This is the right time to conquer the World - Interview with Mimi Szalai

When did you realize that you want to be an illustrator?

There was not a huge revelation, as it’s totally natural for me that I express myself through drawing – may it be spontaneous or guided.

Where did you study?

I received my masters degree at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design’s fashion & textile design department. I also hold a degree in teaching design and visual culture.

What are you known for?

If you mean professionally, I think my best known works are the Luminary glass patterns. These crochet-like detailed patterns were created in a collaboration with two other designers, I’m quite proud of this one. If you are interested in my recent works, you can check them out on my Instagram account.

What do you love the most in your job?

Freedom, I think and the unlimited possibilities that a piece of paper and a pencil can offer - you can express anything. I also like the dialog, those certain conversations starting out of the motifs. I can meet very exciting people every other day. Genuine personalities with heartfelt stories the opportunity to peek in to their personal world inspires me even more.

What was your favourite work and what sort of tasks do you like the most?

My biggest favourite was a quite complex work at the university. The main goal was to design kitchen accessories with no waste. We got inspired by the 50’s fashion trends. I worked together with Tina Ocsovay on a patterned tablecloth collection. We both love collage-technique, so we choose dadaism for inspiration. We found amazingly beautiful fabrics with some manufacturing defects. During the pattern design phase we imagined our favourite dadaist artist, Hannah Höch as a natural born housewife working hard in the kitchen. The result was a funny, surreal giant collage cut into rectangles with no waste - this is how Die Küche collection was born.

Apart from that I really loved working on my diploma project, where I used psychology and the Big5 theory during pattern design. I wanted to find out if personality could be described through patterns. I made lot of research, it was a real journey inwards. The result was a huge puzzle, that you can mix and match - patterns, scales, colours and forms are telling the story about the certain person. 

I like the most those works that require mindfulness, that compel thinking and the result has purpose, function and message and not existing only for its own decorative sake. Instead of explicit, assertory works I prefer those ones describing methaphoric abstract concepts.

What do you do apart from illustrations?

I work with people.


How do you work and how does one of your days look like?

At the moment I’m doing my illustrations beside my day job. Luckily my job is flexible, therefore I can draw whenever I like. Apart from my daily routine one thing is sure - I go for a walk every day, even if it’s a short one.

Who does inspire you?

Almost everyone in different ways. Some people are interesting for me because of their clothing or hairstyle, some people inspire me with their personalities, thoughts and aura. After having a short conversation with someone while waiting for the bus, seeing a balcony full of flowers or a dog in it’s knitted jumper and the drawing is ready. I love commuting because of the people - the other day I realised on the metro that none of the ladies sitting in front of me had eyebrows. Also my morning walks are very inspiring: I like watching dogs and their owners and my favourite lady looks like Marilyn Monroe in her 70’s, she only walks backwards, throwing kisses along the way.  Also my family, friends, my garden, the Szentendre Island are amazing sources of inspirations.

How does an idea become reality and what kind of techniques do you prefer?

Most of my drawings I make spontaneously. It depends on my actual mood whether the result will be one detailed, deeper creation that I work on for days or I fill the paper with more smaller motifs in quite short time. All my drawings are like visual results of a thread of thoughts, like a conclusion. There are things that I can express through drawing, but there are things that reqiure more, just like in case of words. After a while I got out of the habit of change - I only use it in those cases when I can not sketch the idea immediately. In these cases I rather write down the idea or impression, so it will be easier later to reconstruct it. My toolset dropped to a black pen which helps me a lot not leaving me too much time to overthink. It requires unerring touch and it’s also a great training in self knowledge.

What kind of music do you listen to while working?

Loads of stoner metal. I prefer extremes therefore I leave YouTube to surprise me. Alice in Chains and Fu Manchu are elementary. If someone pissed me off in the morning by touching my butt on the tram I listen to Janis Joplin, if something is not right, I prefer Edith Piaf, when I’m angry it’s Obituary or Napalm Death - so it’s a pretty colorful palette.

What would be your advice to the newcomers in illustration?

Just what I was told: this is the right time to conquer the World. Believe me, what you’re doing is just great, trust your intuitions and believe in yourself!

Would you name a few of your favourite illustrators?

My favourite artists are Rebecca Horn, Jenny Saville and Hanna Höch. I love the animations of Csaba Klement, the ignorant linework drawings and tattoos by Dezső FTA Manna. I also like a lot the graphics by Virágéknál, creations by Printa and Malinovka. Lea Nahon tattoo artist is also amazing. A few illustrators… Henn Kim I think is a genius, I really like Hollie Chestain, Karolina Koryl, Irena Zablotska and Nomi Chi … and many more.

Mimi's TEMPORARY tattoo collection is available in the webshop, HERE!