Did you spot Natascha Maksimovic’s colourful stand at Decorex? She creates bespoke wallpaper and hand printed art using the ancient Japanese marbling craft Suminagashi. I went to meet Nat at her unusual studio (it’s part of the Dreamland funfair complex) in Margate
What is the appeal of Suminagashi? I’m incredibly drawn to Suminagashi for its freedom, curiosity and observation of the process and the joy of the printed result. Many Japanese crafts celebrate a connection between the mind, body and the process which is the heart of this marbling technique. The more I practice it the more I learn to connect with my mind and body. The outcome of the marbling piece very much reflects this moment of connection. I want to be in a positive place when I’m marbling as I believe this feeling is captured in the final piece.
Can you describe the process? I work with an oversized marbling bath measuring 3 metres in length and 1.5 metres in width. This shallow bath is filled with tepid water. I don’t ever change the water for new marbling runs. The oil inks float on the surface and are removed for the next print run. The more print runs I do in the water the better the results get… I like to compare it to an old frying pan that has absorbed the oil of hundreds of uses and therefore creates the best results. I place the oil inks on top of this water surface and gently encourage the inks to disperse by using a fan or the breath, not physically disturbing the inks. Once a dynamic pattern has been created I place the paper on top of the water surface. The print is created instantaneously and the paper is lifted and then air dried.
Tell me about the digital wallpapers Nat Maks launched at Decorex. Having been marbling for the last nine years you can imagine I have collected a vast selection of pattern off cuts and keepsakes. I have always wanted to celebrate these pieces as a collection. The appeal of creating marbling wallpapers is also how symbiotic it sits next to each other, just like large marble stone slabs. Each stone piece is unique but they sit alongside each other as a family. This is exactly what I try to achieve with my marbled wallpapers. Celebrating the diversity of marble in a sustainable way. The Stone Anthology series is just that, a rendition of an Italian marble hall created without the environmental cost.
And during London Craft Week you showed Memory Landscapes, a series of abstract paintings, would you like to explore this element of your work further? Absolutely, these Memory Landscapes have really become my most expressive and fulfilling part of the marbling process. Found only by chance. One of the reasons I love being part of the craft world is how the slow process is encouraged and celebrated. We can take our time experimenting, looking at the sustainability of our process and pushing our craft into new and exciting territories. This is a gift! Not many other businesses would allow you to work in such a way. So when my print run would near its end and not enough ink was left on the water surface to print a wallpaper piece, instead of cleaning the surface I would move a large paper piece across the surface to capture the last ink droplets. As soon as I lifted the paper a landscape beamed back at me. Evoking a nostalgic feeling of a past holiday. I now find this to be my favourite part of the printing process.
Apart from the new digital wallpapers, the majority of your work is bespoke. Do you do much work with interior designers? How involved can they be in the process? Indeed the majority of Nat Maks work is creating bespoke wallpapers for clients and interior designers. I love this as it is a very collaborative process. We often start by chatting about the room, the colour scheme and the size and dimensions. Its often helpful to receive photos of the space too so I can get a sense of it. We then specify the colour scheme, including matching colours to paints or fabrics and I then begin with a sample run. These samples are sent to the client and once approved I print the wallpapers. The amount of panels I print are specifically measured to fit the space, so there is no waste or pattern repeat off cuts as with usual wallpapers. Each panel is individually printed, therefore, instead of creating a pattern repeat wallpaper, the customer has a unique wall mural. The panels, although individual, sit next to each other in a familiar group. Something large stone slabs sitting alongside each other have in common too. This is something I have always loved about marble stone and am so thrilled to be able to reinterpret.
Would you describe yourself as an artist or a craftsman? I have struggled to find my place since I specialised in the Suminagashi process. Where do I belong? My work as Nat Maks sits in the interior world, but also has an artistic approach and craftsmanship at the heart of my practice. I believe I have found my place within the craft world. It has allowed to give me a sense of freedom and room of exploration that is needed for this process. To really get to know my craft, make it as sustainable as possible and push it to new dimensions. I do not only want to preserve this craft, but also make it relevant and accessible for the future.
What’s your favourite possession? It would have to be my headphone. They transport me into places where I can find inspiration, switch off from my busy mind and listen to incredible storytellers. I love listening to music whilst printing, anything from Kraftwerk to classical pieces by Philip Glass – matching the mood and energy I need to capture for each print run.
If you enjoyed this read, you might also like my interview with Natasha Hulse who specialises in three dimensional applique work