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'Connecting through Creativity'
In Conversation with María Baños and Ida Johansson

Born from the desire to connect creative female-identifying talent from across the globe, Muses of Now was founded by María Baños and Ida Johansson in 2017. Starting off as a small event in their current home of Barcelona, the project has developed organically into what is now a global initiative, connecting artists, musicians, gastronomers, and more, who have something to offer and the desire to share it with others. After their second-ever Berlin event, we sat down with María and Ida to discuss the development of this intriguing project, and why connecting through creativity is so vital.

Words: Katie Cazalet-Smith
Images: Celine Paradis, María Baños, Ida Johansson
Artworks: Nazara Lázaro, Charlotte Klobassa
Location: Original Feelings
Aeyde: Tell me about yourselves.

Ida Johansson: I'm from Sweden, and I moved to Barcelona almost 18 years ago to study fashion and textile design. Since then, I've become this multi-tasking, adventurous, creative type who wants to find new ways of doing things. I had my own fashion label, then I started as a stylist for fashion shoots and have also worked in creative direction, art direction, and design.

María Baños: And you’re a mother of two incredible children!

IJ: That’s also true! So I have to be good at multitasking. It’s an adventure. When you first have kids, you want to be present. I’ve been doing a lot of different things, but the main goal is trying to find harmony between everything.

MB: I’m from Spain, and if I were to summarize my whole career, it would be ‘creating things from zero’. My model is to have a blank canvas in front of me. That's the most exciting thing about my work, which has been mainly in fashion between Berlin and Barcelona, which is also how I met Ida. After living in Berlin for 5 years, I moved to Barcelona full-time and started working in hospitality. That’s what showed me that I loved this ‘working from zero’ approach. I love creating a concept and building a team from scratch. It was clear when Ida and I met that we had the same vision. When we don't like something, we create something new instead of fighting what’s already there.

A: At which point in your careers were you when you first met?

MB: I had just moved from Berlin to Barcelona, and I was working in an E-commerce company that was connecting and representing talented fashion designers, and Ida was one of them. She was working on her own fashion label at the time, so that’s how we met!
A: Tell me about Muses of Now?

IJ: We started Muses of Now five years ago, in a time before these types of spaces for women were so prevalent. We wanted to create something to connect women in a way that was more in line with our vision. We didn’t want the movement to be based on negativity, but instead to create an opportunity to connect with diverse creatives like us. So we started in Barcelona, where we looked for twenty women in our circle that inspired us. It was a different time, and so we wanted to give a voice to all these creative women that weren’t being heard. Now that we are no longer in lockdowns, we are able to make this a global movement, which was the idea from the beginning. We see it as something deeply connected with the arts, and also a space to connect with yourself. There’s an element of spirituality to it, too.

MB: Now that we have expanded into new cities, it’s interesting to see how the events differ, but it’s also interesting to see what they have in common. There is always a message, and there are always the right people with the right intentions in the right place. Our Berlin edition sold out in less than 48 hours, and it shows that whatever we are doing resonates with women no matter where they are in the world. It’s also great to push people out of their comfort zones. It’s never easy to go to events where you don’t necessarily know anyone. It’s about having fun, sure, but it’s also about going on a journey with us, connecting with yourself, and connecting with others.

A: What is the project’s signature?

MB: The first thing that springs to mind is how we see the project as a journey, something that develops and changes over time. The last edition centered around light and shadow, which involved different disciplines. An interdisciplinary approach is definitely part of our signature. We bring together chefs, amazing locations, artists, spiritual elements, and try to create something extra. That’s where the magic happens! But at the same time, we don’t like to label ourselves and we want each edition to feel organic.

IJ: Absolutely. So one side is about creating the right team, set, and concept for the experience, and the other side is about making the experience interactive to allow our guests to really engage. It has to be fun. It’s more than just a networking dinner or a space for business. It’s also a space to connect with yourself and be inspired to make genuine connections. We try to keep it secret and intimate so that our guests can interact on a deeper level. And after each edition we see more and more guests keeping in touch and collaborating in different ways, which is amazing.

A: Why were you the right people to connect others and cultivate these relationships?

MB: Something that I love about us is how different we are, and how our skills are different, but how our vision is the same. If you were to show us 1000 different photos , we would probably select the same as our favorites. We have the same tastes and inclinations, and also the same values. How we form relationships is also the same. The most fundamental things are the same. So this unity combined with our different skill set is ideal.

IJ: We are both invested in creating change. If we see something we want to change, we will act on it, so we’re very proactive in that sense. That’s why we lean into our values. We also always say that the movement is more important than Maria or I individually. It has to be strong independently, so we’re both in it for the movement itself and the bigger picture.

A: What are the results of championing diverse, creative talent? What are the benefits you have experienced?

MB: The first thing that comes to mind is that we get a chance to meet and become friends with women that we have been inspired by for a long time, but weren’t part of our direct network. When you come with a truth and a story, it’s easy to open doors. We’re not trying to sell something, we’re just very passionate about what we do.

IJ: I can add an example—when Maria went to New York for the first time, she met up with one of the artists that is part of our NFT gallery, and they became super good friends afterwards. And that was kind of the first seed of Maria in New York, which is beautiful. For me, it’s challenging me to come back to my creativity, and has inspired me to start drawing and painting again. Seeing these women and seeing these artists create incredible work has sparked something in me.
A: Aeyde took part in the most recent Muses of Now event. Can you tell me about it?

IJ: The crew was incredible. I’ve admired the people who took part for a long time and so it was amazing to work with them. I think one of the best parts of our events is that we try not to reveal too much ahead of time, so people really don’t know what’s going to happen. We plant some seeds, but don’t describe exactly what to expect, so that our guests can come with an open mind. For this edition, which was on one of the longest days of the year, we leant into this idea of light and fire and transformation. It was a powerful time to think about transformation of the self, which we went deep into. Everything we did was also inspired by Charlotte Klobassa’s work. She paints these huge canvases inspired by small, scribbled notes, which we translated into an activity for the guests. We also had delicious food prepared by Zsuzsanna Toth from Gaia with local vegetables. We also held it in the Original Feelings yoga studio, which brought a calmness and a down-to-earth feeling that made it even easier for our guests to find harmony with one another.

MB: For this edition, we worked with our Berlin city lead Angelique Bogdanos who was integral to bringing the event to life. We started with the creative concept, which was about the geometry of light. Then we assembled the crew and gave them the open space to explore within their own discipline, whether it’s art or food or anything else. It also encourages the crew to step out of their comfort zones which produces amazing results.

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