Nature as the focus in life
How does a German artist use nature as her source for illustrations and upcycling projects?
This is an exciting question that can be seen in the work of the Christine Wiegelmann. She discovers her love for nature as a child and since then is working with and within nature. Her wonderful watercolor illustrations show details of often unnoticed plants such as the horn clover. Sometimes she creates 'upcycling vessels' made from old, shredded banknotes. She glues the tiny pieces of paper together one by one - like a meditation. Above all, this shows her approach of ‘mindfulness’. Things that are 'no longer usable' are processed into these unique objects. For instance the upcycling vessels also create a shelter for living plants.
"I find it important to look closely at even small and insignificant elements. Above all my goal is to perceive nature with mindfulness. In the upcycling projects I try to find the ambiguity of the material. How does the object - for example, a bowl - fit with the source material? Of course, I also want to achieve a certain aesthetic with my creations."
As if seen through a microscope
This is the impression Christine creates when she pierces small pieces of paper with various tools and drips them with fine watercolor paints. She simulates natural cell structures in their magnified beauty. Presented in small petri dishes, they show the wonder of nature. Another creative approach that shows Christine's engagement with her natural environment.
The first steps within the scope of nature!
Already as a child Christine is enthusiastic about nature walks and observing flora and fauna. Therfore she starts her apprenticeship as a florist at the age of 15. After that she wanders through various exciting florist businesses. She saves her money to finance a suitable master school. In Austria, at the AOF 'Academy of Flower design' in Innsbruck she finds the artistic style that suits her expectations. One of her 6 graduation projects from 2005 also includes 'Upcycling' vessels in combination with wild pelargonium.
Besides nature, Christine always has a fondness for technical objects and materials. Her idea is to transform incidental findings like old screws or unused zippers into beautiful, designed objects. Keep in mind that 20 years ago the trend of ‘Upcycling’ is not a major design theme.
How does ‘nature + upcycling’ define a design project?
That is the question that brings Christine to the well-known Art & Design college in Germany: the MSD 'Münster School of Design'. She applies for the Product Design course and attends a variety of classes. During her studies she stays true to nature as her main inspiration source. With her plant & wildlife illustrations she shows the beauty of nature even in tiny details. However they are not pure botanical drawing but show her very own style. At this time the fine detailed watercolor illustrations are judged by some students as not too modern.
The workshops of the Product Design department offer her the opportunity to explore different materials. For example, trying out new techniques and manufacturing processes help Christine to continue working on her upcycling projects. Even while studying, she continues to fine-tune the production of her 'bloomys. In short, diverse plant parts are dehydrated through various preservation techniques and then embedded in casting resin. Something ephemeral is made more durable and visible. The 'bloomys' are already part of her final works of the florist master examination, for example, in the bridal jewelry and funeral wreath. She refines this technique to such an extent that she successfully produces her 'bloomys' for many years: as a unique jewellery piece or decorative object.
Working in a studio or self-employed?
The decision, how and where do I work as a designer and illustrator, leads Christine to a professional 'book fair' after her college degree.
"I was there with my portfolio of plant and other illustrations and, like many others, introduced myself to the publishers. However, I realized right away that this is not my thing: illustrating topics that I do not have an interest in. It is very important to me to pass on the joy I have while working on my illustrations or upcycling projects. Nothing beats the joyful faces of my customers that I experience at art fairs."
After this experience Christiane cautiously invests in printing her first nature illustrations. With her plants & flowers prints and other products she participates in design events, garden fairs and craft exhibitions. Above all her strategy is to find out where she finds the ‘nature lovers’ who appreciate her joyful artistic work.
Being a designer and illustrator at an ‘Arts & Crafts’ event - does that fit?
"That was an exciting time. I knew that this would fit to my lifestyle, but many friends were surprised that I chose self-employment and selling my art work at the art & design fairs. Firstly I had to find out: Where can I best sell my work to people interested in design & nature? Secondly I noticed how important networking with other self-employed people is. Is the investment of 1000 euros for a stand at a trade fair worth it? Or do I sell more at a small design event with a fee of 100 euros? I got a lot of good advice from others being in a similar situation. In conclusion, exchanging ideas and tips is a great tool while working as an independent artist."
The 'To Do' working list – also necessary for creative people!
There is a clear structure in Christina’s weekly routine. For example, the Monday is her "Sunday" - after a weekend at a design fair. This is the day to take care of less creative things like bookkeeping, organizing the week, new events or processing orders. During the Corona lock down time, she finally has the time to optimize her internet presence. Nature & illustration lovers can browse through her beautiful website and buy her work online. The art fairs are no longer the main selling point. She also opens an Etsy store. Yet another way to sell her art pieces. No matter what happens within a year she always works on new illustrations - adding unknown or unseen plants to her wonderful flora and fauna collection.
