It's hard to conceive the idea of transforming concrete architecture, in its massive and heavy presence, into lightweight, functional jewelry; but that is exactly what Belgrade based designers Nina Lazic and Nemanja Viksan of Morf have accomplished. Inspired by ex-communist urban landscapes and aesthetics, Morf brings a new vision of personal accessories that challenge the perception of materials and give users a minimalist yet bold means of expression.
Your primary medium is concrete; why did you focus on this material?
We grew up surrounded by a lot of it. Concrete landscapes always felt like a natural environment for us. Ever since we were little, we were surrounded by modernist concrete architecture that was an integral part of our childhood. In our imagination, these spaces have transported us to different worlds and often even into the future. This is why concrete always felt like a great material to work with, allowing us to experiment with the kinds of raw and industrial aesthetics we really love.
What is your favorite part of the process?
The actual production process is quite complex, and it’s all done by hand. It’s pretty demanding and although we do love producing the pieces, it’s the process of coming up with new ideas that makes us the most excited. Ideas spring from everyday situations, we constantly brainstorm new designs, but the best moment is when we bring all those to the table and start shaping the complete collection.
Tell us about a day in the offices of Morf.
Given that we were originally industrial designers by profession, naturally, we paid quite a bit of attention to our office's interior design. It's the space we spend a lot of time in, and it had to inspire us. Given that there's only two of us at the moment, our schedules are not fixed, and we usually split the day between brainstorming, troubleshooting, and the actual production. We also love to change our environment and research, so a lot of our work is done off-site.
What is your favorite or most influential book?
An incredible life story of one of the best photographers of all time, Sebastiao Santiago. It's a story of his experiences of witnessing some of the most significant events in recent history: international conflicts, famines, and exoduses that are vividly described in the book "From My Land to My Planet". Originally an economist, he started working in photography at the age of 29 in Paris, from where he traveled all over the world. Together with his wife, they planted about 2 million trees on their own initiative and restored an entire forest together with wildlife. He managed to connect activism and professionalism, talent, and humanitarianism, and his story is a great inspiration for us.
What music set the tone at Morf Studio?
Oh, that really depends on the time of day and mood. We are drawn to electronic music, sometimes very atonal and experimental, sometimes more accessible. We’d say it goes from drony ambient when we just need to set the mood in the background to underground techno when we’re working manually.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
We’ve always been passionate about great design, new technologies, and unconventional ideas and this is the project where we combined all those aspects ourselves. It’s not difficult to be passionate about something that is an integral part of your life – we wake up, we think, breathe and live design – and never get bored of it.
Your work takes inspiration from Brutalism Architecture; how and why has this been such an influence in your work.
Growing up in Serbia, we were surrounded by Brutalism our whole lives. Today, we have a deeper understanding of these spaces, their concepts, meanings, ideas and how the culture of Yugoslavia shaped them – which, in turn, shaped us. We have a really strong emotional connection with this kind of concrete environment. Architecture is really a footprint of history and captures the values and beliefs of its society at the moment it is built – and the Yugoslav landscape is filled with experimentation, a richness of cultural references and a creativity that can’t be seen in many places. It was natural that this would influence our work, as well.
As two entrepreneurs, what advice do you give to younger generations of designers looking to start their own design business?
First of all, understand that starting a brand is a fine balance between designing a great product and finding a market fit. You’ll need to think primarily like a businessman, and then like a designer, keeping the boring but crucial financial aspects in mind while also maintaining your own creative originality. You need to have a clear vision of the values you bring to your audience that go beyond the product itself. Communicate your purpose first and why you’re making what you’re making. Planning and strategy are key. Don't be afraid of mistakes - and learn from them.
What do you hope customers experience when they use your products? What has been your most memorable experience with a customer?
It’s mostly – but not exclusively – people who like a low-key look and love accessories with a meaning. Our jewellery is made to complement, not overpower personality, and that’s what people recognize. In today’s noisy world, some people like to turn to understated design, which can still exude a lot of character without the necessity of being ‘loud’ in style. They usually experience curiosity at first because the product is so unique, and then that moves to excitement when they have a deeper look and get to know it better. Every experience with our customers is memorable, and we really cherish these small moments that fuel us to keep going.
What is the vision for your brand in the next years to come? What new products are you working on?
We can’t say too much because it’s still in the prototyping process, but we’re working on something quite different from jewellery this time. From the very beginning our vision for MORF was to move into other product categories aside from jewellery and we’re slowly working towards making that happen.
Share a few thoughts of what you like about being part of the Aztro community?
We love that it’s a tightly curated selection of fantastic brands that are not easily discoverable otherwise. All these people make beautiful things and Aztro is doing a fantastic job discovering and promoting real gems!