28 December 2012
An interview with Mara van Mara and the Pillows
I came to know Mara through a friend who pointed out that we both speak Finnish. Mostly though, our discussions are carried out in Dutch, but filled with anecdotes from our lives in Finland. What I value most is the fruitful professional-creative exchange: insights, feedback, understanding the way of life of each other. Mara made the music for Nina's Nature soundtrack, which you can find here. She is a creative multi talent - just take a look at her website maraah.net !
1. Tell us about yourself and about your business
Magic, intimacy and play are great themes in my work, which expresses itself through various media, including images, text and music. I'm an independent professional since 2006 and working as an artist, illustrator, graphic designer, writer, poet, text editor, web-programmer, musician and sometimes I'm also standing in front of a class room in one of these roles. "But...what do you actually do? What are you?" people ask me sometimes. "Well, all that and much more." I mostly answer.
Why should I pin myself down to one profession if I can choose to be free? I don't want to be limiting myself. I need the versatile creative living, in this way I never get bored. But all-right, people mostly want to divide things clearly, label them with just one word. In that case the label you may put on me is: storyteller.
2. How did you end up doing the work you're doing now?
I'm born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (1980). I've lived for some years in Helsinki, Finland (2000 - 2004) where I was working as Art Director. After that I studied arts at the art academy AKV | St. Joost in Den Bosch, the Netherlands (2004 - 2007). This is my background in short, but a more important question is: why do I make the work I do?
The inner need to create worlds has always been within me, I think. A way of survival against the boredom and loneliness of my youth. Already as a child I was fascinated with fairytales and stories. In the library you were allowed to borrow seven books at a time. I needed hours to complete my selection and it was always a painful parting when I had to take them back. But then new ones came home with me, and I could escape into them again.
Quite soon I realized that one can have one's own voice in it. I was drawing adventures from the moment I could hold a pencil and expressed stories in music and dance from the moment that I realized that legs can do more than just walk.
The world of fairy tales is not only a world for fun stories and wonders, it is also a place of tragedy and darkness. But in that world you can find solace, because it not only brings you magic, but also a certain alchemy - the horrors and despair we sometimes experience in reality can get a fairytale helping of beauty and humor, and transform them to something we might even long to.
To be able to make such worlds (mine or those of my client) and to take others out of this reality - even if it's for a short time - gives me the greatest satisfaction I know.
3. What is your favourite tool and material?
Oh, that's a difficult question! Everything I can get my hands on? Well, practically it comes down to the moment and project or commission I'm working on. Although I have to say that in most cases I prefer to work with analog media. In these fleeting, digital times it is especially satisfying to work with things that are tangible and have the wonderful quality of being slow and imperfect. There is a simplicity in them that is easily accessible for people and thus easier to approach.
In my art work I prefer to work with charcoal or dry point etchings at the moment. In music I prefer to use analog instruments for my recordings. I use singing as an instrument, but also pots and pans for percussion for instance. In design work, like for instance websites, I can't really avoid the digital world, but in it I'm also continually looking for as much simplicity as possible.
4. What are you grateful for in this moment?
That I can do what I do in my life. I see it as a privilege to be able to make things and also earn my living with it. I'm so lucky!
Additionally, the fans of my one-mans-band Mara and the Pillows (www.facebook.com/maraandthepillows) are the greatest wonder in my life at the moment. I never started making music for a public, the first songs sort of fell into place almost accidentally, but in one way or another people have heard my voice and found me, and there are more and more fans every day. The support is extremely overwhelming. Without my fans I would never have been able to make and publish my debut album Strawberry Hermitage. The album is now for sale with a beautiful book. I'm really proud of it. And what a joy that I've been able to make this! Sometimes I still can't believe it.
5. Are you preparing something at the moment that will soon get out there in the world - something you already want to share?
At the moment I'm making the second CD of Mara and the Pillows. It will be called Unimaginary Friend and consist also of songs with guest appearances of other musicians. Mara and the Pillows will also get a website of her own, at www.maraandthepillows.com , but all songs (including the most recent ones) can now be heard at www.maraah.net, where you also can find my other artwork.
6. Who is your hero, source of inspiration or idol?
The Northern countries have influenced my work a lot. It is not only Finland, but also Norway and foremost Iceland. I go there a lot to get new impulses. The sea is also a great source of inspiration, I think it's because she's always different and yet always the same. I've got a lot of other muses as well, people with great philosophies that touch me with their stories. I admire honest people who can work hard, almost obsessively for the things they believe in. That can be a business of their own, art, music, food, but also a family.
7. Do you have other things you're passionate about, next to your work?
I'm passionate about every day that I realize I am and I can create. For me there is not really a difference between my work and my free time, I don't really experience a border between one and the other. My life and work are more an amalgam in which I either continually work or continually am on a vacation. I still don't know which of the two it is. I hope that it will stay that way.