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Artist Interview: Maria Atanackovic

Updated: May 3, 2018

 Maria Atanackovic was one of the three winners of the "weird and wonderful" design brief we set the students at Make it in Design. We love her bold use of colour, and her lovely stylised jungle animals. She answers a few questions about her work, the Make it in Design course, and what she'd love to be designing next...

1) Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from?

I’m a newbie surface designer from Dublin, Ireland. I specialise in designing fun and colourful patterns for application onto a wide range of surfaces. The last couple of years have been pretty eventful for me. I moved back to Dublin after many years living and working abroad, had my first child and really began my surface design story. I’ve been really lucky to have had the opportunity to focus on my design work over the last while. As a result, I have developed a large body of work that I am incredibly proud of.

2) How long have you been designing patterns? 

I’ve always been creative and I’ve dabbled in many things artistic over the years, but pattern design is definitely where I’ve found my place. People are often surprised to hear that I studied Surface Design at London College of Communication many years ago. This is where I learnt how to translate my ideas into patterns and how to design technical repeats, by hand! 

After I graduated, I began working as a printmaking tutor at Crisis Skylight, a drop-in centre for people experiencing, or at risk of becoming homeless. I really enjoyed tutoring, but after four years I left London to work and travel abroad. Over the next few years I lived in Australia, Taiwan and Panama, and travelled to many more countries along the way.  Luckily for me, I won the 2017 Make It In Design scholarship competition. The prize was a free place on their series e-courses and was really a new beginning for me. Winning the place allowed me to concentrate on design in structured way. I now had a time frame in which to prepare myself for breaking into the industry. 

3) What inspires you? Where do you go to get inspiration? 

I’m simply inspired by the world around me. The oddities of the everyday, shapes, silhouettes and nature inform my work. I’ve gathered a lot of visual research during my travels and I’ve developed stacks of sketchbooks over the years. I refer to these all the time, as well as keeping new ones which I am developing continuously. I’m particularly drawn to clean lines, vibrant colour and the way shapes interact with one another. I take a lot of photos of things that interest me, often these will act as my starting point when approaching something new. 

4) Which artists or pattern designers have influenced you?

I’m drawn to artists and designers who aren’t afraid to use colour in their work and who have an instantly recognisable aesthetic. The work of Miro, Kandinsky and Matisse has definitely inspired me a lot over the years. Lucienne Day is probably my ultimate design icon, her abstract patterns are incredible, and they remain current to this day. For their use of colour and distinctive vibrant styles, Helen Dardik and Diela Maharanie are two contemporaries that I admire a lot.

5) What was the process of coming up with your winning design? How did you develop the idea?

The “weird and wonderful” brief was perfect for my design style as it allowed me to create patterns with few limitations. I didn’t have to reign it in at all, it was great! I decided to create busy designs with a bold use of colour that would work well together, but could also stand alone. My aesthetic is quite organic so I began a little online research and started sketching foliage and developing exotic animal motifs with a playful twist. I then scanned these drawings into my computer and began to add colour based on a palette inspired by my time travelling around Central America. I designed the pattern featuring okapis, tapirs and sloths first, then used some of the foliage motifs to create the other design. I was pleased that the designs complimented each other without being too similar.

6) What have you learnt that you'd like to pass on to other start-out designers?

As Dr. Seuss once said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true There is no one alive who is youer than you”. Just be yourself, and design what excites you. Celebrate your uniqueness and don’t try to adapt your style to what you think the market wants. If you can develop your own distinctive style, your design super powers will be unleashed. That’s probably the advice that has resonated with me most from the Make it in Design courses. Remaining true to myself has really helped me to develop as a designer and I think that it is really important to spend time figuring this out at the beginning. I would also say that it is essential to learn the design software as proficiency in the Adobe programs, is undoubtedly an industry prerequisite these days. Luckily, there are many, often free resources online to help with this. Just get stuck in, take it slowly and enjoy the process.

7) In a dream world, what would you be designing? Where would you love to see your patterns?

My ultimate future goal is to have my own print-based label, perhaps for the kid’s market. But for now, I’m going to see where my patterns take me over the next few years. I’d love to bring out a collection of bolt fabrics so that crafters and small designers can use them to make things. It would please me enormously to see handmade things created from my designs. I’d also really like to see my patterns on children’s clothing, swimwear and across stationery products. The best thing about surface design is that each pattern has so many potential applications, so the possibilities are really endless.

If you love Maria's work as much as we do, head towards her Wraptious page, where her winning cushion designs are available to buy. For more designs, head to her Maria's own website or follow her on instagram at @studiomaluda

If you would like to know more about the Make it in Design courses, you can take a look at what they have to offer on their website


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