The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?
Ellen Von Wiegand: My name is Ellen Von Wiegand, I’m a linocut printmaker and I’m self-employed.
TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?
EVW: I’m so focused on my work much of the time that I often struggle to make time for other activities. But one of the things that I have really grown to love over the past couple of years is yoga. I’m not super bendy and I can just barely go upside down if there is a wall behind me, but I love the ritual of it. For me it is a way to practice focussing on the process rather than the result. I often fall into the trap of wanting my work to be perfect, and there is always that moment before beginning a new piece when you don’t know what to make! As a result I can sometimes get pulled out of the joy of making. The most fundamental exercise of yoga is breathing through the moments of discomfort. I can’t emphasize enough how important this has become in all aspects of my life.
TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?
EVW: I had a lot of trouble with this at the beginning. When I started to work as a professional printmaker I made most of my income from commissioned work. It was a really great way to get my feet wet and to move a bit outside of my comfort zone. The idea that someone had already paid me 50% for a yet unseen work made me feel really vulnerable each time I showed them progress pictures of the piece. However after a while I decided that the commissioned prints weren’t allowing me to explore my own artistic voice in a satisfying way, so I decided to focus on my own limited editions. I stopped doing the commissions and spent a few months with no sales while I began to build up my portfolio of works. It was a bit scary but it was absolutely the right decision. Right now I don’t have to make any compromises. I create exactly what I want and it seems to resonate with people. I’m able to do my best when I’m the most excited about what I’m making.
TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?
EVW: Well I don’t quite know if there is a certain time of day when I feel most creative. I suppose it’s whenever I feel most relaxed. Each morning I make a list of the tasks I have to complete during the day. I like to try and get the business tasks (packaging and sending works, updating spreadsheets, corresponding with customers, organising works for exhibitions etc.) done towards the beginning of the day so that I can have a clear mind to focus on creative work. So I suppose this would be after lunch. But it’s not necessarily tied to a time of day.
TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?
EVW: I can’t look too far into the future at the moment. I just want to become a better printmaker. I want to create work in different scales and to work in more adventurous and bold ways. Time will tell what that means.
TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?
EVW: Well my work has developed in a really natural way. When I first started to make prints my tendency was to overthink everything. I come from a background in art history so I was accustomed to using my analytical brain to approach art. But in working this way I found myself blocked a lot of the time. In order to lift my creative block I just decided to make something that I found visually interesting. In the instant that I gave myself permission to explore my imagination freely, my creative block lifted and my work became something far more inspiring. The images became more authentic and meaningful, allowing me to relate to others through my art more easily. I choose to feature my own body, but rather than self portraits I see the body in my prints as a kind of vessel for the viewer to project their own emotional experience. It’s absolutely incredible how much easier it all is if we just let go a little bit.
That said traditional Japanese woodblock prints have also been hugely influential. I love the idea of looking back at the figures and patterns in early examples of the artform and bringing my own sensibility to it. The sensibility of a far less skilled printmaker that is.
TCU: What scares you?
EVW: I often joke that that I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of most social situations, being the center of attention, heights, pain, spiders, and the list goes on and on! But I make an effort to move through these fears on a daily basis. The simple fact of being an artist and in business for myself forces me to face a lot of my fears regularly. I’m also currently trying to make peace with the spiders.
TCU: What does success mean to you?
EVW: To me success means freedom. The freedom to wake up every day trusting that I can do the work I want to do and that it will take care of me. The freedom that comes from knowing that I don’t need to rely on anyone else for my security, financial and otherwise. I still have some fear around these things, so I’m still in the process of becoming successful.
TCU: Anything else you want to add?
EVW: It’s all about trying to have more fun, relaxing into the unfolding of life, and embracing love. Perhaps it sounds a bit cheesy but it’s all true.
Thank you Ellen! If you'd like to see more of her work and learn more about Ellen, head over to www.ellenvonwiegand.com.