Farm living changed the work – and design practice – of this Austria-based creative for the better

Barbara Ambrosz is the cofounder of design practice Lucy.D – an award-winning studio with the motto of ‘revealing the poetry in everyday life’. Seven years ago, she left Vienna for a farm in rural Upper Austria, where she lives with her husband and two young children. The contrast in lifestyle was tough, she admits, but the freedom, lack of distraction, and unspoiled surroundings of her new home all contributed to a grounding experience that changed her, and her work, forever.

The full interview was originally featured in our publication City Quitters, which portrays creative pioneers pursuing alternative ways of living and working away from big cities.

Sierning, Austria – What made you want to leave Vienna?

BARBARA AMBROSZ: Love! [laughs]. My husband Hans is a farmer and is bound to this location. I’ve always had a close affinity with nature – it’s definitely something that has shaped me. When I got pregnant, I decided with my business partner Karin that it would be the best solution for me to move here. I left for personal reasons, but it was also a crucial decision for our business. We had the confidence it would work out and I believe it enriched our profile.

Being able to work in a different environment, especially in a rural one, gives you a lot of freedom

How has living here affected you?

Being able to work in a different environment, especially in a rural one, gives you a lot of freedom. There is less distraction – no street noise, less appointments and meetings. Your eyes just have a totally different horizon here. I’m surrounded by fields. If I step outside I can see green for miles and miles with nothing blocking my sight. In Vienna, or any other big city, there are always walls in front of you.

I have been living here for 7 years now and it has definitely changed me as a person. I’m much calmer. I notice the different seasons, different times of the day. It’s a very grounding experience. I think in the city you can lose your grip – I don’t mean that in a bad way – but it’s easy to lose your connection to nature, your roots. It’s interesting to see the effect the rural context has on people who work creatively.

I’m discovering new things about myself. If I feel stressed or unwell, I go outside and do something with my hands. I do that a lot in my job anyway, building models, experimenting with materials, but to really get stuck in with your hands in soil is something else entirely. It really affects you, in a positive way. Then I realise my thoughts are shifting as well. I think nowadays this sort of grounding is something absolutely essential and necessary. It makes it easier to stay true to yourself; you are less influenced by trends. I think it has really improved the quality of my work.

Connecting global thinking to local production is something I want to explore more

Did the move to a rural environment change your design process?

I’m really interested in bringing new technologies and craftsmanship together. Connecting global thinking to local production is something I want to explore more. At the moment we are doing a project with a local brand called Neuzeughammer, which I am very excited about. It is one of the last remaining porcelain manufacturers in Austria, and we are working on a new range of lamps. It’s a modular design based on 5 simple geometric shapes in ten colourways that can be combined, offering endless variations. They feel equally fitting in an urban as well as in a rural environment.

How often do you go to Vienna?

About once a week, and I love it. If I stayed here all the time I would probably get cabin fever after a while, so these small doses of city life are a real bonus. But days are quite intense there, with meetings and teaching, so I’m always happy to come back here. I also have a studio space in Steyr, a small town nearby.

How does your company cope with being based in different locations?

We’ve been working together for 13 years. Karin spent 2 years in Italy, so we’ve been even further apart and it worked just fine. Today, methods and possibilities of working together are just so diverse – it’s like a relationship. You can have a relationship in many different ways, why shouldn’t it apply for work as well? The key is to have a partner you can trust. And I think in a long work relationship it is important that people evolve. Otherwise it gets very boring. Just like a romantic relationship, you need new challenges, new projects.

This interview has been shortened for length.

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