Interview with textile designer Marni Stuart
Marni Stuart’s love for design, prints and textile patterning has led her to work for leading brands as a textile designer. Over the past few years, she’s focused more on her own creative practice, developing her own line of prints as well as inspiring the next generation of designers as a lecturer.
We sat down with Marni to chat all things creativity, textiles and pattern making – to get an insight into where her ideas come from, and how she juggles a creative career while wrangling two young bubs…
Tell us about your creative practice. How, when and why do you create?
Four months into baby number two, and my creative practice consists of sprinkles found in the gaps in between life. This is alongside doing academic research, writing subjects and teaching classes.
I create as much as I can when I can. I will mostly work in batches as I need to ‘warm up’ my skills each time to get something good. So, I’ll paint for a while to gather a batch of motifs to use, then scan it all and compile it into a collection of prints at a later date.
How did you get started in the creative industries? Do you remember a moment, time or place when you realised this is what you’d love to do?
I don’t think there was ever a moment of realisation, I think it was always the plan. From day dot. Mum tells me that I used to announce that, ‘when I grew up I was going to be a rainbow farmer’. I didn’t end up too far from that aspiration at all.
The problem with the creative industries is that you don’t end up in it cause it’s what you ‘want’ to do in life, you end up here because there’s no way you could be anywhere else.
In your years as a creative, has there been a turning point or catalyst for changing your path?
Absolutely, that shift came during my Master’s degree. At the end of the degree, I was asked in to give a presentation on my practice to an undergraduate textiles class. I am very much an introvert, so was terrified of presenting. But I left that lecture theatre captivated, I loved every minute of it. It was the start of my work as a lecturer, which has since become the main focus of my career. I just love it.
Tell us about how your work has evolved or changed over the past few years….
Previously whilst freelancing I had to work hard to generate an income to cover life, which meant that I would say yes to absolutely any work that came my way. This often means creating designs that I wasn’t overly happy with or that challenged my personal ethics in some way.
Since I started lecturing that pressure eased greatly so now I have the freedom to be picky and to only create works that I love and that I’m proud to show off.
This allowed me the freedom to develop my style or ‘handwriting’ a lot more over the last couple of years.
It’s a process I find incredibly helpful when I have lots of ideas floating around and I’m not sure which to pursue or act on. Whenever I feel a little burnt out or need to re-energise, I’ll go through a few weeks or months trying to write every day.
What projects or opportunities have come your way that challenged you?
I was actually joking about this with a fellow textile designer the other day. We’re a funny breed in that we each have a certain type of print that we’re really comfortable with (for me that’s obviously florals), and when we try something different it can be disastrous. I remember once job trialling at a streetwear brand designing graphics for menswear. It was awful. I was so terrible at it.
Favourite tools of the trade?
That would have to be a combination of acrylic paint, watercolour paper, flat brushes and a scanner.
Where do you look for inspiration or what helps keep you motivated?
I always stress to my students the importance of regionalism, so when it comes to my designs I try to practice what I preach. So, to find inspiration I try to look locally. This is how I came to create the floral for Notely. I love gathering the local floral of the area I’m painting and then I work directly from the source and make a collection of nature studies. I try to make sure I paint what I see, not what I think I see.
We’re lucky in Australia, the flora is so fascinating and unique. There’s endless possibilities.
Mum tells me that I used to announce that, ‘when I grew up I was going to be a rainbow farmer’. I didn’t end up too far from that aspiration at all.
How has your creative practice changed since having children? Tell us about how and where you’re working now…
Gosh! That’s a big one. It’s changed completely. While I’ve lost the freedom to potter and experiment, I’ve gained a real value of time. Now, when I do get a speck of time to create, I’m straight in, pouring all of the ideas I’ve had building up onto the page.
The pretty pink and mustard colour palette of your Floral Journal has been very popular! Tell us a little about the process and thought behind this design…
This one came from a nature study of the sand dune near my house. It’s covered in the Pig Face Weed which helps to stabilise the dune. During most of the year, you would barely notice it, but when it flowers that bright purple pop against the green leaf and yellow sand is unmistakable.
The thing I wanted to show off in this print was the winding and twisting nature of the weed as it crisscrosses the sand, it’s a labyrinth of geometric shapes.
If we peeked over your shoulder, what would we find you sketching in your Notely?
I just went through a big native grasses phase. I love them so much; their texture and colour are beautiful. But lately I’ve been a bit keen on wattles, so you might find some of those in there soon.