Petra Eriksson, Illustrator & Graphic Designer

Petra Eriksson is a Swedish graphic designer, compulsive drawer and professional tea drinker based in Barcelona. Her work is colourful, striking and bright, much like Petra herself.

What do you do?

I'm an illustrator and graphic designer, but out of those illustrations is definitely my main thing. My business card says "compulsive drawer" as I can hardly be close to a pen and paper without doodling stuff.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by? 

Maybe not a proper maxim but something that has become very important for me during the last few years is "Never Grow Old". It's actually a saying from Casumo where I used to work but it's become a big part of my own philosophy. For me it hasn't got anything to do with the age itself but another way of focusing on having an open mindset, both for things related to work and everyday life. Never Grow Old for me means both that I need to keep trying new things, not get stuck in repetitive patterns or social structures. Just because I'm a certain age doesn't mean that I need to settle down or live my life in a certain way as long as it doesn't harm other people. I think the world would be a much happier and better place if more people remembered that they could keep playing, exploring and do things their own way.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

Leaving the fine art field and beginning my graphic design studies at Berghs School of Communication. Two insanely intense but also very exciting and rewarding years without which I cannot imagine that I would have come as far as I have today.

Moving to Malta and starting to work as a creative for a company called Casumo. That experience defined who I am today a lot, partly for the whole experience of moving to new country where I had never been before and where I didn't know anyone but also because it was my first proper job within the creative field. The company was still a pretty small startup when I joined which meant that I had the chance to try a lot of things, get my voice heard and grow together with the rest of the team. I would say that I built most of my confidence as a working creative during the years there and I grew as a person in so many different ways. Another great thing was to get the chance to work for a company with a very flat structure where everyone is given a lot of freedom and at the same time has to take a lot of responsibility. That whole thing got me interested in company cultures, working environment and helped me get a better understanding of what kind of environment I need to have around me to be productive and feel happy.

Moving to Barcelona and finally daring to take the step into full time freelancing life. This is all still very new but I feel really excited about it and I've already been working on some pretty exciting projects that I wouldn't have been able to take on before. It feels great to do my own thing!

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

For some reason I thought that anime movies wasn't for me for a long time, without never really watching any. Then I finally came to my senses and watched Spirited Away which opened up my eyes for especially Hayao Miyazakis wonderful world but also other anime film directors and the whole Japanese culture in general which I think has influenced me a lot. There are so many contradicting things there which works so well together, things can be so simple yet so complex at the same time and high technology is being mixed with ancient traditions. 

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

If I got to chance to live in a fictive world, which one would I chose?

This, for some reason is something I think about quiet often. I think it has to do with a need to escape reality, especially by the way the political climate look today. I like most fictive worlds including magic and dragons (HP, Earthsea Chronicles, GoT, etc) but many of them are very harsh. The perfect little world for me would probably be the Moomin world, it still has it's weird creatures and darkness (it's not all cute and friendly like you might think if you've haven't read the books) but no one is completely evil. All the characters have their good and bad sides and the landscape of which it takes place feels like a wonderful world to discover.

How can we find our more about your work?

I have a profile of many of the big creative network pages but the best places to see my work is either my website, my work related instagram account or dribbble.

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?  

Magdalena Czarnecki! She's a fantastic designer who works at the design agency Snask in Stockholm where I did an internship many years ago. She's smart, funny and extremely talented!

What is your dream project?

Oh, that's a tough question! There are so many of them! I want to write and illustrate a book (or many!?). I also want to make some patterns for fabrics and either create my own small clothing collection or collaborate with some other company to turn them into clothes. I would also love to do some kind of collaboration with some sports brand like Adidas or Nike for something like that. Some other dream projects would be to do a really big and colourful mural somewhere, anyone with a wall that needs a decoration? 

What's something surprising about you that we might not know?

I have a fascination for bones and images/remains of dead animals. It sounds morbid I know but it's something with the organic shapes of the bones and the memory/captivation of something that used to be living that I find very interesting. I'm not sure when it started but I've always loved good Natural History Museums and during my years in art school I went through a fase of photographing + drawing and painting stuffed birds. After that I started collecting photos of dead birds and I even had friends sending me photos of dead animals. My family has a cottage far up in the northern parts of Sweden and it's very remotely located with a lot of wild animals living in the area. Every summer there is like a little treasure hunt for me where I get to go on small adventures to try to find remains of some kind of animal.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

I would love to hear Liselotte Watkins hold a talk! She was probably the first illustrator I learned the name of and I've always admired her work. She's worked with so many interesting clients and I really like her new ceramic project. It feels like she would have a lot of interesting stories to tell.

What is the best advice you've been given, or wish you'd been told sooner?

I wish someone had told me while I was studying that people in the working world really doesn't know everything. It might feel super clear for most people but I was really stressed by the feeling of not knowing enough about my trade to start working and I would feel like a fool compared to my colleagues. Then I realized that everyone is googling online tutorials and going with the fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude. It was also nice to realize that I don't have to know or be good at everything, I just need to find a good group of people around me who's skills compliments mine and who I can create things together with. Even for me as a freelance illustrator is not a one man show.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

I'm currently working on a few illustration projects, one for a restaurant in Barcelona together with the design agency Care.... and another one for Refinery29 which I'm really excited about and a portrait illustration for Wired. I'm also trying to find some time to illustrate and design a fanzine about sexual consent based on a text written and translated into Spanish by two friends.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

I definitely feel like I have that now but it hasn't always been like that, though I think that has mostly been because of the setting I've been in. When I was still in Stockholm I hung out with some amazingly talented female friends but I didn't really see us as a network at that point. Then when I moved to Malta I was for a long time the only girl in a product team consisting of 20 guys, so it took me a while to start meeting creative female friends there. Coming to Barcelona changed that quiet a lot though as I've been working in a co-working space (MOB) since my first day in the city where I've had the chance to meet a lot of talented people and quickly build a little network here. I think this city is good for these kinds of things as it's both very creative and welcoming. I also feel like the relationship I have with my creative friends from Sweden is much more openly supportive now which is fantastic.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I read The Goldfinch this summer by Donna Tartt and it was SO good. Everyone should ready it! My other top recommendations for culture to consume (both for entertainment and inspiration) is to listen to the Swedish band Amazon, or podcasts like Design Matters or Overshare. If you've already seen every episode of Girls you should head over to Netflix and watch Easy or Love.

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

SO many things. But the thing that comes to the top of my head is diversity within the field and working more on showcasing that. I remember sitting in the audience at the OFFF festival earlier this year and just seeing one white 30-something man after the other entering the stage. Obviously there were some exceptions but I can't undertand how the balance between genders and skin colour can be so screwed on a festival like this when there are so many other amazing creatives to choose from as well.