We have to admit that we are particularly pleased with stories of local entrepreneurs with creative visions, and one of them is the one about Studio Wallart, whose founder and director, Josipa Maras, is a true inspiration. In fact, it is the first Croatian wallpaper factory that specializes exclusively in the design and production of specific wallpapers, of which those in the form of murals stand out as a product of digital painting, waterproof variants and numerous other decorative forms for the decoration of wall elements!
This unique project is the winner of numerous awards and international recognitions, and Josipa is one of those women who once again showed that it is possible to turn your passion into a business and enjoy every new working day. Therefore, in order to find out more details about everything, we talked to Josip, who revealed everything we were interested in!
If I remember correctly, before Studio Tapeta, you had the brand Marastracije, which offered wonderful posters. Tell us how the transition to a slightly bigger project like Studio came about?
Marastrations started as a project where I wanted to bring my long-standing love for painting to the wider masses. Since there was nothing like it in Croatia at the time, Marastracije quickly became the audience's favorite and were very happily chosen as gifts on all occasions. They introduced me to the world of interiors, where I saw an opportunity to take painting outside the box. Wallpaper as murals did not exist on the Croatian market until then, and it was a great stepping stone for us. Wallpaper is my destiny. Nothing less. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of doing painting and enjoying life from it. Even today, I really live much more beautifully than I dreamed. But only because I didn't sleep at night.
Studio Wallart also launched the first domestic wallpaper factory. How challenging was that move and did you encounter any difficulties during its implementation?
Starting your own factory in Croatia when you are building a story from scratch and you are 34 years old, at a time when not a single competition from European funds was open, is extremely challenging in all fields. I know my capabilities very well and I would never have embarked on such an adventure if my husband, an oil engineer who for years managed oil plants around the world, had not joined my business two years ago. His knowledge, skills and energy were key factors for such a large and challenging project. The last 4 months have been the most difficult for us since we count our working years. We spent every weekend working, giving up everything except our children. We used to welcome the morning together with the machines.
The entire process from planning to realization lasted a year. We encountered a lot more problems than we thought we could handle. But what was most beautiful to me in that whole story was the fact that at no time when we were at the bottom and had 101 problems, we didn't want to be anywhere else. All along we knew and believed that these were opportunities given to us to acquire some new knowledge and skills that would serve us later. Let's put on some new shoes, because our existing ones are a bit tight. We simply believed in that story with every atom of ourselves and knew that everything happens for a reason. Now everything is working at full speed and our happiness and gratitude are immeasurable. I am free to note that wallpaper has been an absolute hit in interior design for the past few years. How does the general public react to this type of home furnishing and do you have any key tips on how to best fit wallpaper into your space?
When it comes to wallpaper in Croatia, I have no room for modesty. Their rise happened with our arrival on the scene, since we were the first in Croatia. I am proud because we started a whole branch of industry and business. Other companies inspired by my work also appeared, upholsterers got their hands full, manufacturers of materials and glues too. For the implementation of wallpaper in the interior, it is always recommended to arrange the palette of colors, materials and textures well. Choose a style that you like and maybe seek professional help if you are not sure. We are always available for consultation.
Is there a wallpaper 'model' that is the most sought-after, that is, the best-selling?
Since we offer over 200 different wallpapers, of course there are always some that fare better. But when choosing wallpaper, the entire interior is looked at and the target group that will use that space is taken into account. Of course, the same wallpapers do not go in children's playrooms, wellness centers, ski resorts, summer resorts and the like. Our offer is quite varied, so we have a lot of tricks up our sleeve for all the walls that need us. Is it possible to order personalized wallpapers?
Personalized wallpapers are my everyday life. I in the company am responsible for that part of the work. Every day, we are offered opportunities all over the world to collaborate with the most prestigious interior design studios and together with them create wallpaper lines for hotel chains, catering and tourist facilities, as well as private villas and houses. I love creating new things, and I especially love when on the other hand I have excellent mentors who have a very refined taste for combining colors and materials.
The olive tree is officially the most beautiful wallpaper in the world, and it was created exactly that way. In cooperation with my dear colleague Klaudija Zubčić, we did it for a hotel immersed in an olive grove and overlooking the sea from the first row. We recently did a big and ingenious project in London, but they threatened me to keep quiet for a while longer. We are currently working on a project in Switzerland in collaboration with an Italian interior design studio and I am very excited to show the final results. The downside is that my day lasts the same 24 hours and I don't get to satisfy the market. Currently, the waiting list for a completely new custom made wallpaper is 5-6 months.
What is it that sets Studio Tapeta apart from other brands?
