Zuzana Marekova grew up in the Slovakian mountains and studied as a mature student at Leeds Arts University through the Access to HE Diploma in Art and Design. After completing the course she gained a place on BA (Hons) Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design, graduating in 2015.
Zuzana returned the year after graduating as a Creative in Residence for Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design, using the residency as a platform to set up her business www.zuzanamarekova.com. She has been gradually building her business as a printed textiles designer and maker. Her passion is in slow processes, such as hand printing, hand painting or hand making products.
Image: Courtesy of Zuzana Marekova
We asked her to tell us a little about her inspiration, her experience of studying as a mature student, her experience of University and setting up her own company.
Most of my inspiration comes from nature, folk art, personal history and the history of my country. I come from Slovakia and I am passionate about the folk heritage we have got in Slovakia. Inspiration, however, can come from any direction. It may be a film, music, gallery visit or something I have read.
Before I decided to return to Higher education I worked as a groom at livery yard looking after horses as well as training my own horse. When I moved to Leeds I knew I would like to return to education and to pursue my love for art. However I had no former art education and was unsure of what direction to take. After taking some short courses at the University I was encouraged to continue on to the Access to HE Diploma. The course gave an incredible opportunity to explore different media and find my direction in my studies.
I followed this with a BA in Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design which I enjoyed enormously. The facilities at the University are great. There are so many workshops and once you’ve completed an induction, you can use them even if the workshop is not directly connected with your course like ceramics, photography, woodwork etc. The library is a great place to be and has endless resources. The University has got everything you need, there is always support around and because our University is quite small, it feels very much like home.
Image: Courtesy of Zuzana Marekova
Creative in Residence and Starting My Own Business
I graduated 2015 and during my studies I already started to have an idea about my business and my identity as designer. I learned a lot about having own business on the career workshops where professionals are invited to speak about different aspects of self-employment. So when I was given an opportunity to be a Creative in Residence at the University after my graduation, I knew this was the moment to give it a go. While taking the residency I was able to prepare for my first market, test different materials, develop my branding and having an amazing support around while finding my way. I will be forever very grateful for the opportunity.
I am in my fourth year of running my business and am enjoying it very much, although it has been challenging at times. There are many difficult moments in self-employment such as income insecurity, responsibility for all the aspects of a business, working alone, making decisions and sometimes not knowing what steps to take. There is lots of learning every day, however there is the other side of self-employment which is incredibly rewarding, happy customers, freedom, small or large achievements and feeling that you have built something from nothing. I recently had a baby girl, which brings another set of challenges in running the business! I am hoping slowly expand, continue the hand made approach and be open to new ideas , collaborations and opportunities which may come my way.