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Maria Terry

Maria Terry - New Tenant Spotlight

Mon, 26/02/2024 - 15:18

Maria Terry – New Tenant Spotlight  



Maria Terry is one of our newest tenants here at Banks Mill, specialising in design and making for theatre, performance, live art and events, Maria has studied at the University of York (BA Writing, Directing & Performance (2014)) and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, (MA Performance Design (2021)). Maria brings a whole new creative business and energy to the building that’s full of excitement! We spoke to her about her journey so far and what she has planned for 2024 now that she’s settled in at Banks Mill Studios. 

I completed an MA in Performance Design at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, during which time I was awarded the John Elvery prize to recognise Excellence in Stage Design in my work towards creative collaboration, inclusion and sustainability. I completed my Master’s slap-bang in the middle of the pandemic, so it was the biggest challenge of my career to date. It taught me the resilience and self-belief I carry with me today to continue the often challenging – but fulfilling - road as an artist. In 2021 I was shortlisted for the coveted emerging stage design ‘Linbury Prize’ for my integrated design approach towards sustainability, and I am now working towards becoming a Carbon Literacy trainer for the East Midlands, accredited and supported by the Society of British Theatre Designers - Sustainability Working Group. Previously I studied a BA in Writing Directing & Performance at the University of York, before finding my feet as a freelance scenic artist, designer and maker. I have always been a ‘geeky art kid’ – ever since school! Hiding in the art classrooms and painting instead of going outside and playing – I’m sure many other art kids can relate! I started off as a portrait artist, before quickly realising I liked painting huge installations and BIG portraits. It was my art teacher who encouraged me to look at scenic painting and visual effects for theatre, film and TV and I’ve never looked back.  

My journey has taken me to every corner of the UK, working on TV sets, giant commercial workshops or backstage on national tours. I have learnt from many inspiring and skilled people along the way, all dedicated to their craft, and I decided early on that I fit in well with this multi-skilled, hardworking, highly adaptable, aspirational community and wanted to learn from the best.  I went on to form and become part of East Midlands based collective ‘B Team’, who specialise in creating entertaining theatre about the environment that provokes conversation and change. 

I am a regular guest speaker for Arts students at the University of Derby, Nottingham Trent University, London College of Fashion and for schools, youth theatres and community groups in Derby and beyond. I am passionate about passing on skills and knowledge to the next generation of budding creatives as each path is so different, and often not linear, and struggle is all part of the lifelong process of discovering your identity as an artist. A quote that has always inspired me and that I almost entirely base my practise around now is from the late, great Dame Vivienne Westwood: “It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to rebel, I wanted to find out why it had to be done one way and not another.” 

I have been dubbed ‘garage girl’ for a long time amongst friends and family – fellow people who get the struggle will laugh at that and probably relate! Much to my parents’ dismay, I have been working out of their garage for many years whilst living at home, and to’ing and fro’ing on the road. It turned into a storage space to start with, and then as my workload grew, scale models and sewing machines and canvases and all sorts of equipment started to take up space – my mum has even been known to open the garage door to find a couple of people in there with me discussing fabric swatches or paint finishes. Needless to say, in an Italian household, they were always offered to stay for dinner! 

The time and techniques that it takes to create some of my work varies depending on the company or artist I’m working with, what the story they want to tell is and how they want to collaborate with me. For Theatre designs, the turnaround can be anything from 4 weeks to a 4 year timeline! So much depends on client, budget, funding, venue, team and location.  For design work I tend to use a combination of 2D and 3D digital renderings, hand drawings, sketches, collaging, CAD and scale modelling.  For prop work or physical creative art makes for festivals/shows/live art/installation I could use anything from wood to plastics to silicone to rubber to foam to metals to electronics to everything in between and as wide as your imagination can go! When a piece is very complex or overly large in scale I will sub-contract a team to work with me where I can go and check on the progress in the workshop it is being created in, after the designs have been submitted.  My overriding aim in all my work is to make sure as many materials as possible are using unconventional, recycled or repurposed materials in an imaginative and creative way. It is a constant evolving and learning journey!   

Getting a space at Banks Mill is a huge milestone for me. It is an absolute game changer for me to feel comfortable and in a community surrounded by other amazing artists, I feel inspired and excited for where the next few years will take me already! I feel like I am entering a new exciting chapter of my career and feel having a professional studio address is possibly one of the most important decisions I have made for me in my life. I can feel the connections and opportunities that being a member of Banks Mill, supported by UoD brings, are going to be vital to my work over the next few years. 

My plans for the next 12 months are to successfully design and open ‘The Trials’ by Dawn King – a main stage collaboration between young members of the community, professional creatives whilst using Green Book principles for design and production with Nottingham Playhouse in collaboration with Mansfield Palace Theatre and Donmar Warehouse (August 2024).   

I’ll also be facilitating a series of workshops for local children at Artcore in Derby city centre, starting in April. Participants will explore issues such as conservation, nature and the environment as well as developing skills in collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. The final large artwork is a group project with children and young people working together towards a mutual goal, with final pieces produced going on public display in Derby. This project is funded by BBC Children In Need. More details to be announced. 

As well as this I’ll be coordinating and facilitating a workshop day at Derby Theatre/In Good Company’s ‘Departure Lounge’ emerging artist festival. I also plan to qualify as an SBTD Carbon Literacy trainer for creative practice whilst continuing to support and develop content for SBTD Sustainable Materials Guide (national project).  
I will also be continuing discussions with Dr Tom Six (Reader in Politics and Performance, Head of the Research Degrees Programme, Academic Lead for Impact, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London) to develop research into in-house theatre production practises and how current models of making produced work isn’t economically viable for a large chunk of the theatre working demographic.  
I also plan to apply for DYCP through Arts Council funding, to continue to kit out my studio and elevate my professional practice.  Connecting with artists within Banks Mill and via the EMC to collaborate on projects and ideas that I am dreaming up is also on my list. I also want to work towards being able to have a space to paint portraits again! I am developing a collection based on the community of Derby, with a view to working towards an exhibition. I’ll aim to have some of this started and on display ready for Banks Mill Open Studios Nov 2024!   

Finally, I’m looking forward to connecting with and meeting the rest of the creative Banks Mill tenants and hopefully making some new creative collaborations! Thanks for making me feel very welcome already. 


To Find out more about Maria’s current work on Set and Costume design for ‘The Trials’, at Nottingham Playhouse visit  


You can also learn more about her work with theatre company B Team here - B Team (bteamtheatre.com) 

[email protected] 
Instagram: @mariaterrydesign  
Twitter: @mariajaneterry 

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