Originally from Catalonia, Maria moved to Australia in 2006. She’s a textile designer who creates typefaces, illustrates lettering and is a proficient calligrapher. She also loves writing Aussie Shit expressions in as many beautiful ways as possible.
We sat down to find out how she gets it all done.
I am a full-time freelance designer passionate about letterforms. My professional practice sits between custom lettering projects, illustration commissions and textile design. I also teach calligraphy at Rotson Studios in Fitzroy.
I learnt calligraphy for the first time in 1996. In that time, calligraphy was a 9-month compulsory subject part of my BA in Graphic design. I learnt about ductus, rhythm, composition and positive and negative spaces through the art of writing. I graduated in 2000 and after spending ten years working as a full-time graphic designer, I decided to go back to the foundations.
I consider typography the main tool for a graphic designer and I felt that I needed to upgrade my knowledge, so in 2011 I went back to Barcelona to study a postgraduate course in advanced typography. After ten years of digital practice, I grabbed a calligraphy nib again and I haven’t let it go since then. In 2012, I studied a type design condensed program at the Cooper Union in New York City. During the course, I learnt a technique of hand drawing type design that I have applied (and continue to apply) to my lettering work. My first lettering piece was designed in 2013 inspired by Gemma O’Brien’s work.
Practice, practice and more practice. I use calligraphy for design purposes. My approach to each calligraphic style is the base for my lettering work. I have a strong graphic design background and I am very passionate about all kinds of letterforms: from calligraphy to lettering to typography. I am daily training my eye to become a better designer. To keep up with my personal and lettering development, I go back to Barcelona once a year to visit my family and study calligraphy under the tuition of Keith and Amanda Adams.
Jack of all trades. I get bored easily so my favourite part of my work is being able to jump between analogue and digital mediums or combine them both if possible.
In my personal experience, calligraphy has been a fundamental tool for learning letter structure, proportions, contrast and letter spacing. Understanding what calligraphy, lettering and typography have in common and the aspects that differentiate each practice has been really important for me. Another advice is read as much as you can about the history of our letterforms and what influenced each trend or stylistic change and why. And lastly, your eyes need to be trained as much as your hand, so keep them both fit!
I practice as much as possible. My personal projects are a huge part of my professional development, they keep me creatively fit, happy and sane. When I get stuck, I try new tools to experiment with different outcomes. Currently, I am having fun with a Rekab 313 Sable-Ox and with Glyphs in the digital area.
Going for a walk in nature is one of my best recipes to give myself a break. Physical activities where my body moves more and my brain works less typically work for me. Also, doing something completely new for the first time can fresh up the air inside your bubble.
I am still figuring this out. At the moment, I work throughout the week and teach on Saturdays; I often teach the entire weekend, so I have self-imposed to take Mondays off. I use Mondays to rest with my feet up, stay in bed doing some reading and watching a talk. I use Tuesday mornings to reply non-urgent emails, doing accountancy and slowly diving into the week. I go swimming at least twice a week to keep my energy flowing.
Xero is my best friend; I started using it this year and I am loving it. I have a big annual calendar stack on my bedroom’s wall and I use fluoro colours to map out the entire year; it helps me to have a bigger sense of my time instead of just having a weekly vision.
As a designer, I am a one-woman band. As a teacher, I have one assistant. For each calligraphy course I teach, I have a different student who has already attended my entire course once, and he/she is very interested in learning more and improving skills, so they attend my calligraphy course for the second time for free in exchange for helping me to set up, prepare tapas and pack up at the end of each class. This exchange gives me the opportunity to mentor a designer one-to-one for 6 or 7 weeks and both of us benefit from the experience.
Firstly, by word of mouth. Normally, recommendations come from peers, people who have worked with me in the past or students who have attended a calligraphy workshop. Secondly via social media.
I am super excited about sharing my journey and my struggles with everyone. I like challenges and getting out of my comfort zone, so speaking at Typism Conference is an amazing compliment, a great honour and a huge challenge as it will be my first conference being a speaker ever (… blushing already!).
See Maria speak at Typism in September