Interview by Visual Collaborative
June 2020 5 min read
Mary Ann Nikel is the owner of a sustainable lifestyle brand, The Artisan & Company, based in Bali, Indonesia. As a feature in our Amplified series, Mary Ann talks about her career, family, and evolution through partnerships in her industry. Living in Santa Barbara, California, by way of Manchester, Jamaica, she talks about what inspires and her Christian faith.
(VC) What parallels do you see with life in California compared to your time in Bali, Indonesia?
(Mary Ann) My life in California, compared to Bali, has quite a few parallels. The most significant for me is that I am in a place without family. That can be tough at times.
Another parallel of significance is not feeling at home, or maybe accepted is a better word? Culturally Balinese people are quite friendly, but while living there, I never quite felt at home. The color of my skin was a constant subject spoken and unspoken. That included either stares, comments, or both. My first trip to Bali before the move, a man walking in a Balinese religious ceremony procession shouted, “Kopi Hitam” with a big smile on his face as others laughed, and of course, I smiled back, I had no clue what it meant. At the time, I did not speak the language, but my fiance explained it meant Black Coffee. After moving permanently, I would later find out in Indonesian culture being dark-skinned is a sign of poverty and a lack of beauty. After spending almost 10yrs in Indonesia, I longed for returning “home” to America, but honestly, it doesn’t quite feel like home either. I live in Santa Barbara, California, and I am reminded daily in unspoken ways that my skin color makes me “different.”
(VC) As someone who worked around architecture at an interior design firm manufacturing furniture, what were your most identifiable skills or approaches carried over to your existing creative venture?
(Mary Ann) My experience working alongside Valentina Audrito, daughter of Franco Audrito, a founder of Studio 65, was a great learning experience in many ways. The experience taught me to be courageous creatively and to seek sustainable supplier relationships.
(VC) Your industry, like many others, was inevitably affected by COVID-19, what kind of long term impacts have you felt with the consumer market?
(Mary Ann) Yes, there are a lot of challenges for small businesses right now [Mary Ann exclaims]. The business has slowed, but so has the number of returns. I attribute this to consumers being more intentional about their purchases, which I consider a positive long term impact for both the brands and customers who value sustainability.
Mary Ann Nikel and children courtesy The Artisan & Company
(VC) In our present world of racial tensions and transformation, how has your role as a mother and a woman in the creative sector changed?
(Mary Ann) We are all facing overwhelming issues with recent current events that we have been forced to process spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. And I do believe it does come with changes. However, in terms of my sector, I can’t quite pinpoint how the tensions and transformations have changed my role as a mother and a woman.
We are our own worst critic and others may at times not see us in the best of light or with biases. To be guided by the one who created you is my best bet to self-awareness
(VC) How does Mary Ann define faith? Can you tell our readers what self-awareness means to you?
(Mary Ann) I believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God the author and perfector of my faith. I believe in the written Word of God. I trust Jesus and hope in Him for everything, all that I am.
Self-awareness to me means being mindful about what or who shapes the way I see myself. I trust in the Word of God to guide the way I see myself daily. We are our own worst critic and others may at times not see us in the best of light or with biases. To be guided by the one who created you is my best bet to self-awareness.
(VC) Does your Jamaican heritage play a significant part in your approach to everyday life interactions, or do you move with the culture of California and the topics of the times?
(Mary Ann) Our Jamaican national motto states, “Out of Many, One People,” and through my heritage, I learned to have appreciation and respect for diversity. This part of my heritage plays a significant role in my approach to everyday life interactions.
(VC) Some mention different historical times as a period they admire for affluence or culture. If you could time-warp to any era to collaborate with its culture, what time would it be, and why?
(Mary Ann) I would love to time warp to the Roman Era because it is during that time. The ministry of Jesus originated. The Roman Era is also fascinating because of the architecture. It would be amazing to witness first-hand their techniques and skills.
(VC) At this stage of your collective accomplishments, If you can work alongside any public figure, brand, or enterprise. Who would it or they be, and why?
(Mary Ann) I would love to work with sustainable brands like Reformation because of our shared brand values and mission.
(VC) Thanks for your time to speak with us. Is there anything else you would like to share with our international audience?
(Mary Ann) Love Hard. Stay strong. Never give up. Stay grateful.