In the first of our interview series titled In Common, we share a conversation with Oslo-based creative Maria Van Nguyen whose work we have admired for years. To us, Maria’s subtle expression and aesthetic sensibility feel like a breath of fresh air amidst the clutter of the internet.
Introduce yourself in one sentence.
I am a careful observer capturing ordinary, tranquil scenes.
What is a typical day like for you?
I start my morning slowly with meditation. A simple breakfast is joined with a glass of water, then followed by a warm cup of tea while I write down thoughts to clarify my day. After a peaceful hour my home turns into a studio and my focus turns towards the current project. Balance between work and life is important to me. If I can, I will shorten the work day and prioritise more time with loved ones. Unless I’m travelling, a typical day is ordinary with its routines, but I’m more than grateful.
Do you have any rituals to keep yourself balanced and grounded?
Daily meditation and yoga brings me to the present moment. They are a much needed breather for the emotional, sensitive being I am. I also list what I’m grateful for and it always reminds me of what matters the most.
How did your path as a multifaceted creative begin? What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?
From an early age I was certain I would be a fashion designer. I grew older and I learned more about the industry while simultaneously becoming more conscious of human impact on the natural environment. I realised it was no longer the path I wanted to take. It was a slow transition. During this period I felt low and insecure, but I knew it would pass so I let myself feel the feelings while continuing to explore personal projects. I am a naturally skilled creative and my hobbies have turned into work opportunities. Today I seamlessly combine design, illustration and photography: telling stories through visuals was always there.
What is something you feel strongly about that you wish to achieve or communicate through your work?
Even if it’s subtle my work conveys the notion of how we are all connected. My wish and intention is to inspire people to live more consciously as I feel deeply about conserving nature and its biodiversity.
How do you consider the idea or word luxury?
I see it as an inessential to indulge in. It is an idea that feels distant to me coming from how I was raised. My own philosophy is based on being content with less and utilising items as much as possible, in many ways the opposite of luxury. I think my kind of luxury would rather be the small joys and comforts in daily life.
For years, you have been an advocate for mindful consumption. How did your relationship with consumption arrive at this point?
After gaining knowledge about the industry and the impact of our excessive consumption I wanted to make changes in my life. I realised that I care more about the future of our natural environment than I do about my short-term happiness with material objects. Later on I’ve shared some of my thoughts in hopes that people are inspired to be more mindful.
Which qualities do you always look for when you make a new purchase?
I appreciate versatile, well-made and timeless pieces. Anything I bring into my life has to have a long-lasting value.
Share with us a project that you have recently started or finished.
For the past months I have been working on black and white illustrations, a bit different from my previous ones. I hope to make prints available in a month or two.
Lastly, we would love to hear some of your favourites.
‘The power of now’ and ‘A new earth’ by Eckhart Tolle. His perspective has helped me through tough times, and continue to inspire me every day.
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch. The devastating impact of humanity showcased in a visually astonishing documentary.
Favourite artist(s) and/or designer(s)?
Philosophy of Dieter Rams. Original Jil Sander designs. Photographs by Cody Cobb.