Johanna Tagada, London-based interdisciplinary artist and founder of Bonjour Supermarket and Poetic Pastel on the positive effect of art and the reality of taking the leap from employee to full-time creative.
Johanna, can you tell us a little about your early days. Where did you grow up, what was your dream job as a child?
I was born in Alsace, France, where I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents in their beautiful farm house. I spent most of my days playing in the countryside, inventing games in the family’s gardens after school, looking at books with images and stories of faraway places with my grandfather before going to sleep.
Living in cities made me aware of how lucky I was to grow up so close to nature and to be surrounded by animals. The connection I have with nature is still an important part of my personality even though I don’t live that close to it anymore.
“My grandmother’s interest in flowers and plants shaped my esthetic. I have always been attracted to various forms of Art and the positive feelings that it can generate.”
As a child I wanted to become a dancer or a painter. My grandmother’s interest in flowers and plants shaped my aesthetic. I have always been attracted to various forms of Art and the positive feelings that it can generate. I noticed at an early stage of life how simple things such as drawing and dancing could bring me peace and happiness. The same great feeling that I can get by preparing and drinking tea.
In COLLETION VOL IV – The Diary of a Palm Tree – and generally through the photo series “Les Plantes de Mamie” and “The Art of Simplicity” I put into light how my grandparents are and still remain one of my biggest inspiration.
You draw inspiration from theories related to Art Therapy can you tell us more about the concept behind it and how it inspires your work?
Art therapy and color theories inform my choice of the color palette that I utilize in my work. My use of pink is predominant as it has the purity of white and the passion and intensity of red. In the West it’s often described as a feminine color yet often perceived differently in traditional Eastern cultures.
This summer, I saw for the first time some Tantra paintings from Rajasthan collected by Frank Andre Jamme. They shared similarities with some of my artworks, both on an aesthetic and functional way. Tantra paintings are made to be looked at, serving as a focus point for meditation. I really relate to this form of art as the main aim of my work is to make the viewer feel calmer and in union with her/himself and the world. The primary wish of every work I do is to take others in consideration and make them feel included.
You also run Bonjour Supermarket, can you tell us more about this project and what we can find on the online shop?
The Bonjour Johanna textiles are produced in very limited quantity and in excellent conditions. The fabrics are printed in Germany using German and French cotton. I always design and sew the sample pieces myself and the final pieces are sew in France by professional.
The other products available on the shop are Fine Art Prints and artist publications by Poetic Pastel Press, which is my publishing project.
The signed Fine Art Prints are printed in a professional Fine Art Prints studio in Berlin with whom I work since two years now. The publications are all signed, hand numbered and hand-bound. From the conceptualization to the binding everything is produced in my studio.
Each order placed on the shop is packed and shipped by myself. I dedicate one or two mornings each week to packing and shipping. Each order includes a hand-written note.
How do you promote your products? Do you have a marketing strategy in place?
For the products being produced in limited quantity (thirty pieces in general for the textile, fifty for the publications) I don’t have a marketing strategy other than a monthly newsletter. The items fortunately always happen to sell themselves and I rarely share them on my social medias. I believe people who purchase those items do so for the philosophy, lifestyle and messages their carry.
Regarding Art bookshops that carry my publications, it’s a mix of circumstances. In some cases they have approached me and in other I did the first step to approach them. It’s an honor to have the Tate Modern, Buchhandlung Walther König, Utrecht Now IdeA, the Photographer’s Gallery, Art Book Stan as stockists. I feel lucky to work not just with places I like but also with people I consider as friends.
How do you divide your time to work on your art and on the shop?
I am thankful for all the orders that come in every week from so many different countries, however, as I wish to focus on my artistic practice and the online shop is very demanding, from January 2016 there will be no more than six beautiful items available.
What was one challenge that you faced as a creative and entrepreneur and how did you get over it?
The first challenge was probably when I was half freelance half employed and decided to quite my two days a week job to be my own boss 24/7. Fortunately it’s at that time that I started to have more collectors, commissioned work and orders on Bonjour Supermarket. The entrepreneurial path is made of surprises.
I don’t want to be seen an entrepreneur (even if this is my one of my current status) but rather as a creative. I want to focus more on my body of work and creative projects. I plan to start a bi-annual publication with a focus on one of my passion in 2016 and I’m currently in the challenging process of finding the financial support for it.
What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
Probably when members of the Bank Ernst & Young in London contacted me to commission a large scale painting as an homage to World War I. It felt quite nice to be contacted by such an established institution, not to be told about an unpleasant financial situation but rather to be informed that they are interest in my artwork.
Who do you see as an innovator in your industry and why?
I am not looking for any innovator. I look for people that are still able to generate quality and debate, not to just the Art industry but in general. People with questions and answers. Quality and simplicity is something that tends to fade away. Using traditional materials such as a pen or 100% organic cotton can be seen as „not innovating“ but I enjoy seeking „innovations“ within traditions such as paintings, textile, ceramic. This result in my love for the work of Japanese brand Cosmic Wonder or painters like Yoshitomo Nara.
“I look for people that are still able to generate quality and debate, not to just the Art industry but in general. People with questions and answers. Quality and simplicity is something that tends to fade away.”
What was the best life and business advice someone has ever given to you and why does it resonates with you?
Here are a few from various friends. : “Focus on your work“, “Stay true to yourself“, “Always be ready to learn“, “Press coverage is nice but only distraction the main focus is your work“, “Don’t be scared of expressing your thoughts“.
What would be your advice for an artist just coming out of school/university? What are the first steps to start making a living with their art and passion?
I am afraid I don’t have already made advice or answers for those questions. Having one simple road to follow would be very easy but it’s not how it works. As artists, in all our similarities we still remain unique individuals and have our own baggage. A good start is to discover what is it that you carry and what is that makes you unique.
“It’s important to know if making a living as a creative is what you truly want. It’s not easy at all. You have to rely on yourself 100%. So it’s important to ask yourself “Am I reliable?”. The first step is really to get to know yourself.”
It’s important to know if making a living as a creative is what you truly want. It’s not easy at all. You have to rely on yourself 100%. So it’s important to ask yourself “Am I reliable?”. The first step is to get to know yourself. Success can be very rewarding but unlike most of other jobs you can hardly take a holiday from it. As an artist I believe it is also important to think about how you would like to live and work, to create your own space both in your mind and in the physical term.
Finally, don’t be scared to learn several languages. This has been very useful for my life, even if working with galleries or agents that promote and exhibit your work, you are still the one who can better than anyone explain and talk about your work, practice and path.
Last but not least, can you tell us some facts we might not know about you:
- I talk pretty fast.
- I am totally vegetarian and Vegan unless I am staying at a farm and have access to dairy from animals that are treated with total respect.
- Over the last months I tried to change all my cosmetic and other products to Cruelty-Free products, not tested on animals.
- Growing up and raised on a farm since I moved to cities my alternative as been to purchased and consume organic and locally grown food as much as possible.