Meet the Maker – Zuzana Marekova
We’re kicking off 2021 with a new Meet the Maker interview (yay!) – this time with the wonderful Leeds-based textile designer, printer and maker, Zuzana Marekova.
We’ve been following Zuzana’s lovely work for some time now and absolutely love her folklore-inspired textile designs and ethos for slow craft. We enjoyed chatting to Zuzana about how her cultural heritage and Slovakian upbringing has influenced her work, as well as much more!
Let’s get to it…
How did you first get into textile design?
My creative journey started a long time ago in Slovakia. Since I was a child, I was always drawing, making, sewing. When life brought me to Leeds, I knew this could be an opportunity to pursue my dream to go to university. I didn’t have a clear idea what I would like to study, I only knew I would like to do a creative course.
In order to be able to apply to university I attended an Access course to Higher Education which helped me to explore different creative processes and that’s when I fell in love with print. I applied to the Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design course at Leeds Art University (formerly known Leeds College of Art) where I was offered a place.
The course was perfect for me as I could explore different types of print. Screen printing became my passion and still is. I have been printing mainly on fabric and after graduating in 2015 I have started my business – I draw, design, print and make all of my products.
Can you tell us how your first project went?
While studying I did many projects to learn how to translate my ideas into a design for print. But when I started my business I had to learn how to make real products with my artwork. This was a very exciting step – I had to do many tests, experiments and research.
For example, when I decided to make tea towels, I tested many different fabrics, making sure it was washable. I designed the packaging and the little logos to sew on each tea towel as well as many more details. This process happened with every project and product I decided to try over time, like cushion covers, lampshades, pencil cases, bags etc.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration mainly comes from folklore and folk art. While I was studying at university I became fascinated by old traditions, folk costumes, symbolism in embroidery and much more.
I researched about my own cultural heritage and folk art from all over the world, which became an endless source of inspiration to me. I also find inspiration in nature, in small everyday details and my own memories.
What do you love most about the making process?
My process is also inspired by the old traditions, slow craft and making by hands. This was something I have always admired in the beautiful detailed folk costumes.
The detail and the amount of time it took to simply finish an apron – there’s something magical in it. So when I create I always take the more hand-made approach. I love every part of my designing process from drawing, printing, mixing colours and making to the photographing of the finished products.
What would be your best advice for those starting out?
My advice would be, don’t be scared and just keep trying things out. With printing especially, you have to be open to lots of experiments and trials.
I am experienced in fabric printing, so I think the best thing is to buy old sheets from a charity shop and get some small equipment – there are many opportunities to buy small printing kits (whichever printing process you choose) and have a go.
Have fun with mark-making, printing simple shapes, colour mixing and maybe making something out of the fabric when you finish. With access to the internet, you can find lots of great videos to guide you. I am always learning and I have so many ideas I haven’t tried yet, but sometimes we just have to start and the process will inspire us even more.
What’s next for you?
This year I am planning to learn bookbinding to create sketchbooks/notebooks with my fabrics used as covers. I am working on a new collection of designs inspired by Russian Folk Art and also I need to build my own screen exposing unit – this is part of the equipment every screen printer needs.
I usually use Leeds Print Workshop, however with the situation in the world, it could be yet another 6 months before I have access to the workshop. Over the years, I have learned that there is always a way and if you really need to figure out the creative process, you will. I do hope to bring joy to people with my creations and connect the past traditions with contemporary design.
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