Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Daria, and I am a product and graphic designer based in Zagreb, Croatia. I grew up by the sea, on the south coast of Istria, in a wonderful ancient Roman city. I come from a bilingual family. Growing up with two mother tongues and belonging to two cultural communities brought about a great interest in exploring language and communication in general. I feel lucky to be able to express myself and think in two completely different ways. I consider Croatian my rational language and Italian my emotional one.
After high school, I went to study architecture in Ljubljana, then switched to industrial design \ in Zagreb. I also spent some time in the very inspiring city of Florence on a scholarship.
Before starting La La Shoes, I worked as an art director at a daily newspaper, then in advertising. I also worked on many side projects such as set design, handmade paper production, and children’s art education. I’m a very serious, silly person.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Books are my constant companions. I often listen to audio books while working, but I read printed books whenever I can, as I enjoy them much more. Not a day goes by without music or standup comedy. I’m always looking forward to a good concert. I like to take long walks, ride my bike, travel, learn about languages, go to the movies with my husband, and come up with narration for what our cat is thinking.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Curious. Curiosity is the main driving force in my life. I’m like a four-year-old. I look at things, at the world, at life, and ask, “Why?” Curiosity is satisfied by learning, so the more you learn, the more curious you get. I’m happy to know there is no end to that.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m constantly inspired by the new things I learn, by everything I see, hear and read, by new places I visit, by long discussions I have with my husband (who is an artist), and by the good work of my peers. Anything can make my brain tingle.
What does handmade mean to you?
Things made by hand with a lot of thought and care are special and irreplaceable. The energy and emotions they carry can’t be put there by a factory machine or on an assembly line. I need for my designs to take life under my hands, to experience them by making them, to put some of my physical energy into them. I believe well-made handcrafted things can bring joy to the people that will use them, as they do for those who make them.
From a production point of view, handmade also means control. It allows me not only to be able to guarantee the product will be made well, but also to constantly improve it and bring it to perfection.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
It took me a long time to realize that my father’s approach to work influenced me greatly. He taught me to solve problems logically and methodically, to apply math and physics, to ask questions, to search for answers in books, to think through sketches, and to recycle and use any kind of material to make what I want. I learned that if a tool you need doesn’t exist, you can design and make it yourself.
I was also very influenced by my first boss’s perseverance. She taught me that having a bad day is not a good excuse. Keep working.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. It never occurred to me that other people didn’t do the same in their free time. I thought that it was just part of one’s life. I attended a math and science type of high school, and I was sure I was going to study mathematics. It was only when I had to decide about the university application that I realized math wouldn’t be enough and that I wanted to design things — buildings, everything! Product design had everything I was interested in and was a wonderful marriage of artistic and scientific creativity at its best.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
As I said, I’m very curious, so I’d like to peek in many studios! I’d pay a visit to Bruno Munari, Paul Rand, Paul Klee and F. L. Wright. The four of them embody the essence of everything I love about design and art.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A somewhat elvish woolen hat my friend Lana knitted for me when we were still in college, the “Home of Us” comics my husband draws, the miniatures of us he made out of DAS clay, the drawing table my father made for me when I started my design studies, and a ceramic and felt brooch designed and made by my friend Kristin from KLTworks.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
By working. If it is a small rut and time allows it, I take a day off or just read, cook, go to the movies or go for a walk. I always find myself thinking about the designs during these small breaks, but the pressure is taken off.
If I feel I’m in bigger trouble and I can’t find a satisfying design solution, I just keep working – I know I have to stay focused, analyze things, try new approaches and experiment. Stopping doesn’t do the trick for me. Creativity and inspiration don’t come from idleness, but from continuous work.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Sharing a huge studio space with my husband and our cat, somewhere on Canada’s peaceful Northwest Coast, designing and making all I can possibly imagine. Basically, the roomier and more idealistic version of now, plus taking breaks in a wingsuit (can’t wait to try that!).