MORANA DEPOLI 'Dubrovnik is a Great Place for Developing Creative Businesses’

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Olja Ljubišić
Photographer(s): Marija Gašparović, Ina Vojvodić, Olja Ljubišić
A black and brown asymmetrical ¾ long-sleeve shirt was the first thing I bought from Morana back in 2011 and I wore it many times before one too many high temperature washes got the best of it. It was unique and handmade, just like the pottery she creates today. It was a true pleasure to listen to her story about her beginning, business, challenges, life in Dubrovnik and more. 

Where did your story with ceramics begin?

I graduated with a degree in Cultural Studies, which in fact has nothing to do with creative business, but it certainly has affected my personality and way of life. During my university education I gained informal ceramics knowledge which was set aside while I was trying to discover what I really love to do. After several years of mastering ceramics, in 2015 I decided to open my own business: Peruna. I can honestly say I was going into the unknown with very few resources but something encouraged me to pursue that path.

You chose the potter’s wheel to make interesting cups, bowls and other useful items.

When I was introduced to the technique of working on the potter's wheel, I told myself 'this is it'! This essentially primitive, ancient technology allows us to create a high quality item which has a handprint of the person who made it. In this way each object is unique, regardless of its similarity to the others. The difference can be seen through an intimate look or a touch.

Marija Gašparović

What do you create under the Peruna brand?

I primarily make utilitarian objects on a potter's wheel. These are mostly circular objects like cups, bowls, plates, but can also be transformed beyond recognition such as aesthetic objects, cat sculptures for example; even lemon juice strainers. I like to do something that will serve a purpose and that can bring joy in the everyday life of a person who uses my ceramics.

Every item I create is unique.  That embodies the idea that everything around us is different and industrial  molding changes uniqueness into sameness which is not natural.

What does the creative process look like for you?

It's time consuming and consists of lots of steps, but the result is worth it. Objects made of ceramics, if we take good care of them, can be our companions for a long time. Many of us can reminisce about charming coffee cups that belonged to our grandmothers, and are still in use. My favourite part of the process is deciding whether the cup will be rotund, tall and narrow, or shall I convert it into a bowl.

Marija Gašparović

What inspires you in terms of colour, shape and design in general?

Clay has a small range of colours - white, terracotta, red as a brick, and some black, brown shades. I opted for white clay as a base on which I experiment. I usually like vivid and bright colours inspired by the Mediterranean Sea, sun and climate. For me, decorating ceramics is perhaps a little less important than the process on the potter’s wheel. Designing my ceramics is mostly spontaneous, shapes just come to my mind and I form them right away, and sometimes I immerse in a long design process that starts by sketching on paper. I constantly test shapes, usability of forms and shade of colours in order to get the perfect ceramic item.

Božo Radić

Photo: Božo Radić

For the wine and art bar “Tavulin” in the Old Town, that offers wine from the Konavle region, I made bowls, coffee cups and mugs. Everything in white, very delicate with a gentle imprint of the cypress twig which commonly grows in that area.

In some tourism oriented countries it’s common for restaurants and bars to have custom made cutlery, glasses and plates. Some even sell them as souvenirs. I’m glad to hear our entrepreneurs follow trends.

Recently I visited Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Around the main square, there are no mainstream clothing stores but their own Lithuanian brands. These are designer shops, not only expensive ones, offering local design items, mostly clothing since they have a developed textile industry. People there are used to buying local products, which is something we still need to promote and embrace.

Where can your ceramics be bought?

In Dubrovnik in Kawa at Ploče, a shop that offers the very best from Croatian designers and artisans, then Terra Croatica in the Old Town and Škatulica in Cavtat. The last two are gourmet shops and somehow my products go well with food and drinks. Also, for Dubrovnik Museums I’ve developed coasters with motifs of Iznik ceramics. The original Turkish artefacts were found near Mljet and represent one of the biggest and most valuable archeological discoveries of that type in Europe. Together we are planning to create another souvenir for the 2017 season. I decided to work with fewer clients and develop a good business relationship with them. And I have found great people to collaborate with!

Olja Ljubišić

Morana Depoli during Kinookus Film Food Festival in Ston

What differentiates your souvenirs from others available in the shops?  

My souvenirs come from the Dubrovnik of today. I live and work here, the warm climate affects me, as well as this specific geographic location.  I didn’t intend to make souvenirs, I simply designed and developed unique ceramic products which are recognised and well received in local shops. The appearance of my products with the texture, shapes and decoration distinguishes them from others, and people nowadays really appreciate handmade quality.  

What are your plans for the future?

There is a lot that t I want to do; I think I've only just begun. I want to dedicate more for branding my label Peruna and create a story behind the products. For example, I made a salt keeper and at first people didn’t seem to recognise them well.  After some time i started to present them along with sea salt from Ston that has the oldest salt plants in Europe and the largest preserved ones in the history of the Mediterranean. The combined package of local salt and the salt keeper can be a very nice souvenir. One needs to be creative and think about every single detail. I work by myself and I will continue working small contracts and be more dedicated to each product. My motivation for entering this creative business is  doing what I love and  being able to grow personally as well. One can make authentic and creative souvenirs of this town without putting a name or an image of Dubrovnik on it. The great thing about Dubrovnik is that visitors come from all over the world, so I am very satisfied when I hear that someone in California will eat ice cream out of a Peruna ceramic bowl. I’m pleased to know my products travel. 

Peruna Facebook 

Olja Ljubišić