The strength, boldness, and graphic, modern edge signature to Michelle's artistic work drew us in immediately. There is a consistent, resident layer of storytelling to her designs that leaves the viewer curious and eager for more. The beautiful story behind Michelle's Loving Hands scarf is rooted in the idea of unity and complementarity. A large-scale motif of intertwined black and white hands, this design is representative of two seemingly contrasting elements becoming one, and in doing so, becomes an illustrative wink to yin and yang. More than just a striking design, Loving Hands is a symbolic celebration of both love and harmony - a perfect fit for our DYNAMIC DUO collection. With a freshly minted degree in visual arts from Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, we know that there is much more to come from this thoughtful, creative and chic young artist. And, we can't wait to see it all continue to unfold! In this DESEDA Artist Collective (DearCo) Interview she shares more about her creative journey and what moves her. Let’s Make Ties and get to know Michelle…Read on!
DESEDA Artist Collective (DearCo) Artist:
Michelle R. D’Urbano
DESEDA Scarf Design: Loving Hands
Please introduce yourself and share what you do!
I am a 26-year-old Zambian-Italian freelance textile designer and illustrator.
What was your path to becoming a creative?
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but it never really went beyond just being a hobby. Growing up I was good at science and math so naturally went into that direction school-wise and ended up in Med school which was okay, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t really see myself doing that for the rest of my life. So I quit. I remember having a conversation with one of my friends about how lost I was feeling after high school and I remember saying something along the lines of just wanting to do something I loved regardless of whether it was the “sensible” career choice. And yeah, I withdrew from university, took a couple of months off, volunteered as a teacher’s aid at a primary school and started applying to art schools. I initially intended to do fine art but changed my mind at the last minute and opted for fashion and textile design. So, then I spent 3 years in South Africa for my degree and graduated last year. After graduation I spent several months struggling to find formal employment which forced me to go at it alone and ended up freelancing.
How do you describe your work? And, what do you hope others take away from your work?
I think in terms of style I like to try a bunch of different techniques. Especially with freelancing I’ve had to be very flexible and bring variety in my work. Although recently I have focused more on digital work while also still trying to maintain a bit of a hand drawn feel. I would say that the one thing I try to incorporate in my work is a bit of a story or something that ties to where I’m from, my culture, or just evokes a feeling in someone. It doesn’t have to be deep or philosophical, just something that sparks joy or interest. At least that’s what I hope people take from my work.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I genuinely enjoy what I do, I find it fulfilling when I successfully go from an idea to a finished product. However, there are days when it’s difficult and there’s a bunch of other non-creative stuff you must do or jobs falling through or things just not working out the way you planned, and you lose motivation. Or some days you just get very self-critical (which is normal as long as you don’t dwell). In general, I really try my best to focus more on being disciplined rather than feeling motivated. That always gives me that extra push in those moments, and I can still be productive. Also, my friends and family always rooting for me is a huge motivation and I am always very grateful for that support system.
Where do you find your most significant inspiration?
Nature... I love being in it and doing work about it.
What are the plans for the next phase of your artistic and/or professional journey?
Oooh I feel like I get this question a lot and I always avoid giving a definitive answer. I honestly don’t know, I have a myriad of ideas, and I’m at that point where I want to do everything. I would one day like to have my own brand. Still not sure what it will be about exactly but there’s no rush to have everything figured out right now.
What is/are the signature element(s) of your personal style?
My personal style is very simple and understated. Lots of greys and black, I rarely go for pattern and bold colours which is ironic considering what I do.
What music is on heavy rotation for you right now?
Michael Kiwanuka and Leon Bridge's first albums.
What is the favorite place you’ve visited?
Tough…It’s a tie between Mfuwe (Zambia) and Vevey (Switzerland)
What is the last thing that really caught your eye or got stuck in your head?
Was watching a documentary that featured some of Mary Sibande’s work…Striking.
What are your favorite websites and/or Instagram profiles?
WGSN was my favourite website in uni…can’t afford it now. Favourite Instagram accounts right now probably Sofia Salazar (@_hiedra_) and Fashion And Textile Museum (@fashiontextilemuseum)
What’s on your current wish list? (Can be any things, places or experiences!)
Really want to go to Japan.
What’s the best nugget of advice you’ve received and would like to share with others?
I’m paraphrasing something I read somewhere about how worrying doesn’t rectify yesterday nor change the outcome of tomorrow. It really is a waste of time and robs you of peace. Such a good reminder and just puts things into perspective.
And, we’d love to wrap up with the two signature questions that we refer to as the “Double Knot” 😊:
Please share an example of a time in your life where you said, “why not” and took on a big risk, challenge or leap of faith!
I tend to play it safe, so I don’t have a lot of moments like that. The only thing I can think of is probably quitting Med school to study art. I took a chance on myself without really knowing if it would work out.
Please share why you “made ties” with DESEDA and teamed up to create an original scarf design with us!
When I first came on board, I knew next to nothing about DESEDA because it was a relatively new brand. But after working with Sarah it was very clear to see her vision for DESEDA so it was so easy to feel just as enthusiastic to play a part in achieving that vision. I felt very included and there was great deal of effort to make sure we both got the best possible outcome. I find the idea of collaboration to be so powerful and it was such a pleasure to be a part of it. That focus on genuine inclusivity and variety promises a wonderful and exciting future ahead.
Note: all photos courtesy of @basic_mich