Raised by a logical Swedish engineer and a creative Iraqi mother, she lived with her family for many years in Stockholm, but also Athens, Malaga, Riyadh and Vientiane, before settling down in Beirut.
The latter was maybe the ideal place for Johanna to evolve; a mix of cultures and lifestyles, tradition and progressive thinking.
She studied and worked in advertising and packaging, made her home with a Lebanese entrepreneur and three children, and one day finally began pouring her experiences, thoughts and creative desires into the Karma J concept.
The result is several collections of mirrors, but maybe not what we are used to.
“I feel there is a big function that’s part of it, it’s not only aesthetics,” she says. “Whenever there is function, it is more of a design.”
Which makes sense, of course, as we are talking an object that is essentially there to help put our tie straight or ensure hair looks presentable.
Karma J goes beyond pure function, of course. With her eight collections encompassing such titles as The Nomad, The Illusionist, The Rebel, The Impressionist and The Royal – those being the five on show at La Serre - Johanna weaves explanations both viable and sometimes over elaborate into her motivation and statements.
“The Nomad collection was one of my first,” says the designer. “Almost anyone in Dubai will understand this collection because everybody comes from different cultures and different lifestyles and it is all about walking into this new lifestyle and integrating.
“The belts are interchangeable so when you are in one culture you have one particular belt with a Scandinavian look, then Iran. It’s all about carrying this mirror with you as a bag to the next location.”
So what relationship is she seeking to create between the mirror and the prospective owner?
“To start with the reflection is important because it is the reflection with yourself. If you are not able to connect with yourself…
“We’re living in a fast moving society, it’s all about connection, staying connected with your emails, phone and everything. This is more about slowing down and connecting with yourself and remembering who you are, your roots, your culture in order to be able to find a more authentic journey for yourself.”
“When I started with then I knew I would get this, about vanity, and for me it’s completely the opposite, it’s a very personal experience because you see all your weaknesses.
“It’s a reality check, but also you need to look a little bit longer because the uncomfortable look is the first few minutes. You take a few more minutes you find this inner peace.”
Johanna also makes a valid point, about mirrors creating spaces – or at least giving that impression.
“When you have a mirror you create a space from the other side. You create bigger spaces with mirrors and different lights.
“It’s also about yourself and when you look yourself in the eye. That’s why many of my mirrors are tinted, with a pink or black tint, which gives a much better reflection of what you look like. A different reflection.”
“You can explore a lot in Dubai because it is so new; the whole design and art world is something you feel they’re getting into much more, but it’s a bigger space, not so rigid, you feel you can explore different aspects here.”
Although her first exhibition in Dubai, Karma J is present in retail spaces such as Dubai Mall Galeries Lafayette and The Source Concept.
“It all started with me…I did my own reflections on the mirrors, my own story. Now each collection has a style of character. You can identify with each one; you have a part in yourself which is one of these.”
For example? “The Impressionist…you grow from this caterpillar to a colourful butterfly, not afraid of being bold or different.”
With an emphasis on personal reflection, each mirror encourages you to take the time to analyse your own life experience, by perfectly balancing an open mind with your own traditional values.
Whatever your opinion of the mirrors or their backstory, the Karma J collection is certainly a fair excuse to visit La Serre and one of the best breakfast destinations in town.
THE Johanna Jonsson Abchée exhibition will run until May 25.
EACH artist is given free reign to curate the space like an art gallery and every piece of work is available to buy directly from the exhibitor.
THE boulangerie opens daily for breakfast from 6.30am through to lunch and dinner, closing at 10.30pm.
ARTISTS who would like the opportunity to showcase their work in the boulangerie at La Serre should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.