It’s only knitting and the world that surrounds it: when all feelings, thoughts, energy, a view from the window, a kitten’s purr and children’s laughter, fresh buns, the smell of coffee and crackling wood in the fireplace knot themselves together. Each knitted row is another moment of my life that encompasses so much… Each row contains fifty, seventy or maybe a hundred stitches, all upright like obedient soldiers, even, pretty and prim. Not one of them is making faces, instead following the commands. A loop beside a loop, a sound beside a sound, a smell beside a smell… each so important, you cannot discard any. Holding their small hands like a big strong fist. They don’t analyse, don’t criticise, don’t evaluate. They accept themselves and their surroundings unconditionally, all for one goal. The goal that will warm a single person in the world…
What else can inspire this much, offer such cosiness and serenity? What shape of wool is as intrinsic to human nature? Would you agree with me if I said that it’s felt? Felt that starts with the touch of fingertips, smell, rustling. Felt that obeys the shape, that forms all fantasies one can imagine: a warm carpet under our feet, slippers, boots, gloves, bags…
A young woman from the wavy Klaipėda is visiting Rūkė today. A woman whose hands make new shapes out of felt. Her work immediately grasped my attention due to its exceptional design. I am eager to present Viktorija to you.
Dear Viktorija, could you please present yourself to our audience. What exactly do you do? What is your brand called?
First I would like to mention that I do not work by myself – my husband Andrius helps me. It is our creative idea. We make indoor wool footwear as well as wool boots and shoes. We are currently called VASlippers; however, we do not own a trademark that would promote us or strengthen our brand. At the start of our business we racked our brains trying to think of a name that would reflect our style, products or ideas and realised that it’s not so easy to find the common denominator that would become our brand. With each passing day we would find ourselves more and more involved in the technological and creative process, eventually resulting in us completely abandoning the development of our brand. It is currently not finished yet but after years of work and a lot of thought we developed a sort of “invisible” brand. It all came together on its own. We give a lot of attention and time to the creative process and the improvement of our current products, so a logo and a brand has lost all importance for us. We focus on the physical, tangible product we offer to our clients. Nowadays, many young people want to be designers or be involved in fashion, but a brand cannot be the basis for everything. Merely developing one does not make a creator valuable, there has to be something more. For this reason we do not give much significance to our brand and focus on improving our skills instead. In the future, once we’re fully formed as creators, we will strive for completeness and will try to crown our work with a brand. However, so far our brand is its absence, which is peculiar.
How was this idea born?
It happened completely unexpectedly four years ago when we were visiting Andrius’ Mom in the countryside. It wasn’t very warm there as it is in our urban apartment and my feet are always cold due to my blood circulation, so I was offered to try out felt slippers which warmed my feet up immediately for my entire visit. It was so cosy and warm that I didn’t want to take them off. Having returned to the city I said to myself: I want a pair, too. I started inquiring my mother-in-law about the felting process, but I then neglected the idea for a while: much like all new things, felting seemed to be a very difficult, finicky and challenging process. However, about a year later this idea was reborn in me. My cold feet kept bothering me and the Internet is brimming with inspirational ideas that are hard to get out of your head once they’re there. And so I started dreaming about felt shoes. After some time and a lot of effort and attempts I was able to put on my first felt shoes. Much like the first pancake is always lumpy, the shoes were of poor quality, soon split apart and did not look very good. Despite this, it was probably the time that I got hooked on studying felting, putting more and more time and effort into it. Then I attempted to make slippers. Now I, with the help from my husband, have returned to making shoes again and this time it’s different. A few years of research and discoveries gave me results and now our products are completely different from that first attempt.
Is it true that you live and create in Klaipėda?
Yes, we live and create in Klaipėda, near the downtown, the heart of the city. Our studio is in an attic of an old German house. According to historical accounts, artists and artisans would often inhabit this house, so we are not special in this regard. It’s very cosy here and almost always full of natural sunlight which is a joy, considering that sunny days are far and few between in Lithuania. Klaipėda is our favourite city. It’s serene, there aren’t many people here, everything we need is nearby which saves the time we spend moving from one place to another, so we can allow ourselves to go everywhere on foot. We enjoy our city. If I had to choose where to live, I would definitely choose Klaipėda.
I, personally, love the sea. It reminds me of never-ending opportunities, the desire to learn and experience more than I am able to at the moment. How does the sea affect your creative process? What about living in Klaipėda?
We are very happy to have the sea, sandy beach, and murmuring pinewood that smells of sea. Unfortunately, the seaside is not the catalyst or the inspiration for our creative process but it has a nonetheless important role. Instead of gaining new ideas at the seaside, we go there to get rid of unnecessary thoughts, relax or run away from creative failures. Despite it being as wide as the eye can see, we can absolutely call it our cosy corner where we can hide from our creative torment. As much as this place invites deep reflection, it helps us greatly when we want to reduce the tension and forget all that makes the world go round. Fresh air and strong wind are the best relaxation for our souls.
Is it true that this cosy project is growing and turning into a family business at the moment?
Yes, we’re trying to grow and improve every day. Naturally, it is rather difficult and time-consuming for two people, but slowly we are moving to something that could definitely be seen as a family business.
What are your plans for the next five to ten years?
It is difficult to see so far into the future. Nowadays the world is progressing so quickly that it might be possible that people soon won’t need shoes at all. Of course, we hope that this will not be the case. Our business is still very young and we have much to learn. To start with, we want to focus moreon makingand promoting outdoor footwear. The shoemaking process creates more opportunities for self-expression, it stimulates various ideas, and it’s more popular in the market overall. Sure, one can dream, but we are still rather tentative as we are not yet on very firm ground.
All successful people are aware that everything has its price. In order to be someone, one has to learn a lot and work hard. Do you know your price? What have you sacrificed for the things you have today?
You are absolutely correct that one needs to work hard in order to create something. We know this very well and try to focus more on self-improvement. My husband thinks about shoes right before sleep. It sounds funny, but if you think about it all day, it’s hard to stop thinking about it before going to bed. There have been many cases of failure leading to loss of enthusiasm, but after a period of rest, after having pondered our mistakes we return to the previous process and make something completely different. Maybe the key to success is plenty of attempts and the determination to repeat them without fearing failure. It all requires a lot of time that we all lack and which we take away from those we hold dear, spending it on those failures or successes instead. Time is a very big price to pay. Maybe we’re happy that so far we have enough of it.
What motivates you to move forward and search for new creative ideas?
I believe that all creators do their best for their audience. It would be selfish to take pains and work for yourself only. So I think that we are mostly motivated by the people who are happy with our products. It’s a great joy and thereby motivation to work and improve even more. New ideas are born out of old ones. Sometimes the thoughts seem to come flowing and wait until they are fulfilled. There is a saying that appetite comes with eating. This applies to us, too: ideas come when you’re working. At times you’re finishing a piece and you already have an idea about how you might improve it, add or remove something or other which results in a completely new creation. Simply don’t let go of the thing you do, mentally, and ideas will come by themselves. It often happens unexpectedly.
What could you say to those who are still doubtful about following their path?
We wish them to not give up. Maybe it sounds trite, but you have to try until you succeed and look for mistakes after each failure, trying not to repeat them the next time. Of course, it’s difficult to return to the same project after a failure, but if you believe in it, you must try until you reach your desired goal.
Viktorija, thank you for your time and thoughts. I sincerely wish you to remain yourself and be even braver on your path to success. Your work is amazing and worthy of being admired everywhere in the world.
Click this link to see felt products: