Natalie Portrait

I am a designer living in the City of Roses – Portland, Oregon. I’ve had a lifelong love for art + craft, but didn’t fully pursue that passion until moving from New Jersey to Oregon in September, 2001, when I began working towards a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Portland.

Although I appreciate all styles of art, I tend to be drawn to the graphic + geometric styles of artists and illustrators like Alexander Calder, Charley Harper, Nikki McClure and Jacques Hnizdovsky – I chalk that up to the strong intersection of my left brain + right brain (see the story of my creative journey below!) I am passionate about my work and gain inspiration from so many things that surround me on a daily basis – nature, music, running, art, and especially my beautiful family!

My  Creative Journey in Five Parts

Girl is born with love of art + design

As a child, I remember making stationery paper with my sisters using stamps and homemade holepunch stencils, and displaying them at a “Share Your Collection” day at school. I loved projects at school when they involved actually creating something. I also enjoyed uncovering how everyday things were designed and how they worked.

Girl grows up, goes to college, studies education with a focus on…(wait for it)…math

Yup, that’s right – I studied education and math. I had always been good at problem solving and enjoyed the idea of working in education, so why not! I worked hard and the program definitely challenged me, but I do remember always feeling the draw towards visual art. During my time as a student teacher, I remember spending WAY too much time designing and laying out the worksheets and curriculum materials I was using in the classroom. An enriching experience for me was during junior year, when I spent a semester abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, as part of a program entitled “Arts and Social Change”. Our classes were held in a castle. It was incredible.

Girl graduates, switches gears a bit, and pursues a new life path

I took a job at a large format sign company, while simultaneously taking night classes in graphic design at Parsons School of Design in NYC, to see if I really liked it. I LOVED it and knew this was the right direction for me!

Girl makes big cross-country move from New Jersey to Oregon on September 10, 2001

I vividly remember looking out of the window of the plane during my evening flight out of Newark Airport, and noticing the beautiful NY skyline before me. How I could not have predicted what tragedy would happen that next fateful morning.

Girl earns second bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Art Institute of Portland

It was an intense program, but the experience was invaluable in exposing me to the world of design, and helped put me on the right life path. During school, I interned at an in-house marketing department, which eventually led to a full-time graphic design job. I remained there for seven years, and was in charge of many tasks along the way, including branding, magazine layout, newsletters, advertising and other corporate messaging. For a while, I worked on developing a side greeting card + calendar business while simultaneously devoting time to my growing family. I also began taking on more freelance jobs and pro bono projects.

These days in fact, I truly appreciate how much intersection there can be between education, math and design – and not surprisingly I tend to be drawn to simple, graphic, geometric styles. I believe that good design can make education fun and can provide a strong foundation for learning and problem-solving. I married a computer engineer (go figure!) whose hobbies include puzzles and woodworking, and we’ve had fun occasionally collaborating on projects. (Also, not surprisingly, we both love graph paper.)

What’s with the name?!

Much-a-who? Since you were likely wondering, my last name – Maciukenas – is pronounced “Much-you-KEN-is” (rhymes with “much you tennis”). With an already lengthy maiden name of Bonacorsa, I gave up all hope of hyphenating when I got married, and since I would be one of only a few people in the world with the last name Maciukenas (besides the handful back in Lithuania), I’ve learned to deal and have become quite fond of the reactions I get when people try to pronounce it. I have lost track of the number of people who ask me, “Is it Greek?”