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Surf Shacks 056 – Mia Taninaka + Jasson Salsbury

Mia and Jasson are a beautiful and talented creative couple who both hail from the northern beaches of Sydney. Mia is an artist who creates lively paintings that embody elements of magic, mysticism and spirituality in fine lines and expansive color. She also has an organic linen and bedding brand called Taninaka. Jasson on the other hand, is a stylish, professional free surfer who rides for Banks brand. He is also an teacher of Vedic Meditation, an ancient and practical technique that anyone can learn and easily integrate into daily life. After living in Bali for some time, Jasson and Mia moved back to Australia to plant roots and start a family with their two young boys. They now live in an awesome ‘treehouse’ near Byron Bay. This is a couple who I have always admired from afar, so it was a pleasure to finally meet them in person, get a glimpse into their daily routine at home, and to also hear how these traveling free spirits have adapted to parenthood.

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourselves.

Artist, designers, parents, surfer, meditation teacher, life livers. We live in a treehouse just outside of Byron Bay with our 2 young kids.

Where are you both from?

We both grew up on the Northern Beaches in Sydney; Manly and Newport. After we met, we packed up and moved to Bali for 4 years before settling down in Byron (for now).

How long have you lived here in Byron?

It’s been almost three years since we officially moved in, but we have been coming here regularly for the past five summers. It was an easy decision to move here, it’s always felt like home.

What are your favorite parts about the area in which you live?

Mia: I love the beautiful clean beaches where you can still get a whole beach to yourself. The fresh, organic produce at the local farmers markets. All the delicious, health conscious cafes. All the inspiring, creative people hanging around – so much great people watching, and also some of the best people I’ve ever met.

What are you favorite parts of your home?

Mia: We live in the suburbs, but we’re fortunate that our house backs onto a nature reserve so the outlook through the big glass windows in the main living area is so beautiful. Sunlight passes through the trees and light dances around the house.

Jasson: It’s so peaceful looking out into the big trees, hearing the abundant birdlife and not seeing any other houses.

What makes the Byron area such a good place for creative people to call home?

Mia: It’s such a special place to live, so many people are attracted to the area and are willing to do whatever it takes to ‘make it work.’ This breeds creativity and attracts more of the same type of people who can come here and fearlessly pursue whatever they want to do.

Jasson, tell us about Vedic Meditation. What’s it all about? How did you first get into it and how how has it affected your life?

Jasson: I found Vedic meditation through a friends recommendation about 10 years ago. I was looking into different types of guided meditations and mindfulness practices to help combat an increasing sense of anxiety and stress that had found its way into my life. My friend learned Vedic meditation and I could see the difference in him right away, so I jumped in on a course and have had it as a tool ever since. Vedic meditation is a technique that has been passed through the ages originating in ancient India and eventually brought to the west by Maharishi Mahesh yogi in the early 60s. Over the years it has gained huge momentum and attracted the eyes of science through which it has been validated as a powerful tool to smash through layers of accumulated stress and fatigue in the body while expanding the mind. Simply put, it unlocks a greater potential that resides within us. It’s completely transformed my life and continues to do so as the years go by.

Mia, how would you describe your art and your personal style?

Mia: I like to think of my artworks as a vision into that subtle layer of reality, a world of beings that dance just beyond the range of our gross senses inviting us to dive within and play. Everyday the sun rises and sets, tides ebb and flow to the pull of the moon, plants grow, birds sing and all the beings live and die on this big revolving planet as it spins through space – pure magic! I try in my own way, to capture that.

Every being, every artwork, every and any creative thing has a story whether it’s from a mass production line in China or made by hand in the mountains of Peru. I like to surround myself with things that have a good story, and exude a feeling of character and life. These things surround us with their stories and inspire us to create our own.

How did you first get into art and when did it go from just a passion to a profession?

Mia: I’ve always been drawing, painting, collaging something. I never thought it would eventuate into anything, but when I was in graphic design school, I had an art exhibition and from then on it was a fairly smooth transition from painting for myself to painting for others. The passion is still there, there’s just a little more pressure now too!

What are some projects you’ve been working on lately?

Mia: Lately I have been working on a few commissions that are gifts for newborn babies. Such a beautiful idea, I really love doing those projects. Also, I have just finished the campaign artwork for a music festival held in Sydney over New Years. And then I’m always working on TANINAKA, a kids bed linen range by myself and my sister, Hana. We’ve just opened a store, so that’s been keeping us busy.

Jasson, you’ve travelled the world as a professional free surfer. Where have been some of your favorite destinations and why?

Jasson: I’ve been lucky to get to see so many parts of the world through chasing waves. It’s hard to say where has been my favourite – I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that hasn’t gifted me with an amazing experience of sorts. Some highlights would be; Bali, it will always hold a special place in my heart as Ziggy was born there. Traveling through Morocco and the western Sahara is like being on another planet – their culture and landscape is so different from anything I’m used to. The Maldives has the clearest water I’ve ever seen. But no matter how far I travel, I love coming home.

You both seem like very independent and free spirited individuals. How have your lives changed since having your two beautiful boys and starting a family?

Mia: It has challenged our free spirited nature beyond imagination that’s for sure (laughs).

Our lives have changed so much since the little people have come into our lives, but I feel we still carry the same beautiful foundation that we cultivated as a couple into this new phase of life.

Jasson: The practice of letting go of preferences and the art of tolerance have been major themes that have come with children. Kids hold the mirror and really allow you to study your own behaviour, so it’s been a huge learning experience and a motivator to improve ourselves along the way.

We moved back to Australia from Bali to give our children access to the clean, clear, untouched wilderness that is in abundance over here. Endless opportunities to be immersed in nature is what we wanted for them and the Northern Rivers of NSW is hard to beat. We have still maintained a good amount of travel with the kids in tow and life continues to present amazing opportunities that we both feel lucky enough to pursue without feeling stifled or locked down by family life. We are loving it!

What advice would you give to young parents out there who also have very creative lifestyles?

Mia: Parents are the first teachers that children have access to, and the first six years of life plays a huge part in the conditioning that continues to shape them for the rest of their lives. I think the best thing we can teach our kids is that the way you live your life is your greatest work, your creative masterpiece and it’s up to you as an individual to put the time and energy into shaping your reality. Seeing you succeed, seeing you fail, Seeing you put time and energy into shaping your dreams is much more inspiring than watching you succumb to the pressures of life and enter a life of mediocracy, doing what society says you should do as a family. Most people (myself included) have or had an idea implanted that children bring about the destruction of opportunity that is available to young singles or couples. I’ve witnessed the opposite. Yep, it’s way more challenging with kids, but life is so fulfilling witnessing their sparkling eyes soak up the magic that surrounds us in every moment. Don’t be afraid to continue doing what you’re doing, the little ones will follow you anywhere and learn from the experience.

If your house were burning down and you could only grab 5 things (after the kids of course), what would you take?

Jasson: The external hard drive – it has everything on it; a lifetime of photos, jobs, ideas etc. Our passport wallet – probably will want to go traveling if we have nothing left here. As many houseplants as we could carry – they’re like our pets.

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, sage advice?

Don’t worry, be happy. Bob Marley said that.

/ Photography and interview by Matt Titone

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Special thanks to Hiromi Shibasaki for helping to produce this story.

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