In this edition of People of Coworking we chat to Maria Colls, a self-taught artist from Wellington and sponsored member of BizDojo Wellington. 

Tell us a little about yourself,

I’ve been living in Wellington coming up 10 years now and originally have a background in web development. In that time I’ve been facing severe depression and as a result have been working on and off doing mainly contract based work. To combat my depression I started attending an art studio for people who have suffered from brain injuries & mental illness and I discovered art again, which I hadn’t looked at since my high-school days. I started out doing modular origami but it wasn’t quite floating my boat, so I looked for an alternative and came across paper cut art.

For people who don’t know what is paper cut art is could you explain to us the process?

There are a lot of different interpretations but they all share similar qualities. My hand-cut paper-works draw on geometric forms found both natural and man-made environments. I’ve gained inspiration from years travelling, where I lived in large metropolitan cities and historical cities — which exposed me to a variety of different cultures. I take a design or concept of an image, usually an interpretation of something that has potentially happened in my life and turn that idea into a drawing. In more recent years I have also been experimenting with the concept of positive and negative space. The use of layering in my pieces creates a sense of depth and movement, and it is a technique I’m currently working with and I am keen to explore. 

I use Adobe Illustrator and sketch out my drawing into a vector image, that image is then printed out onto multiple layers and then I begin the careful process of cutting. On average one piece will take anywhere from 1–2 months to complete. My paper-works use a surgical blade, and I find the process of cutting away slowly exposes the design from the paper. There is something quite pure and thought-provoking in turning the work over to see the piece revealing itself.

Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I find the process extremely therapeutic. When I’m creating these pieces it’s like being in meditation, every cut I make takes 100% focus, I’m so busy concentrating on the moment that any feeling of stress or anxiety is blocked out.

As an artist how does your working environment impact your work? 

Talking about my depression keeping on track can be difficult at times, I’ve just come out contract position so keeping that momentum going is really important. When you have a mental illness is very easy for depression to sweep in, so keeping busy and working out of an environment like the BizDojo adds much-needed structure and routine, you also get the added bonus of interacting with awesome people. 

“This space has become the gym for my art practice, I come here and do work, it’s great.” I think for a lot of us it’s hard to focus on work unless you’re in a positive environment.” 

What triggered the move into a coworking space, and how has your experience been so far?

I actually met the co-founder Nick by chance at the barbershop! We got chatting and I showed him some of my artwork I had on me, and he invited me to come work out of the space and to see what the Dojo was all about. I was familiar with the concept of coworking and was a little sceptical I wouldn’t gel with the space being an artist as I always thought of coworking as more of a professional environment. The BizDojo blew that idea out of my head, I mean you still have individuals working on that level but there’s just this vibe & energy of creativity that flows through the space. I’ve only been in the Dojo coming up 6 weeks now so I’m still getting to know people, but I see a lot of collaboration going on which is super exciting to see and become apart of. 

“I felt welcomed from the get go, people have been really receptive and friendly and as a result I really look forward to coming into work each day. In just a few weeks of being in the space I’ve made some great connections.”

What is your personal outlook on the future of work? 

Speaking on behalf of small businesses and freelancers I see shared workspaces as our place of work. The BizDojo and similar spaces give people a real sense of community and belonging, as well as the resources and opportunity to potentially scale their businesses a lot quicker compared to if they were to go at it alone. 

There is definitely space for this new way of work, and I do hope it increases. I’ve spoken to some people who are in a similar position to me in the fact that they can quite easily do their work from home, but they want to be around people and feel a sense of belonging. 

Are there any events or exhibitions we should know about? 

My work is being exhibited at the ‘No Apologies’  opening night hosted at Thistle Hall, Wellington. The fundraiser encourages people to come and talk with one another about their views on sex and sexuality, ending rape culture and much more. 

No Apologies’ is the first fundraiser for Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP in many years. Please support us and the artists who have listed their work by getting along on opening night! Contributing artists include Sian Torringon, Danielle Burns, Jack Trolove, and more. We will be open during business hours for each day of the exhibition, which runs from 27th November to the 3rd December. Exhibiting artists share a commitment to our kaupapa of envisioning and bringing into being a world free from sexual and gender violence. Our theme, ‘No Apologies’, refers to the heart-felt response each artist has made, through their work, to this kaupapa.

Opening Night — 27th November. Thistle Hall 293 Cuba Street, Wellington. 6:30pm.

A big thank you to Maria for taking time out of creating her wonderful pieces and having a yarn with us! If you'd like to check out some of her work Maria has recently launched her new website where you can browse and purchase her most recent pieces.

Maria Colls paper cut art.

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