Marina Vaptzarova

Traditional Nepalese craft with French flair

Marina Shrestha created her own line of luxury paper products, linking Nepalese tradition with French aesthetic. The Kathmandu-based designer stays true to cultural origins giving the brand Marina Vaptzarova a unique angle.

Ever since Marina arrived in Nepal in 1976 as a Parisian architecture student, she was immediately drawn to the intimate relationship that the Nepalese culture has with the earth. Whether she is constructing richly colored journals or exploring the possibilities of paper, this artisanal papetier’s free-spirited nature led her to create Marina Paper in 1993, which she later renamed as Marina Vaptzarova. Mood of Living is intrigued by her dedication to the craft and preservation of tradition.

MoL: What inspired you to create Marina Paper?
MS: Daphne paper, locally called Lokta, first caught my attention while I was living in Nepal. I was inspired by the simple and traditional way it was made. It is entirely hand crafted with elementary tools, using water and sunlight. The Daphne fibers are long and naturally stick together, requiring absolutely no additives in the papermaking process. Their length gives the paper remarkable solidity, allowing countless possibilities for design in comparison to industrial paper. I’ve always been fascinated by paper. It is an essential base often taken for granted. We’re always interested in what is written or drawn on it, yet we forget to look at the paper itself.

marina vaptzarov paper

MoL: Where did you learn your craft?
MS: My architectural background taught me to draw and think in 3-D. But I mostly learned by trial and error, using common sense and creativity to try out different methods.

MoL: When was the moment you realized you could really do this?
MS: Although I doubted anyone would be interested, after being convinced by a friend, I proposed my designs to Nature & Découvertes, a large chain store in France and pioneer in sustainable development concerns. At that time I was still making my creations in my garage as a hobby and occasionally sold designs to hotels in Nepal. I contacted Nature & Décourvertes and was called for a meeting, which resulted in my first large order. I was surprised and excited that what I was creating was of interest to others.

marina vaptzarov journals

MoL: How do you keep the art of letter writing alive in the age of technology?
MS: I don’t think that letter writing is dying. It has just changed. Paper was considered more of a utility, whether quality was appreciated or not. Nowadays, when people want to write something special, they will look for a beautiful and unique medium rather than writing on their computer. Letter writing has in fact grown in value, even if it’s less used.

MoL: Do you own a Kindle?
MS: When I read, I like to read from paper books. I like to smell the inside to see if they smell good, especially if there are pictures. There is a unique sensorial experience in reading a physical book that is completely lost with the Kindle.

MoL: What inspires you? Where do you find it?
MS: I have always been very attracted to the ancient arts and crafts, and will very often be inspired by creations from different cultures and tribes around the world. It can be anything – jewelry, a painting or a belt. Because they are handmade and are part of a specific custom, these objects always have a story to tell, they are alive, and this really inspires me! I also need to be in a good state of mind to create. So whenever I feel good, I feel inspired. Sometimes I may even go to my garden in Kathmandu or simply surround myself with beauty, like in the mountains, and allow inspiration to come to me.

marina vaptzarov nepal

MoL: What aspect of Nepalese culture resonates with you?
MS: Their way of life is very close to nature, even though they have an extremely developed culture. Everything they have, they make simply and self-sufficiently. It is easy to see where things come from and how they are made. It really takes my breath away to find such elaborate products that are refined and beautiful in their finish, colors and technique, and yet are made with such simple means.

MoL: What is your vision for Marina Vaptzarova?
MS: To be recognized as the haute couture of journals and travel diaries. Yet, it is not only about making something nice, it is also about decreasing the use of the world’s resources while emphasizing the time spent on sourcing and workmanship. It is about creating products of high quality and luxury, while respecting the earth. My vision for Marina Vaptzarova is to connect the traditional and contemporary world through my designs. I feel that staying connected to our roots is the way to make creations that will resonate with life. Just like a tree, in order to bear fruit, it must have roots.

Marina Vaptzarov

Marina Shrestha, Designer
Photos courtesy of Thomas Kelly, Patrick Evesque, Delphine Evesque, Christophe Abbou, Marina Shrestha

Marina’s Diary

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