Are you looking for that little extra for an outfit? Or maybe you are looking for a special Christmas gift with soul and warmth? Then you should stop by “Maral Kunst” on Grünerløkka in Oslo. This store oozes charm and mystery, and has the most beautiful jewelry and art in all price ranges.
Styletalk: Can you tell us a little about yourself and when you started with art and jewelry design?
Maral: My name is Maral, I come from Iran and I am 41 years old. I graduated in textile engineering in Iran, and had never imagined ending up as an artist and jewelry designer.
I started painting when I was in my 20s. And learned the basics in private courses with famous Iranian artists. Among other things, how to use different materials such as watercolor, pastel, acrylic and ink.
After these courses, I loved playing with colors and making abstract paintings. I wanted to be an artist, but thought it would be too long a journey. But fortunately I did not give up, and practiced and practiced a lot to find the way to realize my artist dream.
In Iran, I exhibited my paintings at the “Tehran Biennial”, a competition I participated in twice.
We suddenly decided to move from Iran in favor of a better economic life. And in 2014, I moved to Norway with my husband and daughter. When I moved here, it was not in my mind to start my own business. My focus was mainly to paint and display my works of art in various galleries in Oslo. Which turned out not to be so easy, as I was not well enough acquainted with the Scandinavian culture.
I worked as a sales person in an interior design store where i was allowed to show my art, and at the sunday market at Blå I sold both my paintings and my jewelery.
The main reason I was motivated to start my own business was the challenges I had. We lost our visa and had to find a way to get it back. The best way to fix this in a short time was to take a big risk and a life-changing decision, and that was to start my own business.
Anyway I was not happy in my then job as a sales staff, since I am a super creative person, and I die to create something with passion and compassion.
So I jumped into it and chose to rent this place which I now call “Maral Art jewelry country art gallery”, and so I got my visa back.
I had no idea how I would manage to pay the rent and expenses, since I quit my regular full-time job.
My gallery is located in a secluded street that not many people know about. The Sunday market at Blå on Grünerløkka became my magical place where I could promote myself and show people who I was and what I was doing.
It has taken me many years to become the Maral I am today. I have been through a number of challenges, but I learned a lot and transformed my mind and way of life by studying and learning and adding value to myself.
I have recently added photography as an art form to express vulnerability and authenticity, rather than perfection. I ask my models to challenge themselves, go beyond their comfort zone and express their true selves.
Styletalk: Have your roots from Iran influenced the way you make jewelry and art? And how?
Maral: I am Iranian and come from a warm and colorful culture. In the past, my design was always full of colors and large stones, and the style was bohemian and oriental.
Norwegians prefer calm and cold colors, and the simple and minimalist. So I have changed and simplified my design, as my buyers are mostly Norwegian.
On the other hand, we individuals are different, my task is to try to satisfy everyone, so I do my best to have different collections with different designs and materials.
I also make tailor-made jewelry based on the customer’s wishes, and have connections with designers abroad who help me if I can not make what the customer wants.
Styletalk: What is a typical day like for you at work?
Maral: “Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be good because greatness is determined by service. You just need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love, Dr. Martin Luther King”. I love this quote and it describes a bit what I want to achieve every day.
My everyday life is full of different tasks and two to-do lists these days. As I am currently working on branding and focusing on the website with my team, I need to have regular contact with them to have an overview of the progress.
Social media is an important priority for me, and being connected to my loyal followers. I post updates on my IG every day, and share positive vibes and good energy.
I organize and change jewelry displays, create new designs, take care of orders, plan various campaigns and activities at the jewelry workshop for both children and adults.
I also offer webinars and share my experiences for those who want to start their own business. And keep in touch with other designers to see what we can create in future collections.
This is a gallery where I want the customer to come and get quality time, so it is my job to make it as beautiful and practical as possible.
A lot of my time is also spent answering customers’ e-mails and DM. Customer service is my first priority.
Styletalk: What kind of art style do you have?
Maral: I paint my feelings throughout my life journey. Painting for me is like writing a poem. Most of the time when I feel like I have to paint a subject at a certain moment, I do not know exactly why I am painting it. I only see that afterwards, when the painting has been painted.
I paint both abstract and surrealistic figurative paintings with acrylic and ink. Essentially, my paintings are vulnerable portraits of women and figures.
I have had exhibitions with the themes: arctic, femininity, the woman in me, transformation and words of wisdom over the years.
I also make paintings to order. For example, the customer may have a favorite image that I turn into a painting on canvas.
Styletalk: Name three things that inspire you when you paint?
Maral: I love surrealistic paintings and get a lot of inspiration from artists such as Egone Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo.
I feel that there is more reality in such paintings even though it seems surreal.
In my paintings, my emotions are inspirations: vulnerability, love, anger, fertility, peace, contentment and wisdom.
Styletalk: Which jewelery material do you like best to work with and why?
Maral: I love all the materials, there is soul in every metal and stone. But if I have to choose, silver will be my favorite. I love nature to silver and I can communicate and express more of myself and my personality. But I work with all materials.
I started the jewelry business to support my passion for painting. Jewelry is my fashion and painting is my passion.
I am a jewelry lover and travel around the world and draw inspiration from other designers and curators, and also collect their art jewelry works.
There is some jewelry that is my own design and some is redesign. I do not make all the jewelry from scratch, I have materials such as pearls, necklaces, gemstones, and use my imagination and play with the jewelry to make something surreal out of them. Like combining a ring and other parts from different jewelry that is no longer used or sold and making a new piece of jewelry. It is both sustainable and stylistic.
Styletalk: What is it like to run a shop on Grünerløkka in Oslo?
Maral: My gallery is not in a typical shopping street, so it requires a lot more effort to show who I am and what my concept is. Not least to get people’s attention and make them willing to come and visit my store.
For the first six years after I opened the store on Schous Plass, I was at the Sunday market on Blue every single Sunday. This is to market me and show buyers my hidden jewelry land on Grünerløkka. There has been a lot of hard work and a lot of marketing on social media in all the years.
But I see that all the work has been very useful. Now my customers recommend their friends and family to come to Maral Kunst on Grünerløkka. And I’m so grateful.
Styletalk: Do you have tips for our readers what they should think about before opening a niche store?
Maral: Yes, I have many tips! First of all if you have a passion, listen to your inner voice and your intuition.
I know there is a lot of fear that can arise, such as the fear of failure. Other things to fear are what if I can not afford the expenses, and what if people do not like my work and so on.
You need to have a deep understanding of who you want to be, and make it a vision and work towards it consistently. It is not easy and there are many obstacles along the way. Be prepared, train your mind and heart to believe in yourself and your abilities, and then you will work dedicatedly towards your goal.
And you must dare to step out of your comfort zone to create the dream life you want. Do not overthink and do not procrastinate. If you have an idea, take it to action and act now.
Do not be a perfectionist, for no one is perfect. So “do your best now until you know better and when you know better, do better” as Maya Angelou says. Believe in yourself and act accordingly.
Maral Kunst is located at Schous Plass 7B, 0552 Oslo.
Facebook: Maral Kunst – Instagram: maralkunst – Instagram: maralpaint
All photos Styletalkmagazine