In a world that moves way too fast, we’re excited to have caught up with Maria & Nik of Alma, an Ontario based creative Studio that’s intentionally slowing things down. Alma presents inviting aesthetics through skilled craftsmanship and very intentional form. Masterfully working with wood, to foster unique, humane and ecologically healthy modern environments. Nik, an engineer by trade, can often be found in his office solving complex technical challenges for clients, whilst moonlighting as a maker, tinkering with his CNC into the late hours. Maria, a UX/UI Designer by trade, builds digital products, as a polymath, sketching, textile art and painting are equally her domain. Collaborating through Alma, there’s a fluidity between these Digital & Physical spaces.
They are embracing a more mindful approach to craft and celebrating time spent in the process of making, sharing this slow-living mindset with others. We asked Maria & Nick the not so commonly asked questions, diving into their object inspirations.
MARIA x NIK
A few years back we bought our first house. We were filled with enthusiasm. It was an opportunity to create an environment that would truly reflect us, our families, lineage, and tastefully embody our values.
We’re both creative people, and very practical. We found ourselves needing something that we’d use in our everyday life, but still had the aesthetic quality of home decor, the perfect soft accent to our linear off-white rooms.
As designers, naturally, we set out to create it ourselves! We weren’t sure what’d be. One winter evening, Maria was asked by a family member what she’d desired as a birthday gift that year. After thinking about it for a while, she realized she didn't have a suitable tray for small desk items. After thinking for a moment, we looked at each other and eureka!
We found our object.
It went pretty fast from there. Sketched several shapes on paper, ideating a bit over a glass of wine and imagined how we’d use the trays for charcuterie even! The form manifested out of the various concepts and Nik then worked his magic, creating 3D models of the trays, honing its organic shape, perfecting the curves and ironing out every detail. Next morning we started the process of manufacturing.
We are very passionate about the natural world, and we have an affinity for elegant design and really get into the details. Nik chose a beautiful piece of maple. It had an uneven pattern, with a few imperfect holes that are naturally created by worms. Nik CNC’d the rough forms and then polished them by hand. Nik spent considerable time sanding and forms, coating them with colorless oil to preserve the natural appearance of the wood. The result was stunning! It was the object that we were looking for. It’s versatile, we use it for any any and everything. Even without anything in it, it’s an object of beauty.
Tell us about a time it was hard to be yourself, or when being yourself led to a breakthrough?
We are perfectionists. We value quality and we pay extreme (maybe too much) attention to details and materials. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s both a gift and a curse. We live and breathe design, as visual and tactile learners, we spend time perfecting our sketches and polishing our products. It’s important for us to touch and feel smooth shapes with balanced topography, without hard edges, embracing the natural textures of the wood.
We seek to make objects make you feel, both in a tactile and in an emotional sense, and desire to create delight for the viewer.
This approach takes time. And in today's fast culture investing the time in a more mindful process of creation, it's perceived as a “luxury.” This significantly narrows down the market that we can serve and customers who can appreciate our objects as we create them in small batches and sell them only in selected places.
However, we are mindful of these challenges. We don’t make our pieces for fast growth or in support of mass-consumerism ideology. We create out of love for craft and enjoyment of the process, and relish in the results. We make things that are long lasting, age beautifully and can be passed on for generations .
We wonder what stories they will tell 10-20 years from now.
WHAT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT STUDIO ALMA, THAT YOU’D WANT EVERYONE TO HEAR?
Studio Alma was born as a result of us longing for tactile (physical) feeling. We both have more than a decade working in the digital industry, sitting in front of our monitors all day is the norm. Having only built digital experiences for so long, it felt like something natural to us was missing. We craved change. Our fingers felt hungry, so we started making, and we created Alma.
The funny thing is that we both really enjoy digital and physical routines. We love our digital day-to-day work as much as we care for Alma. Now that we have both, we feel more balanced.
Nik built his CNC himself, it’s an ever evolving effort he’s really proud of. Maria can be fully immersed in her digital world, or wander off into her Art studio, working on the next textile art piece, experimenting with multimedia, or getting back to traditional drawing and painting from one day to the next.
MARIA x NIK
But Alma is what binds us, it’s our evening conversation, it’s our early morning ideation, it’s our joy when the objects come to life, it’s our frustration when something doesn’t work as we expected, it’s our life. Alma has brought us through the challenges of recent years and it continues to do so by letting us embrace our nature as crafters, makers, experimenters, inventors and entrepreneurs.
ABOUTAttentive to details and quality of materials, the studio focuses on creating timeless pieces that stick with their owners throughout life. That’s why the primary material of Alma’s products is wood - familiar, versatile, sustainable material of the future, carefully chosen to sustain function and extend the life of Alma’s creations. By highlighting the patterns of knots, the annual rings, the holes left from the bugs and worms, the studio embraces the nature of wood highlighting - what otherwise would be considered as imperfections - for Alma it is here to exist and be presented as a natural beauty.