marta buda

A Long Distance Studio Visit: Marta Buda

Marta Buda is an artist, textile designer, and all-around lovely human based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Q / Hi Marta! How do you usually start your day?
A / I always start with a coffee (or two), and it is my daughter who wakes the rest of us up. She has an internal clock that usually wakes at around 7 am. The rest of the morning routine revolves around her breakfast, getting her ready for school and trying to fit my own breakfast and shower in between.

Q / Do you have a daily uniform?
A / I wish I didn’t, but sometimes I feel like I’ve worn the same few things on rotation for weeks.  Most of the time I wear pants – often a pair of jeans, and I almost always have some form of jacket or coat with me – we don’t get a very long or hot summer where I live, and I hate being cold.

Q / Is there a time of day that you feel most productive? Anything specific that helps keep you focused?
A / I feel most productive when I’m inspired and/or when I have a deadline, sometimes the two don’t sync at all and work can feel like an uphill battle. I don’t have the luxury of choosing when I can work so I take moments when I can find them. Having a tidy and clean area to work helps keep me focused – if my house is a mess I get stressed out.

Q / What is your favorite place to work?
A / Working freelance I’ve only ever worked from home. I imagine that having a separate space would mean fewer distractions and more focus, but I do also enjoy the comfort of being at home.

Q / How do you try to balance your time?
A / I haven’t managed to find a harmonious balance yet – I live highs and lows. If I have a deadline looming, I will work late into evenings and then I will have a non-productive burnout phase where all I can do is zombie on the couch – that can last up to a week. I’m trying hard to make time to take care of myself better, doing even a small amount of exercise has helped me feel a little more balanced.

Q / Do you find lists helpful? How do you keep yourself organized with all the projects you have going on?
A / Yes, lists help keep me on track. If I am organized enough to write a list first, the physical process of crossing off a task is something I find deeply satisfying. I try to work on projects in the order they come in, and I set myself deadlines in my head for when I want to have them done.  Having a deadline helps me to be decisive.

Q / What is something you are good at? Something you struggle with?
A / I enjoy researching and collating directional imagery, and I think I am good at finding interesting makers and creatives. I struggle a lot with self-doubt which can be paralyzing.

Q / What do you enjoy most about your career? What are the most challenging things about it?
A / I love being part of the process of making something and I am always excited to see what a designer will create with the fabric I design for them. For my personal work, I love being able to make something with my own hands and to see my hand reflected in the work. It’s challenging to keep a steady flow of freelance work especially in New Zealand where there is only room to work for a few different designers at once.

Q / Is there anything you will never take seriously in terms of your work?
A / I don’t really think many things should be taken too seriously but to be specific sycophantic or pretentious behaviour.

Q / Something that’s very important to you?
A / Integrity, always.

Q / Where do you go to be quiet and think?
A / I like long showers and often have lightbulb moments in the shower. I also find going for a solitary walk or drive a good time for reflection.

Q / How does your home influence the kind and quality of work you produce?
A / I spend a lot of time at home, creating an environment that is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing is important to me. I love to have beautiful things in my home, but I don’t like ostentatious spaces. My partner and I often clean up and re-evaluate the things in our home, we are interested in well made and well-designed things.  We both prefer to go without if we can’t find a solution we are happy with rather than make a compromise.  I think this attitude naturally reflects back into my work.

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 / My family immigrated from Wroclaw, Poland to Wellington, New Zealand in 1987. I was a young child, so the culture shock was not as hard on me as it was for my brother or my parents.  My parents divorced a year after we came to Wellington and when I was 13 my father moved to Jakarta, Indonesia.  Wellington is quite a small city, however I spent my teens traveling overseas once or twice a year and this broadened my ideas about the world. After high school, I continued traveling, starting and stopping studies. I came back to Wellington to finish my degree when I was 22. I ended up getting pregnant in my final year of university, and this led me to stay here. I think all these experiences gave me a wider viewpoint but also gave me fresh eyes to see how lucky I am to be living in New Zealand. There is a natural can-do attitude that is part of the culture here, it’s an unspoken permission to figure it out as you go which I think is how my career is evolving.

Q / What is your first memory of work? Of success? Of failure?
A / I can’t remember my first job, but I do remember hanging out as a little girl with my (then) aunty at her design shop, she had a permanent stall at a weekend market. She shared the shop with her friend who was also a designer. They sold homewares, knick knacks, stationary and designed most of the things themselves. It was probably the first time I was exposed to a thoughtfully curated shop. The first feeling of success is a recent one, it was when my brother relayed a story to me about somebody talking to him about my work. He was surprised that they knew my work which felt a little exciting. Oh – failure is quite a painful one – a friend of mine asked me to design a textile pattern for her label, it was a very short deadline, and there was no clear brief.  I overthought it, stressed out and worked so hard on it. In the end, I found out from an Instagram post that she wasn’t going to use my design – my world collapsed in a moment but on the flip we are still friends, and I’m much wiser from the experience.

