Compostable Canvas: Helen Mai

Compostable Canvas: Helen Mai

Meet the artist behind our latest Compostable Canvas, Helen Mai. We chat to her about the inspiration behind the Shape Series designs, what invigorates her creative flair and how elaborate cooking has carried her (like many of us) through lockdown restrictions.

Hello Helen! Could you please tell us what inspired your Compostable Canvas designs?

I love and am inspired by organic shapes and patterns occurring in nature. I enjoy exploring and hiking and appreciate the unique forms I see along the way. Every petal, flower, rock, leaf, tree trunk and even the erosion left behind from waves crashing on the cliff edge is unique. 

These cups are an abstract representation of ‘nature patterns’. The spotted 8oz cup for example, loosely represents individuals that appear similar or the same. Though if we look closer they are all special, hand-drawn and not as simple as ‘ctrl+c / ctrl+v’. 

I am also intrigued by the use of digital technology to convey organic personality in my work. In a world where we are all constantly connected through digital means, we somewhat yearn to portray humanity through design, brand stories, language and colour. 

When you were younger, did you always know you wanted to be in the creative industry?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing, which began at a young age replicating Sailor Moon and Pokemon characters. When it came down to choosing a course at university, it was a very torn choice between studying Architecture and Graphic Design. I ended up studying Graphic Design at AUT [Auckland, NZ] then went onto working for a few tight-knit studios for a few years before freelancing. My love of food and baking also sparked the beginning of me styling and shooting content for myself and clients.

How would you describe your style today in 3 words?

Organic, bright and fun.

Whose an artist or creative that’s inspiring you currently? 

Sha'an d'Anthes (aka furrylittlepeach) and Alice Gao. Sha’an is an illustrator and I love how her style is unapologetically her, her use of primary colours is always so cheerful and vibrant. Alice Gao’s photography and use of light is beautiful and inspiring.

What about any inspirational podcast recommendations?

‘GaryVee’ and ‘Your Creative Start’

With lockdowns restrictions around the world, many people found they were getting into old hobbies and new, what’s something you’ve found or learnt during this time?

I’ve spent more time cooking more elaborate meals and trying new recipes. Because of the current travel restrictions, I’ve really appreciated exploring locally. Even if it’s just driving or walking in a different direction, just to see what’s on the other side. It’s been great seeing the ‘same surroundings’ in a new light. 

Cooking has been an excellent past time for lots of people this year! What would your dream meal be? 

A tough question! I’d love to go to Noma Restaurant and experience their food. Otherwise, a bowl of spicy sichuan umami-packed noodles, a side of spicy dumplings with a refreshing house-made soda. A hot out of the oven loaf of crusty sourdough with an array of whipped flavoured butter for good measure. Finished off with a tasty dessert by Sid Sahrawat. And a jasmine milk tea with pearls, no sugar to go...

What’s your go-to drink order that you’ll get in one of your Compostable Canvas cups?

A flat white

Once travel restrictions lift, where would you like to visit? 

Egypt, I love Egyptian history and the pyramids are incredible structures.

What inspires you in the realm of sustainability?

Plants and food? I think it’s really rewarding when you cook a meal with things you’ve picked from the garden, which you’ve fed with castings from your worm farm (or compost), which you’ve fed from food scraps. It’s a beautiful cycle really.

Lastly, and arguably the most important question, do you have a secret talent?

Singing… and I can eat lots of chilli. 


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