Painting with intuition is a natural starting point for co-founder and artist of Ninola Design, Laura Munoz Estelles with her art. Known for her signature style of bold and bright watercolours and inks that flow with spontaneity.
From the other side of the world Laura spoke to our blog editor, Jacqui Taylor, about the happy accidents that occur with her work, teaming up with her partner in business and her childhood full of imagination.
Hello Laura, it is lovely to finally chat to you via email. Firstly, where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Hello everyone, I’m very glad to be here and be able to answer some of these questions so you can know a bit more about me and my work. I’m from Valencia, a beautiful city in Spain, near the seaside, but I actually grew up in Betera, a small town surrounded by fields and mountains.
Right now, I move to different places throughout the year. I look for places which inspire me, and I love living and observing the seasons change while being close to nature. It is magical to live for some time beside the sea and then move near to the woods, watching the seasons change with the colours of the landscape.
Talk to me about Ninola Design. What is the significance/meaning of its name? Is there a team of designers behind the studio or is it all you?
I came up with this name a long time ago, when I was still finishing my studies on fashion design and I had to choose a name for myself as a designer. This word is actually invented; in my native language, “nina” means doll, and it comes from there. I have always loved to dress with a sweet style, and this is something I also like to portray in my patterns.
We’re two behind the studio, my partner and I, but the person behind art and design is me.
Watercolour painting is a recurring style with your work. Do you describe yourself as an artist or designer? When did you first start painting?
I think I am both of these things, but I consider myself more of a designer. In my opinion, many designers are artists, because in the same way an artist creates beauty on a canvas, a designer creates beauty on fabric (or on many other things), and this is their ‘canvas’. I dedicate myself to design because I prefer to use my art to transform everyday objects and make the world a more colourful place, things which everybody can enjoy in their daily life. I put a lot of happiness and enthusiasm into what I create, and when somebody buys one of my designs I hope to convey those feelings through the colour and patterns.
I really like watercolour because it matches my personality. It is not an easy technique and therefore it can be challenging. Watercolours require learning time, patience, and not to say they are quite difficult to control. And precisely there is where its beauty lies, happy accidents and unexpected effects occur, making it almost magical. I like this technique because it is spontaneous, expressive, it simply flows, I adore how the colours interact and mix, I find these irregularities and imperfections truly lovely.
I have painted since I was a child. During my childhood I have always been very imaginative and full of dreams. I loved drawing everything that happened to me and what I felt. This continues to be my form of expression, and I also decorated everything I found with the most intense colours, flower or geometric patterns. And not only this when I was about eight years old, I remember going to huge fabric department stores with my mum and my grandma. I was fascinated by those fabrics, their patterns and colours. Later, I would use those fabrics to make clothes for myself and my dolls.
When I had to choose what to study, I followed the vocation I had had since I was a kid, and although it is not what I currently work as, pattern designer, I started studying fashion design and fine arts, then I did a master in Textile Design. Textile design was a perfect mid-point between my two passions: painting and designing. I spent a couple of years working for others and learnt a lot, but finally I decided to work as an independent designer and opened my studio over eight years ago.
What has changed for you due to COVID-19? And how have you adapted your work to manage during this time?
The truth is that the pandemic hasn’t affected my work that much, as I have always worked from my studio, and during the pandemic, that hasn’t changed. Maybe I have not been able to see some clients, but luckily most of them are fine with working online.
When and how did you meet Nerida Hansen?
I met Nerida a some of years ago, I was looking for an experienced agent who liked designers with a colourful and original style. Nerida is a charming person, a true professional and somebody from whom I have learnt a lot. She has helped me grow as a designer and has represented me during the last few years, obtaining some wonderful projects and exciting collaborations. I feel lucky to be working with her and for having found her.
Tell me about your latest work for Nerida Hansen Fabrics and Future Folk Designs. What were your inspirations for this body of work?
My latest work for Nerida Hansen Fabrics was a colourful collection of geometrics and floral prints, two types of patterns that are my favourite since forever. For the floral prints, I collected some of my favourite flowers on a walk. I then painted them to design a botanical print that is very fresh and feminine with green and pink pops of colour. The watercolour dots are an interpretation of a type of timeless type of print: the polka dot print. It's a joyful shape that I’ve always always loved, but with a modern twist creating a colour bleeding between dots. Geo pieces are playful and abstract, full of dreamy colours and shapes with an artsy feel to them.
What is a typical day for you? What do you do outside of work?
My days are very intense, as managing a design studio requires a lot of time and work. Many people think that my work consists of painting and drawing all day, and this would be a dream, but reality is that there are many other things to manage everyday. I usually wake up early and answer emails, as well as talking to clients. Then I spend the rest of my morning working on custom projects for clients which want something specific, or more technical tasks as preparing designs for fabric production. Some of these other tasks also include the preparation of catalogues, presentations for new collaborations. On the days when these tasks don’t occupy all day, I dedicate the rest of my time to painting or creating new patterns, which is what I enjoy the most. In a studio, there has to be a balance between selling and creating, so that everything runs smoothly and it is profitable.
Apart from work, as I spend a lot of time in the studio, I find it necessary to spend some time outside to unwind and relax, and this is what I like the most - spending time in nature. I love going to the field, or to the mountain, or to the sea, take very long walks which end in a picnic and go to the seaside. Something else which I really like is collecting things depending on the season, like leaves and flowers, or even mushrooms and berries. At home, we plant aromatic herbs and then use them to cook after watching them grow. I enjoy simple and beautiful things, I like calmness and enjoying small details in my everyday life. Films, music, fashion and crafts are other things which I also love.
Who has inspired you the most to date and why?
I have many design or art heroes, but if I have to highlight some I choose Sonia Delaunay an artist and textile designer, and Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, a Spanish designer who has an infinite design line of printed products, super fun and colourful.
But the real people who inspired me the most in my life are my parents, people who have made themselves and who have achieved their dreams thanks to their perseverance, their effort and their nonconformity, in addition to never having cut myself wings and having allowed myself to dream. Also, my grandmother instilled in me a great love for handmade and all kinds of crafts. Today my partner is my main support, he is an example of generosity, pragmatism and sense of humour.
Laura, do you have a dream collaboration or project?
Of course, It would be a dream for me to work with Marimekko, Anthropologie or Gorman, among many others. But I love working with all kinds of companies, from small brands, independent designers, people who are starting a new project, or bigger companies. I love my job so I'm happy to be able to do it for anyone.
What is in the pipeline for you for 2021?
I have a great project in hand that I cannot reveal yet, but it’s with a big company and I’m very excited, stay tuned! In addition, I’m working on several collaborations that I am looking forward to coming to light.
I am very lucky that what I love to do is creating art and designs, and people continue buying it and companies continue licensing it, so if I can continue working on what I'm passionate about, I'm really satisfied and happy.
Name three words that best describe your work.
Colourful, artistic and sweet
What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as either artists or makers?
Patience and perseverance. Dreams are not fulfilled by magic. Only those who stand up and search for the correct circumstances triumph in the world, creating them if they cannot find them.