My name is Nina. My second name is no longer Levett because I married in 2010, I use my maiden name as a brand name for my work.
I was born in 1973 (and will be 40 years old this year). I went to Vienna International School starting from age 6 up until graduating with best results (43/45 points) for the International Baccalaureate. After school I wanted to study Art in the USA and went to NYC to visit several universities like Parson’s, Pratt, etc. We (my boyfriend and I) even flew over to Rhode Island School of Design. We got accepted in several universities but decided to try our luck in Austria. The advantage of studying in Austria was that it was free and one could study more than one degree. I wanted to go for Graphic Design and Business Studies.
In the first two semesters I was not officially allowed to study at the University of Applied Arts (even though I had the possibility to informally take part in the lessons) because I did’t pass the entrance exam. The reason was that the professor (Lürzer from Lürzer’s Archiv) wanted “real” graphic designers but he said my approach was too artistic. So I pulled off an incredible effort and did all the exams (except the diploma exams) for the first half of the Business Administration degree in two semesters (!!!). In the next year I passed the entrance exam to the University of Applied Arts but this time I opted for Architecture.
My choice to study Graphic Design or Architecture instead of Art was because I thought that would be teaching me more “skills”. I thought that I already knew how to do Art and wanted to be taught something more “sellable”. I now regret that I didn’t opt for Art, because Architecture turned out to be too technical for me. I never was and never will be a talented architect.
When I was 20 years old my private life took an important turn. I was well into studying Architecture and Business Studies and was also starting a two year degree in Real Estate Management at the Technical University Vienna when on New Year’s Eve of 1993/1994 I met an Italian man that I fell desperately in love with. I split up with my boyfriend and began to see this man for several years until I finished my Business degree in university and the Real Estate course I was following in Vienna. The road was rocky and adventurous with this man but the story didn’t take a very positive turn on the long run. I moved to Italy and lived there for about 6 years but due to differences in character and nature we split up in 2004. We had two children together.
So when my daughter was three and my son just over one year of age I spontaneously left Italy and went back to Austria. Unfortunately the separation was harsh and became a complex legal case. The father of the children accused me of theft and child abduction to mention two. Two years followed that I just managed to survive. I was really at the lowest point of my life: courts were discussing whether to send the children back to Italy via police execution, judges called me for hearings in Italy and Austria, psychiatric papers had to be written to prove how the children were coping in their new environment, we were in the midst of mediation that led nowhere, the children’s father was appealing to authorities, my family, friends, the school, he appeared at dates when he wasn’t supposed to, rang my doorbell at night, we called the police when we disagreed about the children,… All this was extremely painful and believe me – I don’t want to go through any of this ever again.
I was in panic mode. My face was twitching. I had physical symptoms like frequent pains and ear ringing, sleeplessness,… When the court decisions rolled in I started to heal – but slowly.
That was the turning point in my life. I started to do art and turn my vulnerability into something positive. I started to do what I love. My life began again and I became a new person. I went to see therapists, doctors, mental coaches. I started to work out, to restyle myself and my home. I reconstructed myself. I focused on my talents and realized how life short is.
In 2007 I met my husband. It was love at first sight. A few months later he met the children and from then on it was (and is) just perfect.
The pain and disillusionment are still visible in my art. But I managed to go through them and make them into something positive.
Also in my wedding ceremony I decided to make my pain visible and to show the dark side as a way to never let something like this happen again. I didn’t want another disillusionment ever again, and if expectations weren’t so high I thought that I could never fall so deeply again.
I guess I didn’t need these precautions. Every day turns out to be great with my husband. The children are developing and are adding joy in my life every day. And finally our little baby boy Julian was born a few months ago – and here I am full of energy and love for this miraculous life. Frankly who cares about work if you have people you love around you? This is my credo. And yet I love my work, I love my art and I hope I will have the energy to continue.
I would love to connect with you all by starting to write more frequently and more openly here. I would like to get to know you. So please feel free to write to me, to comment on the site and to react to what I write here. I would love to hear your stories and to bring light to some of the positive things that we have all learned and can learn from each other.
Short description of Nina Levett + Studio ++
Nina Levett is a provocative, Vienna-based designer, who creates bold ornaments and patterns that are applied to a variety of surfaces from cutlery, glassware and tableware to textiles, moveable wallpapers and porcelain. Her studio produces ornamental everyday objects with distinctive decoration that expresses Nina Levett’s uncompromising observations on society and human relationships. Nina Levett’s high-end designs have appeared at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, the Alessi Museum and in art galleries and fairs in Europe, Asia and the USA.
“I have been concentrating on ornaments for tableware, wallpapers and textiles following the tradition of the Wiener Werkstätte at the beginning of the last century but integrating ideas derived from the internet into my work,” says Levett. “It’s best summarized with three to five P’s: POP, PUNK and PORN – and maybe PROTEST but that sounds so harsh – so maybe PAIN would be better”.
Nina Levett was born in Vienna, Austria in 1973.
Vienna International School 1980-1992.
Vienna University of Economics and Business 1992-1997 (Business Administration with special focus on Management/Strategic Leadership and Advertising).
Vienna University of Technology 1993-1995 (2-year-degree in Real Estate Management).
University of Applied Arts Vienna 1993-1997 (Architecture).
Nina Levett moved to Italy in 1998 and set up a design company producing packaging for software.
She lived and worked in Italy from 1998-2004.
She then moved back to Vienna, Austria in 2004 to set up her design studio specializing in ornaments and patterns.
10 Things about Nina Levett
1// Nina Levett is an invented persona. Her nails are fake, her hair is not real. She does not exist.
2// It took her many years, one personal trainer and a few beauty docs to become as beautiful as she is now.
3// At school she was an achiever.
4// She does not believe in life after death and therefore often works long hours.
5// Nina Levett believes in following the flow. She works when ideas come to her. Much of what she does is spontaneous and unplanned. Watch the video of Amy Tan talking about creativity here.
6// She is fascinated by pop culture (Madonna,…).
7// Some of her inspiration comes from the city of Vienna and in particular the Wiener Werkstätte.
8// Her favourite film is by Abel Ferrara: “Bad Lieutenant”
9// Nina Levett eats no sugar and drinks no alcohol. She works out regularly.
10// Some of her spiritual inspiration comes from Ajahn Brahm, Theravada Buddhism and Sigmund Freud.
Photo credits: Michal Jellinek
This post is also available in: German