Stencil Portraits by Maria Harding

Gosh I know a lot of creative and talented people! I think I’ve met most of them since I had my son nearly 3.5 years ago. The parenting network seems to nurture a more passionate kind of creativity. It’s not that we parents have more time on our hands. The time is just – different, and focused. You can be way more productive in an hour when you know it’s possibly the only hour you’re going to get for 3 days. It’s also a bit of a rush to achieve something, anything during those rare hours and that fosters some outrageously good ideas and creative surges.

My friend, fellow graphic designer Maria Harding, is one of those people whose artistic and creative ambitions have grown in leaps and bounds since she had her young son. I first discovered her work in Veronica from F is For Frankie’s daughters bedroom – a funky but thoughtful series of portraits stenciled on to a large canvas. I asked Veronica where she got them printed. I was enthusiastically informed Maria had created them for her on commission. What a rad idea!

Since then, Maria and I have firmed our friendship and regularly discuss the development of our businesses (and our kids). On the eve eve eve of her first solo exhibition, Chasing Rainbows, I asked her a few questions about the driving force behind Stencil Portraits.

maria-harding stencil portraits studio

We recently attended a morning tea together, hosted by the divine Clare Bowditch from Big Hearted Business. In the same vein, Stencil Portraits is truly a labour of love, how did you come up with the idea?

It all started when I was stuck for ideas for my sister’s 30th birthday present. I wanted to give her something unique and heartfelt and I also wanted it to be something that was postable as she lives in the UK. She has a pet rabbit that she adores so I originally thought I’d do a framed illustration of her rabbit, but I wasn’t happy with what I’d done, so then had the idea to do a portrait of her and her rabbit from a photo I’d found on facebook. My sister is a little hipster living in London so I wanted something cool and that’s when I thought about trying out a stencil portrait. I did it with a fluro pink spray paint and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the process and also how well the end result looked (looking back at it now, its really not that good, but it was a starting point!). I then went on to do one of my little boy, then friends saw it and wanted one so I had an idea that I could start doing commissioned stencil portraits. This filled my heart with joy as it would be a way of earning money through being creative and doing something I love.

maria-harding stencil portraits

Maria, your business has really taken off in the last year or so, and when we catch up it’s hard not to admire your passion. How do you keep the motivation going when you’re burning the candle at both ends?

You are right, Stencil Portraits is my passion at the moment, I absolutely love creating my portraits and also find it incredibly rewarding as I’m often finding a solution to someone’s search for a unique and heartfelt gift. I am the sort of person that always has to have a creative project on the go and so I’m in my element when busy working on something creative that I love. The tricky thing is finding the motivation to do the ‘bread and butter’ graphic design jobs that I still need to do, but the money motivates me to do them!

maria-harding stencil portraits

I’ll admit, when I first saw your portraits, I thought they were laser cut and was infinitely humbled and inspired to hear that you HAND CUT! How long does the average portrait take from receiving the photos to packaging.

Thanks Cath! Well, it depends on the complexity of the portrait and also how many people are in it, but on average it will take me 1-3 hours to do the digital mockups with a couple of rounds of alterations. Then about 3 hours to redraw and cut the main black stencil and 20 mins or so to cut the block colour ones. Approx 1 hour to paint them as I now paint them by hand with a dry brush (not spray paint which was quicker but I find doing it this way gives me much more control and is also way less toxic.) Then the painting needs to be varnished and picture wire attaching at the back ready to hang, which takes another half an hour, and finally packaging them up takes a surprisingly long time of sometimes up to an hour.  Add it all up about 9 hours per portrait.

maria-harding stencil portraits

Finally, where can we find out more?

Website: has all the info you’ll need including an FAQ page, gallery and also a post with photography tips (in the blog).

Facebook: for regular updates on my work in progress


Exhibition: Stencil Portraits on reclaimed wood by Maria Harding17th August – 10th September

For more details about my upcoming exhibition visit

maria harding stencil portraits


Maria ships her beautiful portraits worldwide and is already taking orders for Christmas.

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