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mia taninaka

Mia Taninaka is a Byron Bay-based artist drawing on magic, mysticism, and spirituality to create her very colourful canvases. The anthropomorphic birds and masked humans that inhabit her undulating worlds are full of mystery and wonder but never threat. These figures come from different cultures and parts of the world to reveal to the viewer what Mia calls the possibilities of sudden awareness.

Tell me a little about you and where we are right now…
My name is Mia Taninaka, and we’re in my home studio, in Ocean Shores, in north Byron. I’m an artist, mother of three, graphic designer – sometimes web designer – and I run a kids’ linen business with my sister.

What’s one practice that really influences your life and work?
Vedic meditation: it’s the foundation of how I get everything done. I’ve had a pretty strong spiritual practice for a while now, and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I can just tap in so much better, so much quicker. Like, I’m dancing around the kids, and I’m able to go into a room, I got an hour, and I can now get work done in that hour. Whereas, I reckon, three years ago, I needed five hours: an hour and a half to get into the zone, and then I had three hours painting.

So, you meditate before you begin? Or is it not about that?
It’s not really about that, but I have noticed that if I have a one-and-a-half hour window, if I meditate first, twenty minutes, I’m so much more productive in that next hour than I would be in that whole hour and a half.

You live and work from home. What do you love about it and what would you like to change about it?
I love keeping my own hours, though that can also be a bit of a downside – routine is not really my strong point. I’d love to, at some point, get my own studio, get up, leave for work, I think that would make a big difference. I guess with three kids, getting bigger, then I could probably start working home again more efficiently. But building a proper studio, right now, that’s the dream.

Working with siblings can be inspiring but also challenging. What advice would you give for a successful partnership?
I love my sister, she’s my best friend, so it never even crossed my mind that it wouldn’t work. But I can see how it wouldn’t work if you didn’t have a really solid relationship with your family member. I think knowing the other person’s faults, and knowing their strong points, and knowing your own, you can work together and work around different challenges, balance it out…

You come from a painting and illustration background but now you work with linen. Is this a financial endeavor or is it one and the same, a creative expression that ticks the same boxes?
I was living in Bali when I had Ziggy, my first child, and everyone was doing stuff over there, so many brands being made, such a creative community... And I was like, “I’m gonna do something too.” I thought there was a bit of a gap in the market at that point for organic, naturally dyed baby stuff – the baby industry is massive. My sister was in Sydney, and I was like, “Let’s do this thing together, just for a bit of fun.” I still feel like it’s just a bit of fun. We have seven kids between us – she’s got four under four, she just had twin girls – s o, it’s been challenging to get a business off the ground, when we just keep having kids. We would love for it to be a financial top up for us but, at the moment, it’s kind of on the side, something that we really love doing. We would love to do all these other things, but we just need the thousands of dollars to get it done. Trying to do it the way that we want, ethically, sustainably, is really difficult without putting your price point up, hugely.

Sometimes we’re like, “We can do it this way,” but then we’d just be the same as all these other brands, and what’s the point of doing it? I don’t want to just put another thing on the earth, when there’s already enough.
Where do you find the courage to follow your own path?
I think that I have had a job for maybe one year, and even when I was a teenager, and having little jobs to get a bit of pocket money, I knew that I was not a work-for-someone-else person. And so, as soon as I started making a little bit of money from painting, and I had my graphic design qualification, and worked in that for a little while, I was quite happy to just go freelance. When my husband and I made the move to Bali, we both had no work – Jase was a professional surfer, so he had income coming in from his sponsor, but it wasn’t a lot. Over the last twelve years that we’ve been together and we’ve got kids and everything, there’s been so many times when we’re like: “What are we doing? We have no money right now.” The conversation comes up – d o we go get a job? Should I go and do this or that? But it comes down to what is the point of spending all that energy on this thing that you’re not passionate about. I believe in what he wants to do, he believes in what I want to do, and we work quite well together, so that one of us will work for the day, and then he’s got the kids, and then it switches around. So, there’s always money coming in, and there’s not a huge amount of sacrifice of our journey. We’re pretty solid in where we want to go and the path that we want to try to get there; it’s always worked out, it’s always fallen into place. We’ve always fallen on our feet – so far.

I think being out of busy spaces like Sydney, where it’s really easy to get caught up in the I-need-to-do-all-this stuff, the I-need-to-have-that-car-and-this-stroller, you kind of step back a bit. You live a bit more simply up here. We spend most of our days at the beach or bushwalking, and those things are free.


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