Joana Santamans – designer extraordinaire, industry innovator and the talent behind Coordonne’s Naturae collection. The Barcelona based designer has always found nature to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration. We stole 10 minutes of her precious time for a catch up.
Q) Joana, how did your career in design start? What is your story?
“Ever since I was little, my favourite way to pass the time was to paint and do different kinds of handicrafts. I went on to study graphic design, as I thought that within the field of the arts, this was the profession that most closely matched what I was interested in. However, I began to feel constrained by graphic design, so I did a postgraduate degree in creative illustration, and I began to paint. Little by little, between painting, design and illustration, I discovered my creative world, and opportunities presented themselves in the professional world. I paint murals for hotels and restaurants, I illustrate books for different publishers, I do illustrations for posters and different brands, and exhibit my collections of paintings using oil and other techniques.”
Q) What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
“More than design, I paint. To paint is to strip yourself of your ego. I look for the essence, to be able to touch the soul of the viewer. In the process of painting, I try to be very present and connect with the action I am performing, but sometimes it’s a struggle.
Painting is a necessity for me. When I paint, I feel that I am doing what I have come to this world to do. I don’t really believe in talent, but rather in the desire to do something and the will to delve deeper into it. If you frequently practise a certain activity, over time you will become an expert in it. The same happens with illustration and painting.
I loved being able to create the Naturae collection with Coordonné, it has been an ambition of mine for many years. I’ve always been so drawn to interior design, ever since I was a child!
I’m delighted to have published two books, VIDA. Bestiari il·lustrat and VIDA. Herbari il·lustrat. More recently I completed Animals Invisibles, with a foreword by Viggo Mortensen.”
Q) Please tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the Naturae collection for Coordonné.
“All my work until now has essentially been a representation of plants and animals. Nature in general is an inexhaustible source of inspiration. You only have to observe it to be able to marvel at it. We humans are part of nature, yet we often forget this. I have always felt a strong connection to animals. As a child, I was lucky enough to grow up in a rural environment and I felt a strong connection to my father’s farm. When you live in the chaos of the city, you need the energy of animals and nature. I feel drawn towards looking into the eyes of all these species with whom we share the planet, and I marvel at their existence.”
Q) What would you say the most common design elements in the collection are?
“In my paintings I focus particularly on the perspective, the composition and the colour. They say the eyes are the mirror of the soul. I love to paint this shared soul that connects us with everyone, or at least that’s what I try to do.
For me, beauty is an essential part of my work. Art is a universal language, which crosses cultural, language and social boundaries. Art should connect us with beauty. Capturing the beauty that surrounds us, and immortalising it, is my mission. In this way we will always be able to remember it when we are not able to see it.”
Q) How would you describe your studio’s aesthetic and how does it inspire you?
“I enjoy bright colours. I’m inspired by brushstrokes and detail. I feel more comfortable with large format. I like to observe and immerse myself in the creativity of life. I’m interested in naturalism.
I would say that I’m an upbeat person, yet at the same time I want to feel unsettled by the magic of life. There needs to be an intensity in my painting, it needs to leave its mark on you. It’s about generating a certain mysticism and making others take part in my way of seeing the world.
I think a brushstroke is interesting when the energy of its author vibrates through it; the intensity, time and life that this brushstroke contains. Sometimes it is a meticulous stroke, and at other times it is a spontaneous brushstroke full of vigour.
I have often been told that I look like a naturalist painter, because in the process of painting, what I like most is to observe. It is like zooming in on an entire universe.”
Q) If you could change anything about the design industry, what would it be?
“I am lucky to receive commissions where the briefing is to convey my inner world. In some way or another I have managed to create a world of my own and a kind of creative brand that helps me to evolve and which defines me.
There is no aspect of art that I do not support. There are only certain drawings or paintings that I am not drawn to because I feel they lack depth, are too simple or they lack personality and are repetitive.
Regarding the industry in general, I would like it to be more ecological, more sustainable and more responsible. I wish fewer products could be produced, and those which are designed, are done so with the utmost care.”
Q) What is your design motto?
“They say that imitation is the sincerest form of paying tribute. This is largely what I do in my work. In nature, everything has already been invented; all that’s left is to look at it and marvel. In my case, the artist’s job is to select the what and the how, and to add my own brushstroke to it. In the end, the images that I create contain my way of being, my point of view, my perspective on the world. This, I think, is what distinguishes me from the standard image. The standard image contains a thousand lights and shapes and I choose one. Both the standard image and the one I create are real. In the end, reality is nothing more than what you experience.
I believe that an image becomes memorable when it touches that universal soul; that which we all understand, far beyond social conventions, stereotypes and fashions. Images that have a unique inner voice.
For years I had been longing to make a wallpaper collection. So Naturae has been a dream come true, and just before my daughter was born!
The experience of working with Coordonné has been really rewarding. I felt they trusted me from the first moment and it was like working as a family. They are such a friendly, close-knit team. As for the process of working, it was ideal. They gave me total freedom to put forward my proposals and ideas and they helped me in every way they could to make it possible.
Working with Coordonné has been a dynamic, enjoyable and, above all, very enriching experience. With their experience of more than 40 years in the sector, I have learnt so many fascinating things! The quality of the wallpaper and the printing, and the way they explain each project is so carefully put forward and detailed – exactly how I like it. Having such a specialised team next to me – it felt like I was flying!
I am so glad that with this collection, a selection of my large-format oil paintings and some of my most requested murals, they can reach a much wider audience at a more accessible price than the original work. I believe that art, and being able to surround oneself with beauty, is a right that we should all be able to enjoy.”