Jana Ristic - “It must have a purpose otherwise nothing will come of it”
As part of her bachelor thesis, Jana Ristic is working on the concept of a wood workshop that doubles up as a bar, games library and meeting venue. “Lots of people would like to do creative activities but don’t know how to go about it,” she explains. She hopes to help with her project.
You did your carpentry apprenticeship at 19 and then began the BSc degree programme in Wood Technology at BFH when you were 27. You don’t always take the most direct route do you?
At 16, you’re too young to know what job you want to do for the rest of your life. At least people like me – with great curiosity for many things – don’t. That’s why I gave myself the time to extend my schooling by working in various jobs before starting an apprenticeship. My parents supported me during my apprenticeship, and when I undertook an internship in South Korea and did some voluntary work in Thailand as well. I gained lots of experience and began focusing on the things I was really interested in.
Why did you decide to become a carpenter?
I also wanted to be a graphic artist and a game designer. However, I listened to my father who can put his hand to lots of trades and he advised me not to spend my life behind a desk. As I also enjoy working with my hands, I opted for a carpentry apprenticeship. To keep my options open, I completed the vocational baccalaureate in design.
After finishing your apprenticeship, you changed direction again. Why was that?
I simply wanted to work without the pressure of having to prove myself again as a woman in a male-dominated environment. So, I worked in the restaurant industry and as a flight attendant – things that were on my to-do list anyway. Then, I set up a kind of family business with my father.
Why did you then decide to do a degree programme after four years?
It was because campus life appealed to me – I wanted to meet new people and have a good time, like in the Hollywood movies (she laughs). The main reason was that when working with my father I realised that while we were both good at working with our hands, I had absolutely no idea about marketing and business. I hoped to address these shortcomings by taking the BSc degree programme in Wood Technology.
Did the degree programme live up to your expectations?
Yes, but unfortunately the pandemic got in the way. Otherwise, I’d now be making sustainably manufactured surfboards on an internship in New Zealand and would then have written my bachelor thesis about it. As this project fell through, I had to find a different topic for my thesis. It had to be something that appealed to me and had a purpose, otherwise nothing will come of it. So I decided to produce my own project that combines all the things I’m interested in and passionate about.
What was the outcome?
My bachelor thesis is entitled “Business model at the interface” and my project is a company where everyone works with one another, for one another and for the benefit of society. I’m interested in lots of areas – psychological and social issues, gastronomy, strategic board games and craftwork. I want to bring all that together under one hat. The concept is a venue that serves as a bar, games library but also as a workshop. You can get something to eat and drink but also play board games at the tables. The workshop is primarily equipped for woodwork, but it can also be used for pottery, painting or whatever else.
Where did this idea come from?
I get the impression that lots of people would actually enjoy creative activities and craftwork. Although, they don’t know how to go about it. They often don’t make the effort to register for a course because the information online is not very visually appealing. I want to encourage people to make the effort. It’s just a few steps from the bar to the workshop and I can tell people: “Come in and have a look around.” You could repair an old piece of furniture or try out some creative or craftwork activities in a workshop.
Then you believe this idea will prove successful?
Lots of people have a hidden passion for crafts and woodwork; in particular, these appeal strongly to people who are environmentally aware. Moreover, I’ve also noticed that traditional trades, such as cabinet-making, are struggling. I’d also like to see the project generate interest in trades and craftwork, but especially in woodwork. Perhaps working with schools to appeal to children would also be an option. The social elements are also important to me. People have so many options available today with the internet and social media, but still feel alone. People from all walks of life can meet up, enjoy a chat and get to know each other at my workshop bar. That’s what I’m putting my heart and soul into now.
So your project is currently a bachelor thesis set out on paper. How do you plan to achieve your vision after graduation?
The next step is to find investors to help get the project off the ground; even though I’m 30 now and would really like to start a family and have children with my boyfriend. So after graduation, I’ll work as a project manager for a timber construction company because it’s a role I will enjoy and it will also provide me with some financial security. My own project will go on the back burner for the time being. I don’t want to tie myself down. I’d also be happy if someone else implemented my concept and the philosophy behind it. Perhaps it could be my boyfriend. Or maybe an association where I’d be on the board and would oversee the project. I’m very open-minded actually.