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.

Life motto

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

She is:

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

She likes:

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.

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