restless music that is makes my heartbeat faster. While working, I usually play music with no lyrics because I find it easier to focus that way. It doesn’t have to be piano, but I really love piano solos by Dustin O Halloran, Eric Satie, Akira Kosemura, Hauschka,…
Do you have a lot of books? How do you consider printed matter?
I have been moving between cities and continents quite a lot in the last few years so my books are from all over the place. I love printed books but I don’t like how heavy they are when it comes to moving them. I try to edit my book collection to a few pieces that mean a lot to me, until the day I will settle down and build my own library. It’s always a beautiful sensation to touch a nicely done printed object, but often the content is not very interesting. There are so many books on so many things that are, in my opinion, not interesting enough to be a book topic. When I go to a bookstore, I end up liking many contemporary books because of the way they are made – nice paper, nicely designed, but I so rarely want to own one.
What are the new projects you are working on?
I am working on several new furniture pieces. They are in the process of prototyping and production. I am also making some bonbon lamps and preparing a solo show in NYC. Taking photographs always goes along too. I am also looking for a new apartment to move in (again!) and that’s a full time job! I am slowly furnishing my studio, making it nice, getting plants…
Conversation with Ana Kraš, New York City 2013. Photography by Études Studio.