maria troconis grafikisto ghebaly

Maria Troconis on huskies, hikes, and wanting to do it all.

Maria Troconis is a graphic designer and gallerist. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two adorable huskies.

Q / Hi Maria! How do you usually start your day?
A / Aside from making sure I got that first cup of coffee in the morning, up until a couple of months ago I didn’t have much of a routine. Everything changed when my husband and I rescued a brother and sister duo of huskies. Since then I wake up around 6:30/7am to walk them or go on a hike – sometimes a dog park may come into the mix. Once at home we all have breakfast and get ready to head out to work at our g​allery.

Q / Do you have a daily uniform?
A / I go through phases with uniforms – usually I’ll go through weeks where I stick with one. Then I’ll switch things up if there are any changes going on around me (like weather, mood, new purchase, etc.)

Q / Is there anything you carry with you every day? If so, why is it important to you?
A / My red Comme des Garçons coin wallet. I use it as a carry­all, from cash to gum to lip balm. Love it, not only because it’s so practical that I could grab it and leave my whole purse behind, it was also a gift from a dear friend for my 30th birthday.

Q / Is there a time of day that you feel most productive? Anything specific that helps keep you focused?
A / It depends. Doing administrative stuff like answering emails, proposals and invoices, I’m most productive in the morning, sitting at my desk with a coffee or tea next to me. For creative work and design, I prefer afternoons…and nights. Though I’m working on curbing my night owl tendencies, the silence and uninterrupted stillness at night keep me focused for hours.

“Though I’m working on curbing my night owl tendencies, the silence and uninterrupted stillness at night keep me focused for hours.”

Q / What is your favorite place to work?
A / My desk. Though it could be anywhere. I’ve been traveling a lot for the last couple of years and working while away I’ve found that as long as I have a spot to turn into “my desk” it quickly becomes my favorite place to work. In LA I have two desks, one at home and one at the gallery –I love working from both for different reasons.

Q / How do you try to balance your time?
A / A friend once shared with me that she did busy work or administrative tasks on mondays and fridays, and the fun/creative work in the middle of the week. Her thinking was that mondays and fridays tended to be days where one’s either lacking energy or burnt out. I’ve been giving this a try myself and like it, but I’m not super strict with it, I take it day by day. In general, my time is split between design/art direction jobs, the gallery, personal projects, and home. Each takes priority at different points in the day.

Q / Do you find lists helpful? How do you keep yourself organized with all the projects you have going on?
A / I’m not a big list taker, but I always carry a small notebook for quick notes, ideas and reminders. I use my google calendar, that’s synced with iCal, to jot down deadlines and include tasks I need to take care of by a specific date. I’ve also been using Inbox by Gmail as my way of keeping track of things. Before Inbox I had a system where I’d leave as ‘unread’ those emails that were important even after reading them (I’m the obsessive type that needs to have their inbox at 0 unread emails to function). Inbox by Gmail has made it easier to do this, instead of leaving emails as unread I can “pin” them, and I can also add reminders without having to write myself an email.

“I’ve been traveling a lot for the last couple of years and working while away I’ve found that as long as I have a spot to turn into “my desk” it quickly becomes my favorite place to work.”

Q / What is something you are good at? Something you struggle with?
A / Once I’m on board with a project I’m good at visualizing and establishing the direction the concepts need to be headed for the work to be at its strongest. I struggle with how much time I allocate to things and wanting to do it all.

Q /  What do you enjoy most about your career? What are the most challenging things about it?
A /  I enjoy the collaborative aspect of the work I do. I’d say keeping focus on my goals and not getting sidetracked is a challenge I’m experiencing at this point in my career – some ideas are worth exploring, others not so much.

Q / Is there anything you will never take seriously in terms of your work?
A / Being professional, dedicated and conscientious is as serious as I get with my work. Everything else, not really…design and creative work can be many things, but serious, as in life or death serious, it is not.

Q / Something that’s very important to you in you work?
A / Purpose coexisting with aesthetics.

Q / Where do you go to be quiet and think?
A / Nature.

“…keeping focus on my goals and not getting sidetracked is a challenge I’m experiencing at this point in my career – some ideas are worth exploring, others not so much.”

Q / How does your home influence the kind and quality of work you produce?
A / I find my home to be an extension of my work in some ways. In my home, as in my work, I curate what makes it in and edit out what is not needed. I need light and a minimal amount of things, all qualities I see reflected in my work as well. Also, I’m constantly reevaluating my work and how to make it better, and the same is true with my home.

Q / Where did you grow up and what led you to your current home. How would you say these places shaped your perception of work?
A / I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. At 14 years old I moved with my mama to Los Angeles, CA – she was an editor at the time and had been offered a position at a production company. My parents met in art school in Caracas, and on both sides of my family I have aunts, uncles, and cousins, that are architects, graphic designers, musicians, and artists. Growing up near my extended family shaped my perception of what it meant to choose a career in a creative field. Early on I realized that though it was very rewarding in many ways, at times it was also very challenging and requiring a great amount of perseverance. I admired them and their work, so here I am having followed on their footsteps.

“I’m constantly reevaluating my work and how to make it better, and the same is true with my home.”

