“There are many empty and neglected city spaces that can be converted into interesting places. There is a neighbourhood dedicated to art and creativity in every European capital. I’m glad that my own Zagreb neighbourhood is developing in that direction.”
Ana Žaja Petrak is an excellent and prolific illustrator and visual communications designer. She graduated from the University of Zagreb Faculty of Architecture School of Design, and after many years of working in the field of design in the narrow sense, a while ago she decided to dedicate herself primarily to drawing and illustration, which was her first love. She lives near Martićeva, where her studio is also located. In her studio she creates various illustrations for a number of mostly foreign clients. She mostly works for culinary and gastronomy magazines, so it could be said that Ana Žaja Petrak has gained prominence as one of the leading national illustrators in the field. Her relaxed, collagelike graphical style full of harmonious colouring and varied textures seems to reflect the casual way of life in her neighbourhood. We had a talk with Ana in order to find out what kind of a relationship she has with the neighbourhood she lives in, how it has influenced her and how she sees its future.
Ana Žaja Petrak: I grew up in this neighbourhood and then, due to a combination of circumstances, ten years ago I moved just a tiny bit away, to the centre of the city. After a decade, I returned to my old neighbourhood. It was a conscious choice; my husband and I concluded that no other neighbourhood was better suited for our needs and way of life. The neighbourhood is very quiet and charming, only 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the very centre of the city. Just a few small streets are home to so many diverse amenities; it is like a small town within the city.
The neighbourhood and all of its advantages had a strong influence on me while I was growing up. Everything was at my fingertips: schools, cinemas, theatres, exhibitions, clubs… The vicinity and availability of all those amenities have undoubtedly influenced my later career choices. The street I currently live in with my family is very calm and quiet. It is a comfort I especially appreciate after living above noisy bars for ten years. Literally everything is at our fingertips, we hardly ever use the car. I find it interesting how every environment has its own special energy that influences the people living in it. The atmosphere here is calm and relaxed, with no fuss or noise. There are always a lot of people riding bicycles and walking their dogs. We also got a dog when we moved here. The neighbourhood is nice, loveable and discreet. In short, it’s nice to live here.
As far as my daily rituals go, i like having coffee in Blok Bar, eating cakes in Mak Na Konac cake shop, having lunch in Zlatna Školjka… I like shopping and talking to the salesladies in Garden and Pinklec delicatessen. I am happy to see that there is an increasing number of small shops selling quality and organic food in the neighbourhood. I buy my cosmetics in Kantarion, where they sell eco cosmetic products by small Croatian manufacturers. I like the atmosphere in Booksa, I’m always happy about their events and the large number of young people who hang out there. Croatian Design Superstore constantly offers numerous interesting events in the sphere of Croatian design, and it has contributed a new and valuable component to the neighbourhood. Two small second-hand bookshops have also opened here recently, and I enjoy studying the titles of the books they offer.
Generally, there should be many more art, culture, design and gastronomy related places springing around here. Like galleries, art stores, bookshops, relaxed and varied little restaurants. There are many empty and neglected city spaces that can be converted into interesting places. Every European capital has a neighbourhood like that; I’m glad that my own Zagreb neighbourhood is developing in that direction. I am inspired and enriched by this environment; we change and grow at the same time.