Sandra Dieckmann contacted us personally a few weeks back to share her amazing success story with you on Create & Thrive. As soon as Jess and I saw her work and website, we knew she would have a great story to tell you. We hope you enjoy this interview with this extremely skilled UK artist.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
Hello, my name is Sandra Dieckmann and I’m a freelance illustrator and artist in London.
My story started in a rural setting in the north of Germany. There I walked across the rainbow, lived in the tops of evergreen trees, and flew with the birds. I slept under a blanket of twinkling stars and swam in deep black lakes at night. Or something like that.
Suddenly, I was older, mom had died, home wasn’t home, and the world was waiting. I took a suitcase, then a plane, and in 2002 touched down in London. I worked here and there and decided after a couple of years to wake up from my slumber and get back to creating, which was what I had always been doing naturally.
A pre-foundation, a foundation, half a BA(Hons) in Fashion Design, a BA(Hons) Graphic Design and finally some Illustration till I graduated in 2009 after six years, first class honours from my degree.
I started putting my work out there pretty much straightaway and became active on social networking sites and it’s been getting more and more interesting and busy since then.
Time has passed very quickly and looking back I sometimes look at my portfolio and think .. wow … So much work! I’m just enjoying what I’m doing really. I have never sent out any kind of promotional material as such apart from promoting myself online and I’m really enjoying the variety of opportunities that present themselves.
I now live in East London and run a small studio here that I share with two other illustrators.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
I don’t know. I think I haven’t overcome most of them yet and the ones that I have I probably don’t remember because there are so many more 😉
There is the time management problem, bookkeeping, work and life balance and so many more difficult aspects of working for yourself and working alone.
The business side of illustration I’m least interested in as it has never been and will never be about making a profit for me. I just want to survive doing what I do but it is so easy to overwork and not realise that you need to separate yourself, sometimes completely, when your passion is also your business. It’s easy to work all the hours of the days and nights and your body really suffers from all the hours of sitting down staring at the screen. I’m now running, doing Yoga, and very consciously eat well.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Being high on life is the highlight and being allowed to do what I love all the time! It’s such a privilege.
When you work for yourself and you are doing your thing even a high flying job that is better paid will never compare in my opinion because you aren’t doing it for yourself and you aren’t living your life to your full potential. If you feel the need to be creative to stay happy take that seriously … it’s you!
Maybe also a highlight for me was turning down a big contract that would have seen my illustrations washed all over the shops. It’s so hard when integrity collides with potential income but I think it’s important to stay true to your art.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
There is so much I want to do, of course, but I try not to worry about the when and how.
I think fear is completely counter-productive and will stop you in your tracks. I trust myself to be inventive enough to always somehow get by and to remember that riches don’t come in material ways.
Creatively, everybody that is actively working will always be changing. That’s just the way of evolution and you don’t have to have everything mapped out. I don’t have a business plan and like to re-evaluate where I’m going all the time. I’m often thinking about making time for the actual act of creation because the busier you get, the more things there are to do that you don’t want to do. If there is one focus then that is it.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Oh wow! I always have too many ideas and I’m so sad that most of the time I don’t have the time to turn them into images any more. All the other things just seem to get in the way so I have to allocate special ‘making days’ now where emails etc. take a back seat. I guess that is some kind of creative rut?…hahaha
My advice otherwise would be to procrastinate, procrastinate, and know that it’s not doing nothing. Call it procrasti-working if you may. Do something completely unrelated … I believe it’s part of the process and your mind subconsciously puts things together for you.
Be soft with yourself! I’m still learning that the hard way.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
That is my life lesson at the moment. It’s a big one. I thought I was super woman and I could do it all, all the time. Now I know how important getting away is. Going for a walk, spending time with friends not talking about work, exercising and generally refreshing your system. No one can function all the time. It helps making a schedule. I colour code times for things in my calendar now. Some days I will spend hours on emails, invoices, contracts and other days are completely free for drawing. I don’t have a usual day as such and I always get into my studio later then I would like to.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Ohh the internet and social networking- a love and hate relationship. Without it, I would have to go knocking on doors and be annoying people on the phone. Work would be double as hard and twice as slow. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Blogger, Etsy, Society6 and my own website. I try to update everything as much as I can and it’s a great way to stay in touch with fellow creatives but it can be it bit much.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Don’t be disillusioned. It takes a lot of work and commitment. Be strong. Do it for yourself and no one else. Don’t think about the money. That will never work. If it’s a performance from your site keep in mind that in time you’ll be exhausted. Fashion comes and goes. Be yourself, speak your mind, have an opinion and for your own sake be honest to yourself and others! Create what you find aesthetically pleasing!
Just do it! Don’t think about your motives. If it’s bursting out of you, make it. You will make sense of it slowly. Maybe never but not everything needs to be explained.
Few succeed and I believe talent is not learned; it is innate. There is nothing wrong with creating a brand, being a business but just don’t start that way it will happen anyway.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Find the end of the rainbow. Walk up the rainbow. Climb from there onto a mountain and slide back down through the snow. No, really …
I just want to have fun while working as hard as time and energy permit. I’m really open to anything! More exhibitions, making books and zines, doing fares, commissions, a spot of travel maybe … whatever life has in store I’m ready!
You can find more of Sandra’s work online:
In her online shop: Sandra Dieckmann Illustration
In her Etsy shop: Sandra Dieckmann