The Braids Tee: Artist, Michelle R. D’Urbano Illustrates The Feelings Of Tenderness & Care Within Sisterhood

MAUBY has partnered with female illustrators in creating premium organic cotton blend stretch tees. The “Braids” design is the third print we will be releasing, created by Michelle R. D’Urbano! Michelle is a Surface Pattern Designer & Illustrator based in Chingola, Zambia. Check out her profile feature below to learn more about this inspiring artist and her backstory for the “Braids” illustration!

Q: Tell us about yourself! What first sparked your interest in becoming an artist? 

Michelle: “I think like everyone else I started drawing since I was a kid and just never stopped. I didn't always consider myself an artist or think I'd end up being one but life has a funny way of placing you exactly where you need to be. I actually left high school with the intention of being a doctor (the “sensible" career path) and within the first year it became pretty clear that it wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, I quit and went to art school and got my degree in fashion and textile design. After graduation I struggled to get a job in that particular industry and I remember it being such a low point in my life and felt a little lost and unsure about whether I had made the right career choice. During that time, I started to draw everyday as a way to distract myself and then post whatever I did online just for fun. I never saw it as something that would turn into a business, slowly but surely I got a few clients here and there. And now almost two years later I get to draw for a crazy is that!”

Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from when creating a new piece? Can you share a bit about your creative process? How do you determine when an illustration/design of yours is finished? 

Michelle:  “Oooh I think I get inspired by everything and anything...from people I know or people I don't, nature, feelings, dreams...everything. If I'm creating work for a client with a particular brief/theme, I take it as an opportunity to use my work as a translation of a feeling the client is trying to convey without needing someone to explain it with words (people should just look at it and get it), or at least that's my intention anyway. I love the idea of being able to center my work around telling a story or igniting a feeling within whoever looks at it. As for my creative process, I always start off with a sketch on paper. Even though most of my work is digital nothing beats good old fashioned pencil and paper. Sometimes it's not even a conventional sketch but more of a scribble/notes to myself. And from there I flesh it out digitally (I live and breathe photoshop at this point). It's kind of hard to tell when a piece is done, I just keep at it and stop when I get tired of working on it haha. I think you just's like an instinct.”

Q: How would you describe your artistic style? And how has your artistic style changed from when you first started to now?

Michelle: “I don't know if I have found a particular style yet. It's constantly evolving with me as I grow. It has changed a lot from where I started. I think earlier on I was more concerned with being accurate and leaning more towards traditional techniques and rules. But now I just draw what I find fun to draw. I don't feel so restricted with things like getting body proportions right or perspective and correct use of color theory etc. I keep them in mind sometimes but they're not a priority in my work. Also working digitally is something I only got into in the last 2/3 years and it's definitely allowed me to play a lot more with my work.”

Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned throughout your journey and career? 

Michelle: “That what is meant for you will not pass you by and you're exactly where you need to be right now. I believe this to be true both career wise and in life in general. I think the older I've gotten the less I feel anxious knowing this.”

Q: Can you share the backstory of your illustration, “Braids” which we featured as a design for one of our printed stretch tees? What was your inspiration behind the design and how did you come up with the name? 

Michelle: “The original artwork itself was created before I got to work with MAUBY but it was fitting now because of the recent conversations around race and equality. The illustration centers around the idea of sisterhood, and a way for all of us to care about one another. Doing each other's hair evokes a feeling of soothing tenderness and bonding with particular focus on Black women because hair has very deep cultural roots. And also for a long time, Black women haven't been on the receiving end of that kind of care and concern. MAUBY’s involvement with The Loveland Foundation which enables Black/Brown women to have access to affordable mental health services tied in perfectly with this illustration.”

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Michelle: “Not to worry so much, it all works itself out eventually. Also get into illustration sooner than when I actually did.”

Q: What do you root your identity in? 

Michelle: “At the very core my identity is rooted in my faith as a Christian. In terms of a more worldly view I definitely struggle with this one being an African woman and the tug of war that comes with being biracial which makes it hard to find solid ground to root my identity in. But there are other things that have shaped me and guided the way I move through this world like my family, friends, my journey as an artist, and whatever life throws my way.” 

Thank you so much for speaking with us Michelle! You inspire us with your kindness and talent. 

Connect with Michelle on Instagram @basic_mich & visit her website to see her incredible work! Two resources Michelle is passionate about supporting are @blackfemaletherapists & @theheygirlpodcast - check them out! 

Photography by Michelle R. D’Urbano