2nd January 2020

In the latest of Cockpit’s Makers’ Stories, artist-maker Maria Hatling shares how she set a bold new direction for her practice.

Maria Hatling’s journey has been one of taking an evaluated risk to reimagine what her creative practice and business model could be. She was ready to nourish and grow a business for the longer term that aligned with her values and goals. Bravely, it was a business model that took a new course away from her previous experience working as a commercial textile designer for lifestyle accessories.

Read on to hear in her own words how Cockpit’s Business Incubation team and creative community enabled Maria to take these steps.

It’s taken a while to understand that painting, collage and making are my real passions and having a studio at Cockpit Arts has given me the support I’ve needed to navigate this transitional period of re-shaping my creative practice.

I moved into Cockpit Arts in 2013 when I was five months pregnant. I mention this up front, as it is perhaps more common to move out of a studio community than to join one when you are mere months away from giving birth to your first child.

At this point I had been growing my own business for two years, after deciding to leave a seven-year in-house print designer role within fashion and homeware brand Orla Kiely and was selling my own patterned homeware through stockists like Heal’s and Selfridges. I’d had success whilst working in-house and the textiles I designed were published widely and exhibited at the Fashion and Textile museum in London. But ultimately, when working for someone else, you are never fully free to create exactly what you want. The work will always be a collaboration and will never be truly yours. I knew I was ready to start the journey of finding my signature style and with that, decided to take the leap of creating my own work.

Working for yourself is rewarding but it can also be isolating. I had heard about Cockpit Arts through other makers and decided to apply with some new paintings, screen prints and textile work. I quickly realised that this was the community I was craving. In the years before my son started school, I used my studio to access the business development programme and support on offer to learn more about running a micro business, and to meet and interact with customers during open studios. During these years I was still producing digital textile-based work and making paintings and collages on the side but was inspired by friends and makers around me to push my work forward and take chances.

In 2018 I decided to re-structure my creative practice and that my work would be focused on surface explorations which include mark marking, painting and collages to develop works for interiors. Rooted in this decision was a strong urge to get away from working on the computer and a longing to go back to using my hands daily. I recognised that for me the act of mark making directly onto a surface is the most important to preserve.

Re-structuring my creative practice has in many ways been a brave move but with the support of the Cockpit Arts community and business incubation team it’s been possible. It’s vital to have regular sessions with mentors that can support your progress and, at times, hold you accountable for lack of progress.

This summer I successfully re-launched my website and shop and achieved my goal of exhibiting my new works at The Other Art Fair. I am overwhelmed with the positive response I have had to my new body of wall-based work. I feel humble and happy experiencing that my new work is finding its way into people’s homes and becoming part of their everyday lives.

These new wall-based works encompass my dedicated journey that has taken shape over the past fifteen years where I have been trying to find and develop my own visual language with materials, surface and product. I am very pleased to have arrived at a place where I feel ready to be showing my work and feel excited about deepening my studio practice over the years to come.

I am still finding my voice as painter and colourist. Developing your work to become truly yours takes time. A vital part of my development is my primary colour research.
I collect colour stories wherever I go using photography and use these photos as a starting point for the colour work which I do in my studio to prepare for mark making. I truly believe colour communicates emotion, creates mood and speaks directly to the soul.

Going forward I am keen to exhibit my work more widely and working on more collaborations and commissions. I would love to do some large-scale interior site-specific work like a mural. I would love the challenge of scaling up my paintings or collages bringing them to life in a public or private space.

Visit Maria’s website to find out more.

Photographs: Joana Nunes