By purchasing Studio wallpaper, in addition to top quality materials and manufacturing technology, you are purchasing art. Just like when you buy a painting, you don't buy a canvas, you invest in art. Wallpaper is just a medium that gives us the opportunity to implement art in the most efficient way possible in our modern life. Since I have been painting for years, creating pictures using different techniques, today I use that same hand to create wallpapers. In my opinion, it is less important whether the pen that the hand is holding is wooden or digital. The same hand and the same will are behind every wallpaper, as it used to be behind every picture. Along with talent and practice, digital painting also requires a high level of technical education since everything is done on a couple of different programs. I can't hide my happiness that clients recognized the value of our products and gave us their trust and adopted us all over the world.
You have been engaged in painting, graphic and web design for many years! Where do you get your creative energy from and do you ever encounter blocks?
Painting is simply woven into my DNA. All the things I observe, I look at them through the prism of a brush and some techniques. I imagine how it could be drawn, styled, redesigned. Graphic design is my profession and these knowledge and skills have helped me a lot in capitalizing on my hobby. Basically, I have no problems with blocks and creativity. The only deficit I regularly notice in this whole process is time. He is always missed. And even when some blockages occur, I think they are not blockages or that the muse of inspiration has failed us. I think that some ideas simply need a fermentation time.
What does your typical working day look like?
Happy. Let's say that at the beginning of the year I bought a new sofa set, today I could not give an opinion on what kind of product it is because we spend very little time resting. I can't say that I don't miss it, but I don't regret that I'm not currently in a situation where I know which series are great and which is the new place in town. I get up every morning at 6 o'clock. I have a privilege that I really use, I don't have to be punctual at work, so I like to spend the morning until 9 o'clock doing private duties and routines without stress. Going to the office is something that makes me very happy every morning. I can't wait to come and drink another coffee with my colleagues. I have a great team and a great atmosphere. And for me personally, that is the most important prerequisite for any job. After the morning meeting, we all get down to work.
My working day mostly flies by in meetings in the showroom, staying in production, communicating with clients and colleagues. I still mostly do the creative part of my work late at night because that's the only time I have time and peace. Going to practice with my son, taking my daughter to piano and gymnastics seem like substitutes in hockey. My husband and I just change from the office to the car. Our life is currently designed so that we don't have to start the car to go to work, kindergarten and school and we don't have to waste time in traffic, which is a big plus for the rhythm we currently have. This kind of pace is not my desire in the long run and I think it is unsustainable, but this is a phase of big investments and big decisions that will make it much easier and improve our quality of life in the coming times. You can boast that you are the winner of the entrepreneurial Oscar. How difficult is it to be an entrepreneur in Croatia and what would you say to those who are just starting out? Being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle and it is definitely a discipline that is not for everyone. Those who are not for it are in no way less valuable than us. I personally don't like propaganda when young people are persuaded to become entrepreneurs. We do not all have the same capacities, the same mindset and circumstances. Someone who believes in his story and fights for it with every atom of himself, does not need my advice to be persistent and not give up. They know it and wear the tattoo a little deeper under their shirt. Those who do not feel it and are not ready to stay awake at night do not need to say anything. Croatia is not an ideal country for entrepreneurship, but ideal does not exist. There are only opportunities that strengthen us and teach us to be competitive with big economic powers and that we are proud to come from Croatia.
Speaking of awards, with Studio Tapeta you won the prestigious Archiproducts Design Award longlisted for the Maslinik wallpaper, you were nominated for the German Design Awards 2022, you were chosen as the most successful in the category 'Development of ideas and innovations in entrepreneurship in Central and Southeastern Europe', as part of the "Creators for the Centuries" award at the "PERSPEKTIVE" International Economic Forum. How flattering are such accolades and are they really important to you?
Every kind word that someone finds about me and what I do, every recommendation or constructive criticism is important to me, so all these recognitions and awards are a great wind at my back. Especially since some of the recognitions came in a difficult period of my life, while my husband was on the field, and I was at home alone with my children and work. That was my energy and emotional booster and even today when I'm having a hard time, I read all those messages from wonderful people. All those nice words that someone says to me mostly talk about the person who wrote them to me. I am immensely grateful to all the people who walked with me even one step on this path. Each of them helped that today I have the opportunity to employ people, to create art with a Croatian signature that competes with the most advanced forces in the world of design.
Where do you see Studio Tapeta and yourself in the coming years? What are your plans for the future?
I can see myself crystal clear in my new space, which will unite the showroom, offices and production plant in one place, in an attractive location. We are now in two separate spaces and this solution is temporary for us. Our desire is to create a unique place in this area for art and production. This project will be another big step out of the comfort zone for us, facing many fears and despite them we want to follow the compass in our chest and the exact indicators that we can do it. But of all the wishes and plans, only one is unchangeable - to be healthy. When we wake up like that, everything else can be improvised!