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Resident Spotlight: Sandra Dieckmann

It’s a privilege to watch residents evolve and follow their stories as they go from crafting their work in a small cubicle, to becoming a market leader and occupying whole arch spaces. One of the most recent success stories here at Hackney Downs Studios, is that of Sandra Dieckmann. Sandra Dieckmann is an illustrator & self professed ‘womanimal’ whose work has been courted by various companies such as Sky, WWF, Wildlife Aid, Magma Books, Etsy, Al Jazeera and Ohh Deer to name a few.

Early last week I got in touch with Sandra to see if she fancied having a chin wag with us over a coffee in the sun outside The Russet, and in typical Sandra form she jumped at the chance! With a coffee in hand, we got to work on discussing all manner of things.

Sandra’s beginnings at Hackney Downs Studios are as humble as the building was itself back then, “I was a resident of The Heartspace when literally nothing was in there. Which is crazy to think when you look around and see a million things happening here everyday. The Heartspace was perfect for me in the start, as I always worked from my home, and as much as it was great to finally have a space to go and be creative, I like privacy when making, so my cubicle in The Heartspace was perfect.”

Sandra’s talent for illustration is something that didn’t fall into her lap. Her academic life spans everything from veterinary medicine to graphic information and communication design. Her professional career from nanny to manager for the RSPCA.

Sandra works with mechanical pencils, pen and paper. Sometimes Indian ink or watercolours, but always digital edited in Adobe Photoshop afterwards. “I really enjoy digital collage and the flexibility it brings. I like things to have mistakes - I'm not a techy person with software, I focus more on handcrafting layers and simple stuff.”

Sandra’s rise has been the definition of organic. “I put it out on the web and people loved it. So I found Etsy and started selling my work, and I guess the rest is history.” This history has seen widespread love for her work as well as a huge online following (300k on Facebook), no small feat in the modern illustrator landscape. Sandra’s secret to success, not overthinking it. “When people follow you online it needs to be simple, it's easier to focus who you are and what you want to give that way; people connect to those things.”

The way her work has affected people has been astonishing. “I've received personal e-mails from people who say my work has helped them through their toughest times, loss or tragedy. For me, all I can do is concentrate on the picture making. It’s all really just do with myself, unless it’s a commission or brief obviously, it's always do with a dream, an observation or vision. The meaning changes for all things I make day-to-day. So the intense emotions that may have been present are no longer - you have moved on - and it has been sold to someone for the status and story. It sort of has to mean nothing to me anymore personally or I can never grow as an artist.”

Looking around at our bustling studios, cafe, and The Village Green, I asked how do you feel the community has changed? “Here is home to me now. The area is of course getting busier, but the community and my friends here make it so special. I feel I know all of the staff at Hackney Downs Studios and think they have my best interests at heart. Everything is always moving forward, and no matter how well I do personally, we're together in it.

Sandra’s latest step in her journey through Hackney Downs Studios, is to take on one of our Village Green shops and make it her own. This is a major move forward for her and her Mama Wolf team. “It feels nice to have roots down with this new open studio: that’s how we see it, more of an open studio than just a shop. The people I share my studio with (Laura Hughes and Jill Tytherleigh) we’re all so close and this just feels like a logical progression. I just want to keep growing here, not living for later. I want to see the community continually grow. We all can’t wait to be rubbing shoulders with the other shops on The Village Green, it’s going to an exciting time for us all.”

When I asked about the style of the shop, Sandra stated “we won’t be a place with someone sat behind a counter all day. The open studio will have so many purposes: a shop, a studio, a workshop just a hub of creative activity really. We’re still working out how we want everything to be, maybe we’ll create a Mama Wolf app and we can give people a howl when we’re open.

“Business people think of expanding and growth, I don't think of this new open studio as expanding, but just having an open door - just testing things out. I don’t see myself as a brand, that comes with too many problems and responsibilities that I don’t feel would help my work. When I think of ‘scaling my business’ I think about scaling it to my life first. I like to open and close my work life when I want, and not feel like I have to step in front of thousands all the time if you don't want it. That’s the problem with more fame, success and celebrity culture it’s sort of an accepted norm, not for me though.

Sandra and the whole Mama Wolf team clearly have an exciting vision for their new space at Hackney Downs Studios. We can’t wait for the grand launch, and to hopefully nab a slot in that 4th desk once in awhile.

You can check out Sandra’s profile on our site here, and the whole Mama Wolf profile here.

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