#CarcelPeople Portraits: Maria Pham

Photography by Niklas Vindelev

You have a very interesting profile - Can you give us a short intro of who you are and what you do to kick this off?  

I’m Maria, better known as Pham. I grew up in Odense, but sought new opportunities in Copenhagen 7 years ago. I’m a Creative Project Manager helping everything from artists, curators, designers and companies to ship their very best work. 

Currently, I work as an Assistant Project Manager at @Kontrapunkt, a strategic design agency, and as a Consultant & Management Assistant at @Spacon & X, an architect and design studio. At Kontrapunkt, I run a tight ship with everything from events to awards to assisting on client projects. At Spacon & X, I’m fiddling with everything from client projects, communication, project controlling strategies to production. Beyond this, I’m exploring my own creative skills by working on my own design works. 

What does Copenhagen mean to you and how do you think it inspires or shapes your work? 

Working in an urban city as Copenhagen stimulates my creative understanding and motivation. I surround myself with people who inspire me and have big dreams, and with people that challenge the status quo. 

Within the years I’ve been living here, I’ve expanded my network and cluster of people where I see potential in great symbiotic collaborations and relationships that nurture cultural potential. Copenhagen is highly design- and technology-driven, which contributes to a creative urban culture. This, together with my network, shapes my approach to work. 

Often in your work, you are called to be a mediator between the creative and business perspective. How do you manage to find a balance between the two, and what benefits do you see in having a holistic view of both?

Being a mediator between arts and business is regularly the missing puzzle in the game. In a nutshell, humdrum business people tend to have little to no insights or knowledge in how creatives think, work and approach craftsmanship. Vice versa, creatives get lost in excel sheets, the market demand and often seeks direction and coherence. This gap may impact their communication and results. This is why I believe a holistic view of both is essential.

I manage to find a balance between the two by drawing my attention to leadership practices, alternate cognition, structures, organizational processes and strong communication between the two parts. It’s really about understanding the context, the industry, the respective craft and the way the two parts work together and individually. 

A challenge is often that the tensions between creativity and business embody a deeper organizational paradox between innovation and efficient reproduction. The goals of some creative projects can be contradicting between the two parts. Creatives can be confronted with a capitalistic system that makes it difficult for them to maintain their crafts untouched due to market demand. They are sometimes prone to adapt to the demand. Then the business part tends to mould the craft too much for the sake of money, which outdistances the original purpose of the product and service. This could harm the identity of the organisation or the image. 

As the mediator, I strive for finding that balance with a strategic approach. I find it essential that organizations with this challenge don’t compromise to an extent that disrupts their identity.

What is a dream project or collaboration for you? 

I already think we work on super dreamy projects at @Spacon & X. We create great spatial identities for strong Danish fashion brands and we did great exhibition- and office design for SPACE10, for example. But a future dream project beyond what I do now is to establish a design- and art studio with my friend where our values and statements are embedded in the identity and expressed through our craftsmanship which through strong messages contributes to a more equal society. Who knows what happens next!

How would you describe your fashion sense?

My sense of fashion is eclectic – some days I could wear dystopian and all black clothes. Other days, I could be louder than Till Lindemann’s voice from Rammstein. I am comfortable in bringing pieces from different worlds together, and not fit into a particular box. The way I express myself through my fashion sense is the way I celebrate diversity and the way I challenge the status quo.  

What is for you a basic, essential clothing item?

A good piece of basic item for me is something that is timeless, ubiquitous, and a great partner to my loud pieces. A knitted vest that adds tactility, flexibility and focus to my general visual expression is essential.