Mia Taninaka

Byron Bay-based artist and designer  Mia Taninaka is such a magical force – she has a wonderful philosophy when it comes to fueling her creativity, connecting with nature, raising boys. Here, a peek into the world she shares with her partner Jasson Salisbury and their two sons, Ziggy and Taro

  2. Photographed by BRIDGET WOOD

  3. Interview NATASHA INCHLEY


I adore your artwork. Tell me about your creative mind and what inspires you?


I like to explore the beauty and magic in everyday life, I find inspiration in all sorts of places – bathroom tiles, shadows, the feeling of the sun on my face, the sound of the trees. It’s not so much about what I see, but what I feel when I look at things or listen to them. When I’m painting, if I start trying too hard and it's feeling forced, then I stop. I leave the studio and reconnect with nature, I meditate, breath deeply and practice listening. Then I take that state of being back into the studio and allow it to flow. This process that I go through is also a huge motivator to stay on top of my health and wellbeing, it helps me to maintain the discipline of meditation and other activities that strengthen my connection with nature. If I get too caught up in my own head, nothing flows and my painting becomes a non-event. I enjoy thinking about the fact that the whole universe is within us, we are a part of every single thing and every thing is a part of us. It's such a huge concept, but at the same time so simple – it blows my mind. 'Close both eyes to see with your other eye’ Rumi [the 13th-century poet] said that, I love it and live by it.

What ignited your love of art and design?


I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to paint and create. My parents were super supportive and encouraged me to make birthday cards, paint pictures, they even let me paint a giant tree on my bedroom wall when I was 11. When I'm in the studio now, I get the same feeling that I remember getting as a child when drawing-painting meant the freedom to create absolutely anything.

How did your gorgeous linen label Taninaka come about? What is your ultimate goal?

My sister and I originally wanted to do bedlinen for grown-ups, but then we started having babies and so creating something for them felt much more inspiring. Neither of us could find anything on the market that we felt comfortable wrapping our babies in so that’s how Taninaka was born. We are super passionate about creating products that are causing the least amount of harm to the planet and our babies, while still being beautiful and functional. Organic, ethical, sustainable – these are not just words, but the foundation of our business. We’d like to expand the business to create a range of organic, naturally dyed products for the whole family and ultimately inspire consumers and other businesses to make ethical, sustainable choices a priority.

How do you manage running a new business with family life, any secrets?

It’s all about balance and priorities. Everyday Jas and I prioritise our individual and family ‘to do lists’, otherwise everyday would be filled to the brim and I don’t think we would make it out alive. Everyday it comes down to: what is the greatest need of the time? Also, I work late most nights!


  2. When you look back, was it daunting to move your family from the city to a more low-key life in Byron Bay?


  4. Jasson and I left Sydney in 2011 and moved to Bali for almost four years. We let go of our old beachfront apartment at Whale Beach, put all our stuff in storage, packed our bags and rented a big villa with some close friends in Canggu. This all happened in less than a month from the initial idea to actually arriving at our new place. We slept on the floor using our clothes to soften the tiles, got munched by mozzies and woke up ready to go furniture shopping. 

    We had an amazing time, fell pregnant, home-birthed Ziggy in a gorgeous mountain villa with rice paddy views and when he was almost 18 months we came back to Australia for a visit. We thought it was going to be a three-week stay but in that time Jasson got the opportunity to further his studies in Byron Bay, so we moved here and never left. It felt like such a natural next step for us, and Byron has always felt like home. We went back to Bali to round up our possessions and ship some home, we got our old stuff out of storage in Sydney and drove them north. All of a sudden we had a home and a new life in another paradise. 


  6. How has your journey changed your family's way of living for the better?


  8. For us, it's all about the journey and we have done a lot of it over the years. When we lived in Bali, at every opportunity we traveled to different islands and also visited countries such as Japan, India, Sri lanka and Thailand. When I fell pregnant, we were still on the move – Ziggy had a passport full of stamps before he turned one. We became quite comfortable with this style of living but to be honest after a year of not being in one place for longer than a few months I started craving a home I could settle in to.

    I feel like all this travel breeds adaptability and has taught us that home is truely found inside of us, rather than inside the material possessions we build around ourselves. The transition from Sydney to Bali and then to our home in Byron happened really quite naturally and without a lot of thought involved. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time. Like all transitions, there were challenges and moments of doubting our decision, but these were fleeting in the midst of good times. We absolutely love it where we are and can’t imagine any big moves ahead – yet.


  10. What is your viewpoint on motherhood?

    There is a saying ‘ when a baby is born, a mother is born’, and this was so true in my case. I never felt like I was the motherly type but going through the changes to my body and mind during pregnancy, the lead up to the birth and then birthing a baby, I realised being motherly isn’t just about being soft and clucky. It’s about being powerful, strong, intuitive, brave and fiercely loving. Mothers are superheroes! We have super powers, but that can be so easy to forget when you’re drowning in laundry and your boobs are leaking and you haven’t slept properly in weeks-months-years. I believe in raising kids with respect, smothered in love and laughter, but not losing sight of who you are as a woman, a superhero.

    How are you encouraging your children to have an affinity and respect for nature and the environment?

    We make sure we stay connected to nature ourselves and maintain a deep level of respect in our actions so we can be great examples to the boys. Outside, time in nature is top priority for us and usually we don’t miss a day without making time for this.

    I feel like children are naturally in tune with nature and our job is to support them while they explore this connection. Being available to see things through their eyes and answer their questions keeps the magic alive and their big hearts open to the wonders that surround us at all times. 

    Do you have certain family rituals, particular to the weekends, that you look forward to most?

    We spend a lot of time outdoors. We love going on bush walks, hunting waterfalls and swimming holes with friends and family. We spend so much time at the beach and river – one of our family favourites is to pack a picnic dinner and go to the beach for the afternoon. Swim and surf, eat dinner on the sand, wash off, dress the kids in their PJs and they fall asleep on the drive home, to be carried to bed.

    And your best piece of parenting advice, please:

    It's so easy to lose yourself in the demands of everyday life, but don’t let this take over. Remember to take care of yourself; meditate, take timeout, be patient with yourself, breathe deeply, make sure you laugh everyday. After all, you can’t give from an empty cup. Use your intuition and above all else, listen to your heart – it's your superpower.

    How do you end your day?

    Jasson and I usually end each day on the couch with a cup of tea, debriefing over events of the day, planning the next one, essentially just having some kid free time as ‘us’.

    Lastly, what does true happiness mean to you?

    Dancing in the kitchen while making pancakes.