The ‘journey is the reward’ is her philosophy. Christine is also open to collaborations. Her flower and medicinal plant illustrations refine packaging for the natural & organic cosmetics manufacturer Dr.Hauschka in Germany. There are also wonderful collaborations with the German company WALA Heilmittel GmbH.
"No matter what project I am working on, I always learn something new and that enriches my creative path a lot. I have also learned to listen to my gut feeling. My choice of profession was never motivated by money. There are quite a few companies who would love to work with me. So, I often ask myself: What is the added value for me, other than remuneration? I am a very positive person. If something doesn't work out, that's part of it. I learn even more from mistakes. The fact that I'm not afraid of the future certainly helped me during the Corona period."
What is important and motivates you in your working life?
Christine’s answer comes very spontaneously and shows how she is very aware of her workflow and motivation.
“I am definitely very thrilled through my projects! In the last 2 years I have reached many people with my ‘forest awareness’ campaigns. It is important to me to draw attention to the state of our wonderful flora and fauna. Many people who are not at all involved with nature & the environment join me on my nature walks and listen to my explanations. Receiving their positive feedback afterwards this is something that makes me very happy. Certainly money can't buy their humble recognition of my work.”
Even after all the success she has with her artwork Christine is still touched that her upcycling vessels are selected for the renowned Art & Craft exhibition in Hannover. The objects are part of her series 'The Assembly of Words' and 'Waste of Money'. They can be seen together with other international artists at the ‘Handwerksform’. ‘WHAT’S NEW’ is the title this year. Christine sees that as a motivation and appreciation of her artistic way to deal with ‘nature & waste’.
What are your goals for the future?
Travel and education - these are important topics for Christine. She likes to take time off for her vacations to other wonderful nature destinations besides Germany. Travel memories are priceless for her. Every now and then Christine thinks about what other possibilities are out there to learn and explore another facet of nature.
"Yes, and a larger studio would also be good so that I can offer seminars and courses. When someone notices in the workshop that many hours are needed for an illustration or an upcycling vessel than this creates an appreciation of my work. I like to share this ‘hands on’ experience. Overall I am very fortunate to have the freedom to do what I like most. Letting my heart and the joy of what I do guide me."
Awareness campaign for ocean sea plastic
Christine has just started another environmental project. During her vacation she collected 1 kg plastic waste within a short time at the beach. You can collect ocean sea plastic too and send this to her. She will be using this for upcycling and other artistic projects. Here is the link to her campaign.
The photo of the Dr, Hauschka products are from Dr.Hauschka. The photos, with the exception of the forest action photos, were kindly provided by Christine. The photos of the forest action come from Steffi - from her blog article about Christine. To be found under:
Name: Christine Wiegelmann
Designer, illustrator and artist
As a graduate designer, she works in the fields of illustration, upcycling and art
Master florist in the chosen life
Her studio is in:
Meschede, a small city in the forest area of Westfalia, close to Dortmund, Germany
her morning routine: I drink a glass of water as soon as I get up, then I do yoga and/or meditation, then I drink another glass of water & herbal tea.
I love Australia with its diverse flora & fauna, and everyone there is so open minded
She is fascinated about:
Plant & animal books and books on Design or creative techniques - they reveal new and exciting things every time you look at them
She would have liked to meet:
Maria Sibylla Merian, Coco Chanel, Käthe Kruse, Astrid Lindgren, Marie Curie and Maria Montessori
Her WIASOLA tip:
"Happiness cannot be measured in material things. Mindfulness can lead to contentment! My way is to admire even small things and to discover the beauty in overseen objects and even tiny elements of nature."
Her 5 favorite museums:
- The Saarlandmuseum in Saarbrücken, Germany - with the Old Collection, the Modern Gallery and the Museum in the Castle Church.
- Museum Moyland in Bedburg-Hau, Germany - Contemporary Art and the Joseph Beuys Archive
- Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany - Modern Art and Contemporary Art exhibitions
- Landesmuseum in Münster, Germany - Museum for Art & Culture
- Europe's tallest exhibition hall - The Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany - 'the Fragile Paradise' is the name of the current exhibition - a great combination of art and science that attracts a wide audience
To be found under:
Next exhibitions and Art&Craft fairs:
Here you can find the current solo exhibition 'I see you and you see me...' in the Orangery of the Botanical Garden of the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster from 29.7. - 13.8.2023.