Maikki Hurmerinta from Finland creates under the brand Mai Darling Designs. She runs own business by sculpting and hand-painting cute characters from polymer clay: "Everything I create gives me a lot of joy and that is something I wish to give out through my work," she says.
Enjoy the interview with Maikki and be inspired by her incredible artwork.
Your Instagram profile is full of cute fantasy characters. Why did you choose this topic?
I've loved telling stories and building up my own universes ever since I was a kid and evidently never grew out of it. I started sculpting with animal characters and after a while along came the ghosties. It has all evolved very naturally but I think one of the main reasons is that besides making animal characters, I long to create something that is completely from my own imagination and sharing that with people.
Ghosts and other monsters often appear among your characters. In your cute way of making them, however, no one will be afraid of them. What do you think about their colour design?
Nature plays a big role in my color designs. I spend a lot of my time in nature and I try to absorb as much inspiration as I can. It can be the exact colors of a sunset or a certain feeling I get when experiencing something in nature. I also take a lot of inspiration from the four seasons and other natural elements, like space.
Which part of the creation process do you enjoy the most?
Each step of the making process has its own magic but I have two clear favourites: painting and photography. When I'm sculpting a new piece, I often feel that it might never look good. When I paint the piece, the true characteristics of that piece are slowly revealed. Working with all the different colors is also very therapeutic and makes me extremely happy.
For me the process doesn't end when I actually finish the piece as I consider photography a very essential part of my artistic process. When I look at my pieces through the viewfinder, I'm able to see them differently and really think about the key details and characteristics of that piece and what kind of feelings or stories I want them to portray.
Do you sometimes experiment with polymer clay or do you use only proven techniques and methods?
I experiment all the time. That's what keeps things fresh, interesting and challenging for me. I love experimenting with materials, different tools and techniques and there's always something new to discover and learn.
You paint and then varnish every polymer figure. So you basically use a polymer clay in neutral colour?
Yes. I use Super Sculpey for most of my pieces which means the base is either beige or gray or something in between so I paint each piece by hand. I've worked with a lot of different brands and types of clay in the past and Super Sculpey and Cosclay are definitely my current favourites to work with.
Do you make mostly decorative objects from polymer clay or do you also make jewellery?
These days I make mostly decorative objects but I do occasionally make some necklaces and pins too.
Have you ever experienced a moment that you had no idea what character to create? What do you do at times like this?
Most of the time I have too many ideas floating around which in a way, is a very similar problem. I keep a list of ideas that goes years back so it's a very easy method to just pick something out of that list if I'm not sure what to make. Sometimes if I feel overwhelmed and stuck with my work, I try to slow down and simply take some time to just dream up new pieces and ideas. I also have amazing followers and sometimes I just ask what people would love to see me make. Sometimes the discussion goes naturally there and it's amazing when brainstorming becomes a collective experience. It can be incredibly inspiring and lead to new discoveries with one's work.
Is the art more of a job or a hobby for you?
Art in general is my full-time job and Mai Darling Designs is my main brand. I'm also a jewelry/lapidary smith by trade and do that work under my official company name, KARUI.
How many hours a day on average do you spend by creating?
That depends a lot. Running a business takes a lot of time away from the actual creation and there are days the administrative work takes up all the hours in a day. Then again, there are days I sit tightly by my desk creating for hours. My general rule is to spend some time creating every day since my income depends on that.
Do you have someone who helps you in any way? Whether it's photography of finished products, e-shop and others?
My business is pretty much a one-woman show. I design and make my pieces, take photos, run the shop, pack all the pieces, run all my social media accounts and answer all the emails and messages. I do have an accountant to help me with bookkeeping.