In Conversation with Katja Mustaniemi

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This weekend, we’re excited to be part of Open Spaces at Abbotsford Convent, a celebration of arts, design and markets. We will be at Print Space, a curated selection of independent writers, thinkers and publishers - and we’re so looking forward to meeting you all and sharing our new designs with you! In preparation for the launch of our limited edition prints, we sat down with designer Katja Mustaniemi to talk about the creative process, feminism, and the artists that inspire her.

Tell us a little bit about yourself - who you are and what you’re passionate about!

My name is Katja and I’m a graphic designer, illustrator and maker from Finland and I’ve been living in Melbourne since 2013. I frequently worry about the state of our planet and try to live sustainably to balance out my love for travel and unavoidable long distance flights.

I have so many passions on rotation but the biggest one at the moment is definitely making ceramics. I obsess over things until I find something else even better. I also have this thing with plants and cats – I feel like I’m always drawn to them. Our neighbour’s cat has been coming over to our place to nap for three years now.

You’ve created some new prints for her words that will be launched at Open Spaces at Abbotsford Convent this weekend - what can you tell us about these designs?

This was such a dreamy project where I was able to mix some of my favourite inspiration from 70’s feminist movement with Matisse’s cutout work. I wanted the posters to be strong and brave with a gentle heart – to remind us to be the same.

Do you feel like feminism informs your design work?

Everything that I create filters through my past experiences so, of course, living in this world as a woman affects my work greatly. I’ve always had this desire to balance masculine and feminine in my designs. If something is a little off, it usually needs a touch of one or the other to be perfect. Lately I’ve loved embracing the full feminine approach though – it definitely comes more naturally for me.

Why do you believe it’s important to share women’s stories? What does her words mean to you?

It means change. her words is opening up the conversation – there is no right way to be a woman. What is happening in the world right now for women, the whole movement, feels quite revolutionary but hopefully we are creating the new norm for future generations.

Who are some of the women who’ve inspired you along the way?

My mum is such a go-getter so she always inspires me to get up and do something when I’m feeling super lazy. I also remember a few of my early art teachers very well – they were all big personalities with strong opinions and always encouraged me to push forward with my creative ideas when I wasn’t really even thinking about my career choices. Finnish artists like Tove Jansson, Maija Isola, Vuokko Nurmesniemi and Marjatta Tapiola are forever inspiring me.

What do you struggle with most?

Doubting my own talents and choices, but I’m slowly learning to accept it as a normal part of the creative process. The ups and downs can be very extreme when you’re putting your work out there, so you have to learn how to talk your mind out of the slump. Self-doubt is definitely the biggest inspiration killer for me.

What are you most proud of?

Creating a career by doing what I love. And also finding that special confidence you gain when you go through the emotions of moving to a new country.

What’s one thing you believe each person could do to contribute to greater equality in Australia and beyond?

Stay soft, question and learn empathy. (Ok, sorry, that was three!)

What are you looking forward to right now?

Changing into summer sandals!

Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful work Katja! If you want to see more from Katja, you can have a look at her website or Instagram, or you can come along to Open Spaces this weekend and see her incredible designs in person!

Domini Marshall