Peter Cornish talks to UMA designer Sofia Holt. Photography by Romain Garrigue.

UMA designer Sofia HoltSofia Holt grew up in an artistic environment around creative people. Her Mum’s a potter and Dad’s a painter. Despite being familiar with the struggles faced by many artists, as a teenager she decided to follow the picture and form programme at high school in her native country of Sweden.

A move to England and then New Zealand in search of structure and direction didn’t provide the answers Sofia hoped for, so she returned to Sweden and enrolled at an industrial design school for a year before embarking on a three-year product design and interior architecture course.

She learned about design space, concept development and creating objects. The course also taught her business skills and sustainable production. An introduction by one of her teachers lead to the offer of a six-month internship with Vietnamese furniture and homewards company UMA, which then lead to a role as one of their product collection designers and the chance to work from concept design to production

Her latest work with UMA takes inspiration from the retro styles of Europe in the 1960s and 70s, melds these with Vietnamese designs of the same period.

And adds a modern twist bringing it into the twenty-first century. “When you look at ten similar objects, they may all look the same, but when you talk to the designers you learn about the individual stories behind the items they’ve created.” Sofia explained. The current collection speaks of a bygone era, culturally unique but influenced by the outside world. Her fabric designs found influence in the eclectic styles of Vietnamese fashion from the late 60s, each one telling a story behind the style it represents. Flowers and plain colours taken from many ao dao of the time are transposed with the iconic imagery of the lotus flower, instantly recognisable and powerfully symbolic of Vietnamese design.

Candle holders, tea pots, fish sauce bowls and toothpick holders are part of her latest ceramics collection, designed with an intended nod to the way these items are used, and the role they play in Vietnamese culture. As Vietnam starts its big boom of interior product design, artists are reaching to the country’s strong artistic heritage as inspiration, and designing familiar products to complement a modern lifestyle.

Sofia continues her work with UMA while continuing to design under her own name. Vietnam offers her future projects but a creative mind constantly searches for fresh ideas and she has her eye on other countries. Wherever life takes her she will find creative ways to express herself and continue to solve problems through her designs.