Get to know our friend Maria Francesca
New Zealand graphic designer and multidisciplinary creative Francesca Melis. Bright pop colour palettes, vintage 60s and 70s designs, Victorian botanical prints and medieval iconography are all ingredients in Francesca’s work, as she celebrates vivid memories of her childhood, spent in close contact with nature and animals. The incorporation of Sardinian decorative art honours the rich cultural heritage of her island homeland.
What is your artist background?
I studied Graphic Design at Yoobee College and since graduating I have been working freelance collaborating with musicians, festivals, agencies, book publishers and magazines. I am very passionate about Illustration and Photography. Illustration gives me the possibility to escape from reality, dive deep into my imagination or simply embrace my emotions and feelings. Photography brings me back to reality, it’s like a third eye that allows me to see what’s around me making me belong to a place or a space.
What city in New Zealand do you live?
Auckland, but was born and raised in Sardinia, Italy
When did you start doing your art?
Since I was a small kid, I have always loved drawing, painting and creating things with my hands. It evolved a lot over the years but it has always been the tool I use to express myself and what I feel. It’s like writing a journal every day, it keeps me grounded and reminds me where I come from, it takes me to places and people I miss and it gives me the courage to be and to love the way I am.
When did you start your entrepreneur journey?
It took me a long time to realise that this could have become a job. I spent lots of years thinking it could have only been a hobby. Studying gave me the tools and the confidence to try to make a career out of my passion. At the start of the pandemic, since I couldn’t travel and leave the country I decided to make the most of my time in New Zealand, I left my full-time job as a barista and started a journey at university. I have been working as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator since.
How do you describe your artwork style?
Botanical, colourful, bright, busy and nostalgic. My style is influenced by memories of my childhood, spent in close contact with nature and animals and it celebrates the rich cultural heritage of my island homeland.
Have you always done your field of art or was there other types of art that you have done? If so, what types?
Photography is another field of art that I am very passionate about.
What is the ideal environment for you when creating your artwork?
Outside, in the 230-year-old courtyard where I grew up, under my mum's wisteria in full bloom and listening to my favourite Dire Straits album.
Who is your hero? And why?
I don’t have any particular hero but the list of people I admire is very long. I find particularly inspiring women that had the courage and the strength to follow their values and their passion despite gender, racial and ethnic inequalities. I love the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, the first woman to become a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence; Maria Sibylla Merian, one of the first naturalists to have studied insects, her classification of butterflies and moths is still used today; Frida Kahlo for her revolutionary work celebrating indigenous Mexican culture and women; Singer Tori Amos for teaching me that being different is a gift and not something to be ashamed of, and many more.
What values are important to you?
Equality, honesty, respect and self-respect, looking after each other and the environment and remembering where we came from.
Any advice for aspiring NZ artists?
A few things that I would’ve loved to hear during moments of doubt: don’t make comparisons with others, we are all different and unique in our own way, experiment, find your voice, keep trying and, when it seems like the wind is not blowing in your favour, take the oars and start rowing, perseverance always pays back.
What was the inspiration behind your artwork for your PieceHouse puzzle?
This artwork is inspired by the Mediterranean Sea, famous for its crystal-clear waters and glittering marine life. The fish are brought to life using abstract, swirling patterns and bright colours, while the frame is a tribute to Sardinia’s majestic handmade textile heritage. Maria Francesca is the artist that created the Serenity puzzle.
What do you do to help keep your mental health in a positive place?
I recently started to practice meditation regularly, it’s helping me feel more connected to my body, my mind and my surrounding. Another thing I do is observe nature and how it self-regulates. Everything about nature is so fascinating to me and just a walk in the bush sometimes puts things back into perspective. There is a quote from David Attenborough that I think describes perfectly what I think about nature: ‘’It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living."