Michaela Weisskirchner-Barfod, Founder + Designer + CEO at fabelab, Vienna & Copenhagen, 2 Children

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Michaela Weisskirchner-Barfod

MICHAELA WEISSKIRCHNER-BARFOD, FOUNDER + DESIGNER + CEO at fabelab, EDUCATED ARCHITECT + SCENOGRAPHER, VIENNA (AUSTRIA) AND COPENHAGEN (DENMARK)

2 CHILDREN

LINNEA 4 YEARS OLD (turning 5 in august), LIVA 2 YEARS OLD

I discovered your play-fold-bird in a visit to the MUMOK in Vienna, and I felt in love with.. it’s so such a great idea and so well done. How did you come to this idea?

Thank you! As an architect I have always been interested in folding, thinking three-dimensional, space more than surface. As a scenographer I am intrigued by multifunctional set designs, which would allow to tell different stories and create various spaces by tilting, rotating and folding out surfaces. I like this evolution from one thing into another. And I like the idea of elongating things’ lives in our disposable consumer society.
My first attempt was to make a blanket that could be transformed into a den or “cozy corner” (Kuschelecke) and while trying to fold it, it turned into the bird. I was happy and I got even more excited when I saw how beautiful the stitched pattern was! From there it took about 2 years to develop the patchwork, the colours, the filling and the stitchings to make it both soft and practical but also foldable and stiff enough to be shaped as the bird.
I got fascinated with the idea of Origami, where shapes and animals can be so clear and simple and at the same time so abstract that you allow/ encourage children (and everyone else) to use their imagination and create their own story and world around that animal/ shape.
I will keep on working on the idea of a den…

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How did you make the decision to leave your current job at that time and go to create your own business while being a mother of two?

When I was on maternity leave with my first daughter, I started on a concept for a webshop when she was 6 weeks old, we opened the store when she was 4 months and it was such a great feeling to work with my own ideas, being my own boss. When Linnea started in daycare at 10 months, I went back to my job as an architect. I am really passionate about being an architect, but I could feel that I could not put as much energy into that job as before, I couldn’t work 24h until I was satisfied with a project – at least not as an employee for someone else. But I realised I could do it for my own ideas and projects. Showing the play-fold-blanket to friends and professionals I sensed the potential of this idea and I suddenly my head was filled with even more ideas and I needed to trust myself and to follow this dream.
My girls are my biggest inspiration, because by playing with them and listening to their stories and ideas I get inspired. My older daughter also wants to be an architect and draw blankets now :-)

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You are an incredible professional and mother, how do you manage to find a balance between work and family? Do you have any tips for staying organized?

I guess the organisational credit is on my husbands side. He is a doctor and if it wasn’t  because of him and his tight schedule and precise work hours, my life would be more chaotic. I appreciate that structure though. We have very tight mornings – getting up, eating breakfast, biking to kindergarten, being at work at 8.
When I am at my studio, I work very concentrated and efficient, I know what needs to get done. And I know that if I can’t get it done I will be stressed at home and this is very important to avoid! As a mother I learned to prioritise and get important things done first. When I pick up the girls in the afternoon, everything is at their pace again.
(It can take more than 2 hours to get them dressed and bike home, because I have to see a drawing they made, or watch them play with their friends or we stop to get an ice-cream.)
I love to read for them at night and to see them fall asleep. These hours are for the kids and I really enjoy them – it is important to be able to not think about work or check my phone. After they are put to sleep, I can catch up on things and prepare for the next day.

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As architect and now designer you have an incredible sense of taste and style.. coming from Copenhagen. Which children brands are your favorites?

Thank you for the compliment. I have to correct you though, I am born in Vienna, where I also studied architecture. I love to travel and studied in London for one year and then in Copenhagen for one year. There I just felt in the right place. I felt surrounded by people with style and individuality, creatives following their dreams and especially a lot of young/ emerging designers with beautiful ideas.
Even more when I got pregnant for the first time, I discovered those beautiful children brands and started the webshop “der kleine salon” together with 2 friends in Vienna, to make them  accessible in the otherwise very conservative Austrian market.  I love Soft Gallery’s poetic creations, I immediately fell for Popupshops black/white unisex style, I am intrigued by BangBangs use of colour, pattern and playfulness and I like the peculiar world LuckyBoySunday is creating. CamCam and their beautiful patterned bedlinen and mormor.nu for their concept, their social responsibility and their attempt on sustainability are some of my favourites as well. Sofie Børsting’s illustrated dream-worlds, Sprout by Gro, MarMar Copenhagen, … and these are only the Danish ones…

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And finally I would like to know.. about your perfect family day. What do you enjoy most doing with your two daughters?

I love weekends where we don’t have any plans or we are at the summerhouse.
The girls would sneak into our bed and cuddle and I love their tousled morning hair and cute big eyes waking up.
On days like these we can create our own worlds, dressing up and building dens. I could encourage them by telling stories, but I also enjoy observing them and listening to their inventions. They are so open, curious and imaginative and have the craziest ideas!
I love to do crafts with them or roll out paper on the whole floor and let them paint. Especially Linnea is really talented and interested in drawing and making things and we could spend hours drawing and cutting and glueing and taping.
I also like to do special things with them like going to the theatre or the movies, they get so excited and inspired.

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You can find more incredible fabelab designs and children homeware at fabelab.dk.

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Michaela Weisskirchner-Barfod 2

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Crediting fabelab and/or fotografer Patricia Weisskirchner.

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