Q / Do you keep any collections?
A / Not really, I do like very specific things though. Since childhood I’ve always been in love with and bought crystals which is something I do now for my daughter.  I guess the other collection I keep is of images on Pinterest, if that counts. I used to use it regularly but now I mainly use it when I have research to do, it has been such a great tool for me to organize and categorize images.

Q / How would you define beauty and what part does it play in your work?
A / I find that as I get older the concept of beauty becomes broader and narrower at the same time. The definition of beauty in regards to people, nature and human interaction is ever expanding. I find beauty in light, shadows, stories, smells, places – so many things, whereas I’m constantly re-evaluating and streamlining my definition of beauty in objects or design. It’s hard to quantify what that is exactly, so I would define beauty more as a positive physical or emotional reaction. All of my work, personal and freelance, is dictated by ideas and interpretations of beauty.

Q / Does social media factor into your work at all? Is there anything you find problematic about it?
A / Yes, hugely so. I only have one outlet for social media and that is Instagram. I have made so many wonderful connections with other creatives through this and also made many sales through people contacting me on Instagram. I’ve been able to share my work in a way I would never be confident enough to do in person. However, I find it can play on my insecurities, and I think there is a real danger in the way people become consumed with social media.  Social media can connect you with the world, but simultaneously it is also very insular.

Q / Do you use the internet on vacation or do you prefer to completely disconnect?
A / I’ll use the internet to check emails and might look at Instagram in the morning or evening, but usually I prefer to keep these to a minimum or ignore them entirely. A real sign that I am having a good time and being present is if I don’t log on at all.

Q / Is there anything in particular that you do to take care of yourself and relax?
A / I’ve just recently started Pilates twice week and I try to go to a yoga class too, but this is a very new thing for me! One thing I have a penchant for is high-quality natural skincare. Using a nice face wash and moisturizer is about the most consistent way I take care of myself.

Q / Was there any particular person who led you to change direction and helped shape your career in formative way?
A / Many people have helped shape my career, usually in indirect ways – teachers, tutors, peers, sometimes even reading an interview with a person who I find inspiring can spark a change in direction. My partner has always pushed me to work harder which has been both annoying and helpful. Recently I would say Kate Megaw is a person who has quietly helped me in so many ways. I feel more comfortable as a designer working with Kate. Her support of my personal weaving work has had a flow on effect that meant it has been introduced to an audience I might not have had otherwise.

Q / How did your parents feel about your career path?
A / My parents have always been very supportive of my study and work choices, although at one point my mother did give me an ultimatum to finish my studies as I fluttered around a bit in my early twenties. My brother who is a musician is probably the person who is closest to my career path. My mother is a data analyst, my father is a wireless network project director, and my stepfather is a software developer – how my brother and I both came to be creative is kind of a mystery.

Q / What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? The funniest?
A / One of my first memories of work was at Lollipops Playland (a children’s indoor playground). I was 14 and assisted on the floor – a child had pooed in the ball pit and I was tasked with cleaning each ball individually – it was literally the shittest job I’ve ever had to do. In hindsight, this is also probably the funniest.

Q / In what capacity do you work with other people? Would you say your career is more solitary or collaborative?
A / When I work as a textile designer this is always for another designer. Depending on who I am working for the process can be completely collaborative where I relay every step with the designer or I present my ideas and the designer chooses one. When I am making my personal work this is always by myself.  Physically I am usually alone when I work, however my work relies entirely on collaboration to have a career.

Q / What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
A / Working with creative people I admire and bringing our ideas to reality.

Q / How does your work affect the rest of your life?
A / I’m currently still in a position where most of my day and time is spent with my daughter; time wise this puts pressure on me to work in the evenings and weekends when my partner is at home. Financially I am still dependent on my partner’s income; I think this goes hand in hand with the fact I don’t have time to seek out or take on more work.

Q / What has been your proudest career moment thus far?
A / I’m not sure if pride is something I can comfortably say out loud, but it is always exciting when somebody that I have no other connection to makes contact to purchase my work. I am currently fulfilling an order of 10 of my handmade bags for a beautiful store in Tokyo; this came out of the owner seeing an Instagram image of my work.

Q / What are you looking forward to this year?
A / Going to the South Island of New Zealand with my family and hopefully completing a couple of collaborations that I haven’t had time to get to this year. My partner and I are also in the process of starting a small business for ourselves too.

Q / Lastly, ten of your favorite people, places, and things that we should discover too?
A / Maryse beauty products, Tatsushi (Japanese restaurant on Victoria St, Wellington), home-made sauerkraut, Studio Sabine Marcelis (a dear friend and genius creator), Naoshima Island in Japan, The Centre of Cosmic Wonder shop in Tokyo, Zany Zeus organic soft serve with chocolate dip at their flagship shop in Moera, Lower Hutt, Juliette of the Herbs documentary, the Chefs Table Netflix series (Francis Mallmann is a personal highlight), and Ceres Organics Roasted Seaweed Nori Snack.

Photography
Douglas A. Johns

Interview
Catherine Litke

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