Maria Nilson is a Byron Bay beach babe and a super talented freelance fashion/art designer. She’s collaborated with Eskimo (Syd) and LR&C (Bris) and has worked for some of Australia’s top surf brands and up & coming labels including Isla, Tallow Swimwear, La Casa Corona House, Byron Bay Surf Festival, Ed Sinott Surfboards and Tomorrow People. Maria featured in the Semi Permanent 2014 book, has showcased her work in exhibitions worldwide and just got accepted for a scholarship in India later this year… but what she’d really love to be doing is riding her rainbow Pegasus unicorn, and shooting love arrows!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your creative beginnings.
I am a designer, artist, curator and surfer living in Byron Bay, Australia. Originally from Sweden, I moved to sunny Australia eight years ago and love the quirky & weird sides of life. I’ve studied everything creative – design, art, print making and now textile design. I’m lucky to be working with some really amazing individuals and labels within the surf and fashion industry, blending my three loves – surf, design and fashion, working on look books, yardage design and branding. I’ve never been academic and art is really my calling! Last year I got featured in the Semi Permanent 2014 book, and was stoked to take part with other creatives in the TDK shows, such as Left Right & Centre in Brisbane and Eskimo in Sydney. I’ve also organised 15 of my own art shows across Byron, Sydney and Sweden, which is fun! Right now I’m working on the new Nikki Penny look book for N.L.P – image above is a sneak peak!
Where did you study? I’ve studied for waaaaay to long! My background is in Graphic Design, studying at TAFE Kingscliff, TAFE Enmore Design Centre and Shillington College. Shillington was awesome and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn as much as they can in three months, it definitely helped me! This year I’m focusing more on my pattern making, studying Fashion & technology at TAFE Wollongbar learning yardage, styling, textile design and everything in between. I feel really lucky being able to take my previous skills in design and just build on them, rather than starting from scratch. I just got accepted to do a scholarship placement in India later in the year, which will be crazy!
How easy is it to find clients and who are some of your favourites? With my love of surf, fashion and design together, it’s been surprisingly easy to find clients around this area. Byron Bay is a very community-based area and people want to keep the business locally, which is a good thing for the town, but can seem intimidating for newcomers. You just have to put yourself out there. Favourite clients include; Isla Collective (who are growing rapidly!), Tallow Swimwear, N.L.P, Saltys Byron Bay, Byron Bay Surf Festival.
What self initiated projects have you been working on?
While co-creating Real with Fallen Broken Street‘s Diva Cory, we put on a bunch of art shows including; Start Me Up Exhibition (2013), as part of the Annual Byron Bay Surf Festival Youth Art and Music contest and exhibition. ‘stART me up’ encourages youth from 4 through to 18 from around Byron Bay, the Northern Rivers and beyond to create artworks and music in various mediums – allowing young people to join in the activities of the Surf Festival and support the growth of young creatives in our community. I ran RAD Ocean Life in Sweden a few years ago, a collaboration of art by Justin Crawford, Diva Cory and myself. SEE Group Show back in 2011 was also a highlight, with over 600 people attending, bands, and mix media work from 25 different local artists, sponsored and supported by the likes of The Critical Slide Society and Art Park.
Which blogs excite you? Sticks and Stones Agency are based just up the road and prove you don’t have to live in a big city to have big name clients. I saw them talk at Analogue Digital in 2013 and they blew me away! Elephant Design are also pretty inspiring right now. I love Monki – for their clothes but also store design, brand, look book and magazine. Anything weird, out of the norm, and pushing boundaries visually.
What’s on the cards for the next 5 years? Hopefully I am an Australian citizen and surrounded by epic waves and my friends and family… and designing fun stuff hopefully while I’m riding my rainbow pegasus unicorn, and shooting love arrows on all angry humans!