Marta Elise Johansen

"Who does your labels?" The First Interview

One of the most common questions we hear is “who does your labels?” Marta helped reinvent how Broc presents itself to the world. Her drawings adorn our wine labels but have also made it on our postcards, website, shipping tape, and even walls! Her unique elongated handwriting style, intricate detail, and black white simplicity help define who we are as a brand today. Because of Marta the outside of the bottle speaks to what’s inside -- organic, rooted, enjoyable and well crafted. We owe a lot to her sense of place and aesthetic. We can’t wait to see what other new labels are in store for us. 

Marta works out of her studio at the ICB Artists building in Sausalito. You can find information about purchasing her works of art on her website

This interview kicks off a more extensive deep dive into the stories behind some memorable labels. Stay tuned for more...

 drawing

 

You have been such a big part of the evolution for Broc wines over the last 8 years. Can you tell the story of how the collaboration started?

Chris and Bridget first saw my drawings at Mint, a little boutique in Mill Valley, and we connected through them. They were interested in buying a drawing but it took them a year to choose the one they wanted, when they came to the studio and saw my handwriting on the invoice, they asked if I would be interested in drawing an all handwritten label. They had no idea I always wanted to draw a wine label. In 2013, I drew my first label for them, the Mockvin du Broc 2011 which was just my handwriting. Then I did the Love wine labels, then another and another, and another and another.

At that point I had no idea that the brand would evolve into a Marta world! I had no idea it was going to continue to grow. I had no idea that it was going to have this amount of variety and evolution. At one point I thought, “you want another label? How am I supposed to come up with another one?” That opened the door to it becoming, sometimes, a more casual process. Sometimes it’s a matter of what drawings I have already done that could fit with a wine. 

Sometimes the label is more intentionally designed with the wine in mind. Wine labels you see out there have often been this graphic typeface driven layout but with my labels they are a little piece of art, often without any type at all.

At this point Chris and Bridget really believe in me. They trust me to do my work. They push for what they want but leave it open ended so I’m able to see what unfolds.  

2019 Vine Starr

Our 2019 Vine Starr Zinfandel, the first vintage of this wine with Marta's art.

Where is your creativity rooted?

Most definitely, my folks.  My American mother and Norwegian father met in Pakistan where I was born and lived until I was 5 years old. They were both working to make the world a better place through design and engineering. My mother was from New York City and one day when they visited her folks, they drove up to Vermont because my father wanted to ski, which he missed from Norway. When it turned out to be a rainy winter day instead my parents ended up looking at houses and fell in love with an old farmhouse and barn and bought it on the spot.  My parents were always creating, it was part of what we did, the farmhouse became a place where their friends visited from all over the world, they started a small business designing handcrafted high-end stoneware like bowls and plates made in Pakistan. We were constantly working in the garden, cooking, and exploring the beautiful hills of Vermont. Artists would come over, they would draw or sculpt...I always wanted to be a part of it.

I was reticent to call myself an artist because it was almost a selfish thing. Art makes people excited and inspired. I always grasped that as the definition of being an artist. I always drew and painted.  We were immersed makers. My mother used to travel all over the world to work with artisans. There were so many incredible artists all over the world she wanted to help. She was a connector, a liaison. 

My sister now lives on the farm with her family. She is more like the earth and I’m the clouds. She was a great student and I suggested she become a landscape architect. She was always drawn back to our farmhouse and now she has her practice there, growing flowers and designing landscapes. I am still floating.

drawer

Marta's sketch drawer. Sometimes something in there becomes a label.

How has the pandemic changed your relationship with your work and your art?

I didn’t know until the pandemic how much of an introvert I really am. I didn't make much art for the first month or two as things were so unsettled but as things calmed a bit and we all settled into home life, I really savored the time, the solitude, which I realized was so rare and special. There are so many distractions in the outside world and this was an opportunity to reflect. Are the flowers always this nice? I’m never home to enjoy them. I enjoyed it.

How did you change as a person?

I think the obligation I felt to be social was relieved, so I have been really spending more and more time alone in the studio.  When I do socialize, its more deliberate and more enjoyable. I feel so much happier now. More myself.

What’s next for you at Marta Elise Johansen art?

I am just really trying to focus on being an artist more than anything else. There is an apprehension because of finances and transitioning away from my day job. But, there are so many things that are opening up. Right now I have more brand opportunities than ever before -- I’m designing hot sauce labels for a cool coffee shop in Texas, wedding invitations for Broc lovers, several commissions for individuals and a hotel! I’m open to whatever comes through the door. Let's work on it, let’s develop that. I’m booked up with commissions until December.  

Do you think your work Broc will ever end?

I doubt it. 

Drawing outside Broc

Marta drawing her latest work for us on the outside wall of the winery.