Hi Onka, how would you define yourself professionally?
At the moment, I would say I am an illustrator. This is a question I ask myself regularly, because I am never interested in just one single technique or subject. In the past three years, I have been drawing, sculpting, and working with ceramics and pottery.
« I love going to factories and understand the backstage aspect of things. »
Have you been trained for what you do today?
I studied Fashion Design (womenswear) at Central Saint Martins in London. This has made me, theoretically at least, a fashion designer. I also worked for more than 10 years in the fashion industry in Milan – for Carol Christian Poell , Strenesse and Giorgio Armani – where I specialised in leather and accessories design. My degree at university was very much focused on drawing and illustration though, so I guess I have been trained to be an illustrator in a way. Even when I was working for fashion brands, I was drawing everything by hand.
Why this transition from fashion design to illustration then?
When working for big fashion companies, I felt my job was too product-orientated. Everything was done to produce and sell more, and revolved around merchandising. There was only little space left for my creativity. I was frustrated, and all of this did not feel right for me anymore. At the same time, I had always been interested in drawing, and in how things are made. Moving from fashion design to illustration was therefore a very logical step for me. I applied afterwards illustration to ceramics and glasswork. All these techniques are linked at the end, they just require different materials and supports.
What is your typical working day?
Maybe the biggest luxury I have is that I can organise my own time. So I don’t really have a typical working day. Sometimes I wake up, and I know nothing good will come out of me, no matter how hard I try. And sometimes, I can produce up to five illustrations before midday. I enjoy working at night as well. With time, I have learned that there is no use in forcing yourself, even though, it is a different story when you are working for a client and there are tight deadlines.
« What’s important is to always keep going and trying, and to be open to things that come your way. »
What are your essential tools?
My quill and some ink. As I only draw by hand, they are my absolute essentials! My brushes, pottery wheel and oven are also very important. I love my tools !
What are the things you enjoy the most about your work?
I love going to factories and understand the backstage aspect of things. I always try to do things myself. I enjoy working with my hands, be it drawing, building something, or even cooking. Processes are always pretty similar. What’s important is to always keep going and trying, and to be open to things that come your way.
Do you feel that you work alone or within (a) team(s)?
I work for clients, but alone and from home. I have two huge desks, one for illustrations and one for ceramics and pottery. When it comes to illustration, I am lucky to draw for magazines, but also for individuals who want portraits of themselves or of their family members. As for the ceramics, I make them for restaurants, cafes and private households.
How do you manage the business and administrative sides of your activity?
I do everything by myself and it’s a nightmare! It takes me a lot of time and energy, and I am not very good at it. But somehow I manage to get through it.
Do you have special projects coming up?
Recently I was drawing portraits for six designers who were exhibiting at the Salone del Mobile in Milano. I am also very happy to collaborate with a very cool gallery that will host dinners.
Are you looking for collaborators?
I’m always open to new collaborations, whether it is with a restaurant that needs new plates, a magazine that wants an illustration or a shop that is looking to sell teacups. I am very enthusiastic about getting involved in new projects!