Ana Kras, Designer and Photographer

You only need to know a few things about Belgrade to understand where Ana Kraš comes from: It’s been invaded countless times throughout history, even by the Nazis, after which it was then ravaged by Tito, Milošević, the Kosovo War, and the associated NATO bombings. When it finally emerged from its troubles in 1999, its government and economy were in shambles; the average salary in Belgrade is still less than 400 euros per month. To have become a designer in this context is exceedingly difficult — Kraš’s design school had no workshop, materials, or experienced professors, and almost none of her compatriots can afford to spend money on furniture — and yet you won’t find a trace of that struggle in the talented 26-year-old’s work. At least not by looking at it. “Those years of isolation and depression affected everything, and it all has to do with the way I am,” she says. “But when that’s your reality, you just work and live and do things, even if the conditions around you aren’t very supportive.”

For Kraš, who grew up constantly drawing and making things in her parents’ copy shop and has never really lived outside Belgrade, the most obvious evidence of her background is in her approach to design in general. “Poor conditions help you develop other skills,” she says. “You learn to make your ideas very small, simple, and shy, and sometimes that’s the best way. In a good Western school, a kid has all the tools and possibilities, so he draws a fluid-shaped table in plastic, fabricates it with a prototyping machine, and there it is: a ridiculous thing that’s expensive to make. In a bad school in Serbia, even if the kid dreams of a white fluid table, there’s no way to make it. So he’ll draw something he can have done easily, and he’ll end up designing at least a practical thing.”

Kraš’s furniture — which she’ll exhibit at this year’s Salone Satellite showcase in Milan under the umbrella of the Young Serbian Designers platform — is practical and simply crafted in the best way, with a striking level of charm and sophistication: The base of her wooden coat rack is a xylophone of colored panels, while the shades of her Bonbon lamps are jewel-like wire frames strung with yarn. Good taste comes naturally to Kraš, evidenced in the fact that she’s also a gifted photographer. Here she shares some of her influences, the ones that have less to do with where she grew up than with how she sees the world.

First thing you ever made: “The first serious thing I made was a magazine called Panda. I was six or seven. Inside, I drew comic strips — five different stories, each one a few pages long — and it even had a music page, about Jason Donovan, with his details, birthday, songs, etc. It was all drawn and handwritten, then I made photocopies and was selling it in the park.”

Place you go to be inspired: “The feeling of being in motion inspires me more than the location itself. I try to travel as much as possible, no matter where I’m going. I totally fell in love with Rome. I love the mountains in Oregon, and a little spot on the coast in Montenegro where my father lives in a beach house. Though I think Berlin gives me the biggest creative rush, because it’s a patchwork city.”

What do you keep around your studio for inspiration? “Different presents and memories — toy cars, postcards, photographs, books, records, plants. Since I was a kid, my spaces were always full of paper because my parents run a photocopy shop. When surrounded by papers and crayons, I feel like working.”

Favorite everyday object: “My teapot — white ceramic, with a yellow plastic holder. I love the mis-match of the colors and materials. It’s a cheap Chinese object, but adorable.”

Piece you wish you’d made: “Plantpot+, designed by OD-DO architects. I think that small, simple idea is just lovable.”