Raised in a family of artists, days spent at the skatepark with her brothers, it’s no surprise that NZ’s Justina Maku Bisset – or Maku, as she’s known by her friends – would grow up to be a visual artist, inspired by and working within skate and surf culture in her craft. Maku now lives in Melbourne, and illustrates for some of the world’s best fashion and lifestyle brands, as well as producing her own works for exhibitions and art prints.
This interview has some real gems for the budding creative… read on!
You live in Melbourne and design and illustrate for fashion brands – what was the journey to this point for you?
I have never done any formal art training, when I left school, I got straight into teaching but I was always drawing and painting on the side. I was lucky enough to have some friends in the skate/snow industry who saw potential in my work. They encouraged me to start putting myself out there and put my work onto social media. Within the first month of starting my instagram account and only 100 followers I was approached by Rusty who wanted to use one of my pieces. This not only gave me street cred, but it gave me the confidence boost I needed to take my work seriously.
What are you working on right now?
I have just come back from a hugely successful solo show which I was lucky enough to host in New Zealand. I am straight back into work getting designs ready for a super exciting project. Unfortunately I am not allowed to disclose who it is for at the moment but think snow, skate, travel gear!
Working on summer-vibe illos for an upcoming project
Maku at one of her recent exhibitions
What has been your most exciting/inspiring project to date?
I have been able to work for amazing brands, but think one of my favourite projects was the mural I did for a store owned by my good friends in Melbourne. The store was opened to give back to the homeless community in Melbourne, for each item sold, an item of clothing is donated to someone experiencing homelessness. These guys do so much for the homeless community and I felt really privileged to be able to put my work up in a place that’s got such a good purpose behind it.
What would be a dream collab/project you’d love to do?
The tomboy street art side of me would LOVE to collab with huffer. To design a skateboard would be ultimate. The feminine girly side of me is dying to create a fabric for a whole fashion line… some ethereal watercolour billowing fabrics for Ted Baker.
Alot of Maku’s work juxtaposes edgy with feminine, like this work in progress
The walls of Maku’s Melbourne home are dotted with prints and other artworks
What words of advice would you give to someone wanting to make art their career?
Find yourself first! Make sure even your subconscious is you. This is what changed things for me, when I knew with every bone in my body that my art was me, all of me and I wasn’t trying to be like anyone else.
What’s one thing you couldn’t do without when you’re creating?
Wine! or if its not quite 5pm then some good music will do.
Creatives give the best recommendations: Tell us about a good movie to see, a book to read, a website to check out, a place to visit… For any of you ladies who have not introduced yourselves to the amazing man who is Dylan Rieder, I suggest you watch This is Dylan Rieder, it’s only 10minutes long but you won’t regret it. My favourite movie would be The Royal Tenenbaums. Anything Wes Anderson is gold.
Watercolours and geometry are hallmarks of Maku’s style