Marta Sasinowska is a designer and photographer, curator and event coordinator based in Chicago. She’s also the founder of Practice Studies, where she documents artists and makers and their creative processes as she travels the world. Instead of focusing on the final product, she focuses on highlighting the “ways to get there,” showing how much work goes into each handmade piece. She’s driven by the idea of connecting, sharing and building community bound by creative passions.
Your site provides a nice background on how you came to this place of “learning, exploring, and connecting.” Tell us more about the ways in which being a professional designer can interfere with those drives.
I feel like my full time position as a designer was always in a way against my nature. I never felt the need to climb a corporate ladder. It just wasn’t for me. But there were things about it I genuinely enjoyed – learning new things, creating, exploring new ideas, working with inspiring people. Those exact things have been always a big drive in other aspects of my life – a reason why I kept being involved in endless amount of creative side gigs, always wanting to try something new, connect with someone who will challenge me and teach me new ways. When that need became bigger than my need to have a steady pay check, it was clear to me I have to let go of my full time job to be able to distribute my energy in a way that fits me better. That’s when I finally had time to travel more and connect with creatives in other cities and countries which was exactly the vision I had for my project. In the process I’ve realized I do love design, but I like doing it on my terms, so I don’t have to build my life around my job, but rather take on freelance gigs that work with my schedule and my lifestyle.
Your site highlights 22 artists at the moment. How has this process changed the ways you think about your own creative practice?
Not to sound corny, but it really has been a life changing experience. Not only because I got to meet so many inspiring people, who in some cases have become dear friends, but I also got a first row seat to witness their process – it’s not something I looked up on youtube, saw on social media, or read somewhere – I got to see how they work, in their studios, with no interruptions. I got to ask questions, and have them explain ways they create. I’d leave every shoot so inspired to try doing what they do, and not to copy their process, but rather to experience it first hand to understand it even better. It made me appreciate their craft. It made me appreciate them as creators and their unique talents.
Every single person taught me something new, both about themselves but also about myself.
But the lovely takeaway has always been that so many amazing makers and creatives are simply winging it. They don’t have a certain set of rules they follow. They do what works for them. And that realization has helped me a lot in my practice. It has made me realize that I don’t need to fit in any particular mold. I don’t have to be a designer or a photographer or an artist, I can be all of it, or none of it. And it’s perfectly fine as long as I stay true to myself.
Part of your process is travel. What role do you think place plays in the creative process?
I’m a highly visual person, so my surrounding plays a very important role in my work and in my life in general. Lock me up in a dingy room and I will lose my ability to create. I’m into bright, clean, cozy spaces and clutter makes me crazy. But I also need variety. I feel like I’m more productive when I move around – it’s one of the reasons why freelancing resonates with me so much and why you’ll very often find me working in cafes around town. And that’s also a reason why I love traveling. It’s my second nature. Sometimes I don’t even care where I’m going as long as I’m going somewhere. I feel like every new place has a potential to teach you something and there is just so much to see and explore in this world, sitting in one place seems pretty wasteful.
How do you select people to feature?
There is really no rule to it. In some cases, I’m familiar with the artist or their work and I specifically go after them. But very often, especially when I travel, I find so many amazing creatives randomly, through social media, or through referrals. I really don’t care if they’re established artists or someone who’s just starting – I care more about their creative voice and how relevant is what they have to say. And I always want to make sure they can walk me through different aspects of their process and that they’re comfortable sharing that with me.
There’s a school of thought that says art, in large part, is about choices. How do the curatorial choices you’ve been making on this project compare to the kind of decision making you engage in on your own work?
I’m always driven by the idea of connecting and developing a network.
I love collaborating on projects, co-curate exhibitions, organize events that bring people together who share similar interests and passions. When I started Practice Studies, it was basically another way to build creative community.
Photography seems to be an important part of telling these stories. Do you ever worry that these images will blur the lines between documentary and editorial image-making?
With my photo stories I simply try to paint a portrait of a creative and their process.
And there are as many ways to do it, as there are people to photograph.
Everyone is different. Everyone reacts differently to having a camera pointed at their faces. Some just naturally dive into their work and forget i’m even there, the others need more directions. I cherish the fact that every session feels different. I want to believe it’s a reflection of who the person I’m photographing is (or what they want me to believe they are). So if some of the stories feel more stylized and staged, it’s because that’s what felt right in the moment, and that’s what worked for the person I was photographing.