The Artist Who Followed Her Heart

Where does inspiration come from? Sometimes you just seem to get stuck. You have zero idea what you want to do next or you are sick of it all in general. Illustrator and textile designer Wietske Claessen knows all about it. While some only dream about changing their lives, she actually had the balls to do so. Wietske started out in fashion had a career most can only dream of. As a textile designer, she worked for several large brands until one day she decided to turn her back on the fashion world and to follow her heart. Thank God for that! Or should we say thank Pacha mama, the main source of inspiration for one of her most popular works, Mother of all Birds.

imageInspiration is not one thing. It often comes from 1001 things happening around you and then out of the blue, there is this little voice inside that says: “ hey that is it! That is what I want to draw!


Claessen’s works appear to be accessible at first sight. She draws funny and cute creatures that make her work seem dreamy. If you take a longer look at her creations you will see they are close to surrealistic and have a twist or undertone that is not easy to define. What you are looking at are highly personal documents made in a recognisable but not-easy-to-do style. To fully understand her work, you need to tune into her magical world.

Mother of all Birds

A personal document

Mother of all Birds is at the same time a highly personal document and a metaphysical statement. Here, Claessen intelligently weaves several layers of meaning together. Mother of all Birds is a work she made for mother’s day. How personal can a work get? The visual shows a Robin proudly showing his red breast. A Robin has many symbolic meanings but in this case, the bird symbolises fertility. “At the same time the Robin is in some cultures seen as a messenger of the spiritual world,” Claessen informs us.

Mother of all Birds by Wietske Claessen

Mother of all Birds by Wietske Claessen

A Metaphysical Statement

The Mother of all Birds is also a plea for more love and care in the world. “For me, this illustration stands for a “Mother” who takes care of us all. A mother who loves us equally by instinct. The instinct we were given by Mother Earth. She lets us ‘be’. She makes us grow into who we are and will become. She teaches us how to take care of others and the world we live in so we can all be a ‘Mother’ in our own way”.

Pacha Mama

Mother of all Birds reflects Claessen’s personal experiences and attitude to life. After she took the brave decision to give up her admirable career in fashion she started to travel. She moved a year to Peru and ‘met’ Pacha mama. Pacha mama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be “World Mother”. In Inca mythology, Pacha mama also was believed the Goddess of fertility and harvest. The Peruvian way of life and religious interpretations of what happens in the world is very different from what is believed in the Western Wold. Other cultures see the world in a different way. Claessen internalised some of these views and recycled them in her own style.

Drawing or to Lose a Sense of Reality

It is really quite amazing how Claessen finds the time to make such wonderful work. She runs a store in Maastricht, incidentally makes commission based illustrations. Illustration and finding inspiration sounds so easy. But what if you are so busy? Claessen admits it takes time. Before she reaches the boiling point where she actually starts to illustrate, she has done a lot of research. Ok, in her own way. Wietske: “How do I transfer the mental image to the paper?”… I will find myself frantically going through all kind of books while cutting and pasting images together in my head. …Or it happens that when I watch a movie and unconsciously get touched by a range of colours or its visuals in such a way that it leads to the next illustration. Somehow you internalise what you experience. Yes, a lot goes through my mind before I get to the actual illustration. But once I get into drawing, I lose all sense of reality and go mind travelling … I literally dissolve in my work”.

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