Q / What is your first memory of work? Of success? Of failure?
A / In high school I painted a small size mural on the interior side of the door of one of my teacher’s classrooms. I remember the feeling of knowing that every year kids in that classroom would see my work everyday, and wanting to do the best painting I could muster because of it. But looking back a bit further, I was 9 or 10 years old the first time I experienced what it was like to make something that someone else enjoyed. At school, stickers were all the rage, so I made stickers out of blank mailing labels by drawing on them and gluing anything I could come up with that would hold, creating mini collages. Friends in school really liked them and I began getting requests for stickers, I even sold a few here and there. On the first design internship I ever had I got a project where the senior designer wanted me to create illustrations similar to ‘airplane iconography’. I understood they wanted the bold icons (i.e. no smoking sign, restroom stick figures, etc.), while all along they wanted the type seen on the safety cards, a lot more detailed and refined. Every time I’d show the progress to the senior designer he’d correct the work to make it closer to the illustrations on those cards. It took us a few meetings before I realized what they wanted. Not sure if it’s my first memory of failure but it was the first time I clearly remember failing at a project and not understanding why – I learned to never make assumptions in design, well in general. We were so disconnected on that project that he even questioned whether the work on my portfolio was mine.

Q / Do you keep any collections? If so, how do they influence you creatively?
A / I’ve been collecting hand-­made wooden teaspoons, mostly from my travels. The collection started after a trip home to Venezuela. It’s a collection that began from simply acquiring a beautiful yet functional and carefully crafted keepsake that didn’t take any space in my luggage. As I’ve found wooden spoons in other places my collection has been growing. I love how unique and different they can be from each other all the while serving the same function and being made out of the same material.

“I learned to never make assumptions in design, well in general.”

Q / How would you define beauty and what part does it play in your work?
A / As I grow older the way I define beauty changes. I find that beauty is felt not just seen and that’s something I’ll always strive to capture in my work.

Q / Does social media factor into your work at all?
A / Very much so. I’ve fully embraced social media, though some apps more than others. I’ve gotten the most from Instagram and it’s where I share the most as well. I’ve found myself being braver about sharing work in progress and new work through Instagram before anywhere else, including my website.

Q / Do you use the internet on vacation or do you prefer to completely disconnect?
A / I don’t like to fully disconnect, I prefer having the option to connect if I want or need to. But depending on the type of vacation I allow myself to be more carefree about it, like I’ll forget to charge my phone or I’ll leave it behind in the room.

Q / Is there anything in particular that you do to take care of yourself and relax?
A / Spend time on my own at home. Did I mention I was a Cancer?

“As I grow older the way I define beauty changes. I find that beauty is felt not just seen and that’s something I’ll always strive to capture in my work.”

Q / Was there any particular person who led you to change direction and helped shape your career in formative way?
A / When I was a 24 years old the art director who had hired me, who was about 10 years older than me, gave me a huge vote of confidence to pursue his position when he decided to leave the company we were in. I was young, but he could see my potential even better than I could – following his lead I applied, got the promotion, and thrived in it.

Q / How did your parents feel about your career path? Does anyone in your family work in the same industry?
A / I touched a bit on this earlier –I have about ten family members that are graphic designers– and others that are architects, musicians, and artists. My parents couldn’t be more supportive of my career path.

Q / What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? The funniest?
A / Jamba Juice at 17. Though not the worst job, it was the middle of summer in Los Angeles and those blenders were so loud it drove me nuts. Funniest? I’d say the time I was an extra in a few music videos of Mexican bands.

Q / In what capacity do you work with other people? Would you say your career is more solitary or collaborative?
A / My career is all about collaboration, starting with the notion that my first collaborators are my clients. In practice, my career allows for both solitary and collaborative work. Some jobs can be tackled on my own, others require a team. There’s value in both and they are equally enjoyable.

“My career is all about collaboration, starting with the notion that my first collaborators are my clients…some jobs can be tackled on my own, others require a team. There’s value in both and they are equally enjoyable.”

Q / What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
A / Seeing something that didn’t exist before come to be because you created it or helped in realizing it.

Q / How does your work affect the rest of your life?
A / It’s hard to say. Mostly, I love that it grants me the flexibility to choose how I spend my time. There is also something about enjoying the work you do that makes it near impossible to separate what’s life and what’s work. For example, in my down time I find myself starting personal projects, and my favorite kind of shopping is when I have to go out and get supplies.

Q / What has been your proudest career moment thus far?
A / There have been a few, couldn’t pinpoint one. Each had to do with reaching a milestone for the time and place I was in.

Q / What are you looking forward to this year?
A / Growing my design studio, G​rafikisto, ​and working on new projects for our gallery, Ghebaly Gallery.​

“There is also something about enjoying the work you do that makes it near impossible to separate what’s life and what’s work.”

Q / Lastly, ten of your favorite people, places, and things that we should discover too?
A / 1. Arepas. Favorite Venezuelan breakfast.
2. Los Roques in Venezuela. Tulum in Mexico.
3. Istanbul and turkish towels.
4. Proof Bakery and Dune in Atwater Village in LA.
5. Coconut water straight from the coconut.
6. Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil. For face, body and hair.
7. La Croix.
8. Peruvian food.
9. Bitmoji.
10. Susan Miller Forecasts.

Interview & Photography
Catherine Litke

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