They graduated sculpting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade and decided to turn their art to business. Milena Bakmaz and Tamara Cvetic make hand-made ambient led lamps. The lamps are inspired by the city, specifically its buildings and each piece is unique. They started their business with their own resources and began to build a recognizable urban brand – ArtinLight.
“We became friends at the university. We were always told we look alike and we would even get mistaken for each other on occasion. We shared the same love for metal, so our cooperation came naturally. After graduating, we worked on various projects and tried to “find ourselves” in other branches. Each of us spent some time abroad, separately. All this refined us and gave us a clear perspective on art. It took us several years and a lot of various experiences to understand that Belgrade is the place where we want to live and work,” Milena says.
It is very difficult to survive on the contemporary Serbian art scene because the artist does not have adequate support from the state and society, she notes. The artists have become their own audience. The circumstances being what they were, Milena and Tamara were forced to consider alternate routes, and their love of metal drew them towards the applied side of art. They joined forces, combining their knowledge, creativity, ideas and passion and got an interesting result.
“It’s not easy for an artist to enter business world. There are differences in the process itself, and the concept of time gets a completely new dimension. We as artists are taught that the most important part of creativity is the process, but not how to sell our work, so we had to learn that part for ourselves. In addition to design and procurement, we focused on the business plan and marketing issues. With some prior business experience and the help of young fellow entrepreneurs, who directed us and gave us useful advice, as well as some useful information, we managed to connect our art with business. We try to be quick learners, we have a clear vision and mission and so far, we’ve been able to avoid all hurdles on the road.
“It’s hard to survive on the market, which is saturated with serial products and where quantity has overtaken quality, especially for small manufacturers. People want it fast, easy, simple and cheap. Everything is changing rapidly, it’s not easy maintaining a constant. Sometimes it seems that one moment of carelessness or absence is enough to get you out of the game. You have to be ever-present, well-informed and well-advertised. In all of this, connections and acquaintances are key. These are not consumer goods, it is hard to reach our target group. It is art and hard work. But we believe in our product.”
Milena says that it is very important that the lamps are of top-quality and that no feature making them unique is neglected. They also plan to connect with architects and interior designers, because they feel their lamps are ideal for clubs and restaurants because of their urban flavour.
“For now, the challenge is to build a brand which people will be able to connect back to us as artists. We want to communicate with people from other branches and maybe clear a path for young colleagues and create an acceptable environment where education, knowledge and talent would be rewarded, because we think that artists need creative work in order to survive in society.”
Milena feels that young people should try to realize their ideas and shape them into a business.
“Although the environment is not exactly friendly to starting your own business, through the whole process you’ll determine your strengths and weaknesses and get a crystal clear image of yourself and your product. You’ll learn about marketing, administration, you’ll be a worthy opponent in a head-to-head battle with bureaucracy. There’s no guarantees you’ll make it, but the journey is really worth it,” these young artists say.
Writes: Tanja Njegomir