Creative living: Interview with Justine Ma

Photo by Orange Girls Photographs

Photo by Orange Girls Photographs

One of my favourite ways to stay inspired is to read about how other people put their creativity into practice and learn to live creative lives. On the first Friday of each month I'll be interviewing someone who is letting their creative light shine. Hopefully these folks will inspire you as much as they inspire me. 

For the very first of my interviews I am so excited to welcome local Edmonton designer Justine Ma to the blog. Our creative lives have criss-crossed each other since we were in the same high school art class and later when we were both vendors at the Royal Bison Craft and Art Fair. Her work is beautiful and charming - I bought one of her onesies for my friend's baby and it is absolutely adorable. Enjoy!

What sort of creative work do you do?

I’m a graphic designer. I specialize in hand lettering and contemporary calligraphy. I make stationery, large prints, and home goods.

Have you always thought of yourself as a creative person? Why or why not?

Most definitely. I’ve always been a creative, using my hands wherever I can, whether it be painting, drawing, doodling. If you look at some of my kindergarten worksheets, it says “when I grow up, I want to be an artist”.

How did you get started?

I started out in University in a Bachelor of Arts, knowing I wanted to be an artist. After my first year, I transferred into the Bachelor of Design program—this kickstarted my career as a graphic designer, which has led me to where I am today.

Photo by Heather Muse Photography

Photo by Heather Muse Photography

What’s your process like?

My process is pretty much the same for each project. I like to always start with small thumbnail sketches and then create the artwork. I typically scan everything in and digitize it in some way—whether that’s vectorizing it or cleaning up a JPG. But I’ll always start with a pen(cil) in hand and then take it to the computer.

What or who inspires you?

My darling friends inspire me. I hang out a lot with creatives—stylists, photographers, makers. We all have a creative drive and when we get together, juices start flowing! I lean on my friends a lot with work. As a freelancer you don’t get that inter-office chatter and feedback—my friends fill this gap for me and keep me going. I also follow a lot of artists on instagram, it’s a wonderful community where we can all appreciate what other like minded makers are doing.

What are some of your favourite Instagram accounts? 

There are SO many faves but here is a good list:





Photo by Heather Muse Photography

Photo by Heather Muse Photography

What’s your biggest struggle and how are you coping with it?

Currently, I have a struggle with a work/life balance. I became a full-time freelancer to avoid this! But I now have a little bossy one year old who I call my project manager, as she definitely dictates work flow. The struggle between being a mom and working is challenging everyday. I’m very time conscious and thankfully, all of my clients are so understanding if things need to get juggled. I’m learning to adjust my schedules according to the little boss. It’s a struggle not being able to answer emails right that second, but it’s a learning curve and it’s definitely mellowing me. I have a great appreciation for working moms, days become tiring and it’s hard to stay motivated, but in the end I think my little one will appreciate my passion for what I do. I love working and it’s important for me to show her that life is short, and we must love what we do!

What’s your # 1 tip about creativity?

Motivation. Your vibe attracts your tribe and I believe my work reflects this. If you want to stay creative, learn from your surroundings. Be open to challenges and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What are you working on next?

I’ve been working mad at getting a new collection of greeting cards out. Hopefully within the next few weeks, I’ll be sending catalogues of my work out to stores across Canada in hopes to wholesale outside of Edmonton. It’s a scary thought, but I want people to see my work and give it to their loved ones!

You can find Justine at, on Instagram and Facebook.

Photo by Heather Muse Photography

Photo by Heather Muse Photography