Sanja Čežek is the founder of Martha’s Chicken, a revolutionary app that makes the brand’s brightly illustrated wallpaper come to life through augmented reality. I wish this was around when I needed excitement as a kid. Here, Sanja tells us more about this decidedly compelling 21-century venture.
Your concept of 3D wallpaper is delightful, innovative and beautiful. How did the idea develop to create the Martha’s Chicken Collection of interactive wallpapers?
Animals have always been a great part of my life since childhood. I grew up spending summers at my grandmother Martha’s house, where she had a closed circle of farm animals. I would learn a lot about nature and life cycles from her. There, I had my favorite black chicken that I sometimes used as a weapon against my older sister, who is scared of nothing in life except for birds. My grandmother was and still is a great part of my inner child, and that’s where the Martha’s Chicken logo also came from.
Years passed and I found myself in my 30s still making up stories of animals I’d see in nature, so the whole thing was sort of always in me, it’s just the whole picture was not painted whole until two years ago.
The initial idea was to write and illustrate children’s books. I started the Martha’s Chicken journey by publishing my first illustrated online story, “The Frozenbird,” that was initially written by Nina Sibinović and is now being prepared for physical release in the U.K. by Jason Dollery, with whom I have partnered to write children’s book stories. Quickly after I was hired to illustrate the first wallpaper design for a client in 2021 and got acquainted with the pioneer technology of printing structure (3D), I knew I found my path.
Since my full-time job is a game director at my studio, I decided the offline experience of the wallpaper was not enough and that it should bring some kind of additional value to the interior. Therefore, I fused my love for playfulness and first childhood impressions and finally painted that picture whole in my head.
I’m sure that children will find this concept endlessly enjoyable. How has the product succeeded so far?
It is still very early to say, however I would lie if I didn’t say that I am quite excited with how the concept was received when the shop launched. We already have orders, and since we’re still a small business, we carefully tend to each order. People love that the Martha’s Chicken brand has a very personal approach; we know that you [revamp] your interior once in couple of years, therefore we always give advice for lighting, we adjust colors and patterns so they’re perfectly adapted according to various aspects of the interior. At the end of the day, we know our wallpaper is something that will surround you, therefore the mood it sets in the room is also very important.
Children are the primary audience, but have you experimented with other groups and other outcomes?
By the end of year we will launch a collection for grown-ups and businesses. Martha’s Chicken also offers custom designs specifically created according to clients’ needs, for big and small businesses, be it a hotel, restaurant, event or just a family who wants something exclusively created to fit their needs.
What went into the decision about which interactive stories to tell?
I am really a storyteller by nature and creating a good narrative is a big part of my professional life. For me, stories add emotional value to anything we create, see or feel. Keeping in mind that the wallpaper will hang for at least four years, and with my background in gaming, I started being playful in thinking about how I could prolong the life of it and make it long-term fun for children—so I came up with the Martha’s Chicken app that will bring stories, games and other content for each wallpaper. The app is something that is not limited to children. We have an offering for businesses as well, through creation of custom content specifically crafted for their business model.
I have yet to ask you how it works. Without getting overly technical, what is the principle method?
I will try to keep it simple. When you buy our wallpaper through our website or we create a custom order for you, you get free access to the content of our app. The app uses an image recognition system and scans segments, illustrations that are on your wallpaper. The app then offers games and stories. The games are mostly very simple, keeping kids from spending too much time on screen, but still allowing them to be creative. As for the stories, each wallpaper is filled with characters that each has a story to tell. The app is currently in production and it’s scheduled to launch before Christmas 2022.
How does the user activate the wallpaper experience?
Once the app is set up by the parent, the child has access to it. We offer stories that can be read out loud for the little ones with animated pictures appearing in their room through AR technology.
It’s a very easy and unassertive app that does not collect data. When it comes to children I always rely on the acknowledged studies in child behavior psychology, since I think that technology at a very young age should be first introduced and monitored by an adult. When it comes to businesses and events, this is very fluid. It works on similar principles, however the content could be very diverse, basically according to the business’ needs.
Who did the illustrations, and how was the process unique in the context of the app?
Until recently, I was a one (wo)man show. So 90 percent of raising the Martha’s Chicken brand, I did alone, including the illustrations and preparation of the structure of the wallpaper, which is a bit different than regular preps. When you are preparing the design, you think a lot about how colors will affect the room—how big the room is and what color play will not be tiring to the eye. When you are preparing the structure, you first think about the texture of grass, or an animal, so it dictates the direction of the structural lines.
Of course a lot of information came in helpful from my production partner and distribution partner. However, I have already agreed on collaborations with amazing artists and my real intent is to navigate the whole ship, while professionals handle their part of the work, and we bring unique interactive interior products to the whole world, together.