We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Maala and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, alright, let’s jump in with a deep one – what’s you’re definition for success?
“Success” is a term that has evolved for me over time. At first, success was just a set of moving goalposts. I thought I would feel successful if I could just get one piece published. Just one. And, when that happened, if I could do it again, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Maybe if I worked with this publication or professional I admire, I’d finally feel like, and be seen as, successful. But, I’ve found out, it doesn’t work that way. Feeling successful can be hard in an industry where achievements feel so brief until it’s on to the next one, or where a peak can soon be followed by a very long valley. You always have to be looking for that next project and working toward that new ambition. So, I’ve tried to redefine success – not as a set of external career goals to check off, but as an inward reflection of how my work is connecting to the whole. Am I finding a sense of fulfillment in my work? Do I think what I’m doing has value? Am I able to contribute to the people and causes I care about? Success is being able to answer yes to those questions.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m really excited about my work right now, but it’s been a long road to get here. It took a lot of time and effort to figure out where I could fit in, especially when there are so many amazing illustrators and creators. It always felt like, whatever I did, hundreds of others did it ten times better. It was (and still is!) intimidating – and it constantly made me feel like a fraud and imposter. It took a long time to realize that consumption is not a substitute for creating. I would never have gotten to where I am if I didn’t focus on what I could do instead of what others could do. I did a lot of searching to find what works for me. When I began creating paper pieces years ago in college, it was an experiment that felt right and stuck. Since then, I’ve really focused on developing and refining my process, and it’s been rewarding to create pieces that feel uniquely “me.” As much as I might wish I could be as talented as someone else, or work in the other styles I admire, I need to have confidence in my own abilities and continuously put in the work to make those abilities work for me. That’s the only way my work will stand apart from others – by using my own unique skills and point of view to create something that truly stands apart from others.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We’re pretty dedicated homebodies, but we love cooking. One of my favorite things about Los Angeles is the diversity of markets and stores. Countless days have been spent running around the city, searching for that elusive ingredient. I’d love to introduce them to some of my favorite places in the city. There’s an awesome place in Santa Monica called Ma’am’s International Food. They’re a little market that specializes in Thai and Asian cuisine, but they have an amazing selection, including fresh produce, herbs, and even kitchen gear. And they’re the kindest, most helpful people – definitely don’t be afraid to ask for some tips or advice. I was also introduced to a Now Serving, a culinary bookstore Downtown. It’s filled with cookbooks, food magazines and zines, and various kitchen and culinary goods. We’d have to hit up the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market – especially the Wednesday one, which is overwhelming – and, as a plus, we can work off some of eating I’d be putting them through on the bike path afterwards. If you can’t tell, the trip would generally revolve around food, but aside from that, I’d love to show off Cliffs of Id for some climbing, the Museum of Jurassic Technology for some confusion, and NKLA for some cuddles.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be able to do this without my husband, Sean. We’ve been in this together since day one, and he’s poured so much support, time and effort into helping me be able to draw and cut paper for more than just fun. And I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to have a family that’s always been there for me, from coast to coast.