Becoming your own boss is never easy, especially not when you walk the line between two professions. Maja Stabel is able to do just this by turning her talents within the sustainable fashion design world to illustrations that spark inspiration and thoughts. Spending time with Maja on a rainy day in Oslo I was welcomed into her paint-box world to take a glimpse into her creative space and the world where the painted ladies in her images come to life. It is always inspiring to spend time with artists that are able to feed their passion and creativity into different fields to create equally beautiful effects. I really love how Maja is able to do this in a way that reflects a sustainable awareness, while creating something beautiful to hang on the wall.
+ Tell me your story, how did you become interested in illustration and fashion?
Drawing has been my favourite hobby since as far back as I can remember. When I was younger I could sit for hours and draw. It has always been my escape, a way to be in my own bubble. When the time came for me to pick an education I didn’t think illustration could be a profession. I remember thinking that because illustration is what I love to do most of all, it couldn’t possibly be something I could do for living. It is so sad to think this way because of what society teaches and what you learn in school – that the creative subjects doesn’t really matter, that in the real world it’s not something you can make a living off.
I chose the second best; fashion design. This was more established and looked upon as a real profession so I went with that. But I could never really fit into this fashion box and my favourite thing was of course to draw the ’fashion ladies’. After struggling to justify being a fashion designer I found my way through it by discovering sustainable fashion and zero-waste fashion design. This is something I could really fight for. To use fashion as a tool to do good and to inspire people to think and live sustainable. After making a zero-waste collection for a Danish designer and having an investor for 3 months I started my own clothing label based on the zero-waste principal.
I think I needed to try that out and fall on my face to come back to my roots, to illustration. I’m really happy to focus on what lies closest to my heart right now, but in time I also want to develop my zero-waste concept and contribute to sustainable fashion in one way or the other.
+ What has had the biggest impact on your career so far? They always say that you learn most from your mistakes and I think that this is true for me as well. If I hadn’t used a lot of money to produce clothes in India, and having that not work out as I had hoped, I wouldn’t do illustration now. I think that experience forced me to face my true calling.
+ How do you like to work?
I like to work at my office space at ByHands. There’s a very calm and nice atmosphere there and that’s good because I can’t have too much fuss going on around me when I work. I love the fall and winter, this is when I work best and im able to focus and I also love working in the evening when the world has quiet down. I listen to calm music when I work like The War On Drugs, The Kin or Great Lake Swimmers. I also enjoy sitting at cafees and drawing people I see.
+ Where do you see your work heading in the future?
There’s so much I want to do! But I just started doing more live illustration and this is something I really love so I’m thinking of making it my main area. I don’t think this discipline is very common and this makes it even more exciting. I would like to draw people at events that they can use as PR after instead of pictures. Pictures are great to document what was going on, but illustration is something totally different – it can capture a mood or a person more simplified and it draws much more attention than pictures. I also want to draw people that have done something to make the world a little better – small or big and tell their story. I’m doing a couple of live illustration jobs in November and I’m really excited!
+ Describe your perfect work day
I get up at 07.15 and do yoga for half an hour before I eat breakfast. Then I get ready for going to the office. I’m at the office at 09.00 and I check emails and get updated before I start to work on one of my projects. Then we eat lunch together at the office at 12 to 12.30 and then I continue working on another project until I go home at 17.00.
I guess that would be the perfect work day, but the truth is that I work all the time. It’s more of a lifestyle and not really cut off from my personal life. Sometimes I’m able to structure my work into a work day like this, but my favourite time to get creative is in the evening so it often falls of of schedule. I’m happy if I just get to sit down, have it quiet around me, listen to some good music and draw or paint. It is extra wonderful if it’s dark and even rainy outside!
+ Your tips for anyone aiming to get into the industry?
It’s all about network. You have to contact people and show your work. But most important thing is to believe in yourself and never give up. It’s a really hard industry to get into, but I believe that consistent work and dedication can get you really far.
+ Pen or Pencil
+ Print or Digital
+ Biggest influence on your work
Howard Tangye/ Egon Schiele
+ The first website you turn to for inspiration
+ Top track to listen to when drawing
Under the pressure – The War On Drugs
To see more of Maja’s work visit her online portfolio here.