Meet the Maker: Mahin Hussain

Tell us a little about your business – what is it you make?

My name is Mahin Hussain and I am a print and pattern designer based in Aberdeen. I am a pattern addict. I make wild multi-coloured artwork that is featured on Risograph prints, Greeting Cards, Coasters and Totes. I run my small business from my 2-bed flat.

How did you get started in your creative field?

I graduated as a textile designer back in 2002 in Pakistan. I knew immediately I wanted to create work that had a story and was unique. I started designing handbags after finishing a Diploma in Fashion Accessories from the London College of Fashion in 2007.

My handbags were almost perfect canvases for my messages, be it political, social issues or just my thoughts. I had to shut it down in 2017 as my family and I moved to the UK. It was only in 2021 in the midst of the pandemic that I kick-started my creative journey.

My youngest child is finally in full-time school making it easier for me to focus on my work.

Talk us through your creative process…

Sketching on paper with a pencil is how I start my process. Filling the artwork with colour is the exciting part for me. I experiment with gouache paint, acrylic and markers or a combination of everything. Once I’m happy with the pattern, I scan it and it is sent off for production.

I love the hand quality that comes through in my patterns. To me, that feels real and authentic.

What sort of space do you work in?

I’m in the first year of my business and work from a little corner of my living room. In my corner, I am surrounded by my bright prints, colours that I get inspired by and some drawings by my 7-year old daughter that always make me smile.

What are the values behind your business?

I am a very proud woman-run business. Here in Aberdeen, there are just a couple of Pakistani artists and I am very keen to show my community the importance of just following your passion. I want to be a source of confidence for younger girls who can relate to my ethnic background and me. If I can positivity influence even one girl, I would be incredibly happy.

I am very conscious about the world we live in and our part in it. My Risograph prints are printed on eco-friendly and acid-free paper. My cards are made from 100% post consumer waste paper. Every card box that comes to my house is used as backing board for my prints.

I try to work with local businesses in an effort to support the community I live in and the small businesses around me.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

I draw my inspiration from my Pakistani background. I grew up immersed in a world of colour, contrasting textures, bold imagery and a rich culture.

My work taps into my childhood memories, cultural icons of the sub-continent and the 60’s art scene. I am fantastically inspired by the pop culture of Pakistan and its magical truck art. I love the bold work of Andy Warhol, the magnificent Frida Kahlo as a women artist, and Pakistani artist Bashir Mirza.

Are there themes that run through your work?

Each artwork tells a story and is a part of me. My mother passed away 3 years ago in February 2019 and this year I created a print to celebrate her. My oldest memories are of her in bright pink floral clothes, flowers in her hair and the most vibrant lip colours. She was known as Koko, by loved ones. This “Koko Print” is magnificently floral in neon pink and rich green and perfectly embodies the essence of her.  

For Women’s day, Pakistani poet Parveen Shakir inspired me. She wrote at a time when the Pakistani literature scene was dominated by the male narrative. She was daring enough to write about feminism, inequalities women face in our society and social stigmas. A self-portrait felt emotional, personal and brave with her verse ‘Listen Girl, these moments are clouds you let them pass and they’re gone. Soak up the moist touch. Get drenched!’’

What do you love most about making?

My family and I moved to Aberdeen just a few weeks before lockdown in the spring of 2020. It was a time of extreme isolation and sheer loneliness in a new place. For me, the bright artwork I create is the reminder of the place I have come from, my home, my childhood and ultimately my identity.

I am very aware that my Pakistani background and experiences are unfamiliar to my viewer but my art is a visual language that transcends those barriers and forms a connection between us.

Through my art, I evoke emotions in others. Feelings of positivity and joy in the everyday are absolutely crucial in a world full of uncertainty and chaos. I cherish the human interaction and communication my work brings with it.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?

I would say my “Koko” Print. It’s a print that makes me truly happy, reminds me of my mother and has made others feel the warmth radiating from it too.

Describe your work in three words…

An Identity, Joyfully Positive, Riot of Colour.

Click here to contact Mahin

Click here to visit Mahin’s Etsy shop