Rodin’s Lover, Heather Webb’s New Book

 Heather Webb Smiling

Author Bio:

 Heather Webb writes historical novels for Penguin and HarperCollins, which have been translated to three languages and have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan magazine, France magazine, and Reuters News Book Talk. BECOMING JOSEPHINE follows the life and times of Josephine Bonaparte set to the backdrop of the French Revolution, and RODIN’S LOVER chronicles the passionate and tragic story of Camille Claudel, sculptor, collaborator, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin. A FALL OF POPPIES releases in 2016. Heather is also a freelance editor and contributor to award-winning writing sites and She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

 Heather Webb book cover

1) What was the starting point of your interest for Camille Claudel?

I fell in love with Camille while in my French film class in college. The film, simply called Camille Claudel, was multiple award-winning in Europe and the U.S. with stars Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu playing the roles of Camille and Rodin. Their tragic love story gripped me and I swooned at the beauty they created both together and separately. After the film, I became rather obsessed with sculpture in general. Many years later, I had not forgotten Camille, and knew I wanted to delve more into her life. It has been an incredible experience spending time exploring her brilliant mind, and ultimately sharing her story.

2) Did you have to go to Paris to find details for your book?

I did, though it was mostly to satisfy my need to see all of the beautiful pieces in person at the Musée Rodin and the Musée d’Orsay. In terms of the bulk of my research, I read as many biographies about Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin as I could get my hands on. I layered this knowledge with other books like For the Soul of France and From the Revolution to the Belle Époque in addition to “How to” books on sculpture. I spent some time in a 101 sculpture class, getting my hands in the clay and learning about the tools. Finally, I studied both Camille’s and Rodin’s works extensively through photos, as well as in person at several museums including those I mentioned in Paris, along with a few in the United States that exhibit smaller collections.

3) Has your opinion about Rodin changed after writing about him?

I’ve never seen Rodin as the villain that many ardent Claudel lovers have portrayed him to be. He signed her pieces with his signature, yes, but this was not only typical but expected in the artist-student relationship, as well as in the atelier setting. He loved Camille completely, and devoted much of his time —even after they split—to helping her career advance, as well as keeping her afloat financially. He had his faults, certainly, but she did as well, as do we all. As for a change in opinion? I grew to love him while learning about his life and his style, determination, and passion almost as much as I love Camille. Almost, but not quite.

4) Are there details of her life you were surprised or horrified to find?

The most horrifying thing I learned was that Camille lived thirty years of her life in this asylum that barely fed her enough to stay alive, that was frigid in the winters and sweltering in the summers. Camille’s beloved brother Paul visited her only a handful of times after she was committed. That broke my heart for her just a little more.

5) I bet you saw the movie with Isabelle Adjani and Gerard  Depardieu from director Bruno Nuytten . Was the film accurate or adapted too much to please a larger audience?

I absolutely adored this film. As I mentioned above, it was my first introduction to Camille Claudel and really to Rodin as well. The film is fairly accurate. The director did a wonderful job capturing the era as well as dealing with the time lapses in their relationship. The one thing I would say isn’t entirely true is that the film paints Rodin in a bit of playboy light. While he did have lovers and worshipped the female form, all of my research indicated that while in love with Camille, he was very taken by her—obsessed even. I didn’t really get that sensibility in this film. The director really painted Camille as the forlorn one and though she was deeply in love as well, the scales seemed tipped in the other direction in my reading.

6) Do you have a favorite moment in her life story?

I have two. The moment she realizes she is in love with a genius—like herself, and also the moment she wins the Salon prize for Sakuntala. Her winning was really the beginning of her being respected on a broader scale.

7) Do you find similarities between your life and hers as a female artist?

Absolutely! In fact, I found it comical, at times, how similar an artist’s frustrations and triumphs are to those of a writer. We love and live to create. And then there’s this incredible struggle to be discovered and recognized, well-reviewed. The rollercoaster of emotions a writer goes through are exactly the same as an artist’s when there’s a less-than-positive review, when a commission doesn’t come through, or when a piece isn’t shaping the way we would like it to.

8) Was it difficult to find information about her life? Did you encounter blocks or stops?

There weren’t as many sources as I would have liked, but on the other hand, having questions leaves room for invention—for the fiction to take over—so it actually worked in my favor.

9) What do you think of her, now?

If possible, I love her more now than I did when I began. She feels like a family member or friend that I want to protect. I am proud of her and the beauty she created to share with the world. I hope my novel introduces her to many many more so they may appreciate her as I do.

10) What are you working on next? Do you already have another project started?

I have two things in the works. The first is an anthology that will be released by HarperCollins called A FALL OF POPPIES which centers on WWI’s Armistice Day. The second is a novel set during Belle Époque Paris once again and is shaping up to be a bit of a Gothic thriller. It’s a retelling of a popular story and I’m very excited about it! That’s all I can share about the novel for now.

Learn more about Heather Webb on her Website and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Twitter.

Buy this book here.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

LIZ JOHNDROW: A Builder Working in Nicaragua

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari 

“[The best thing about being a builder is] seeing people find an expression of creativity and the power of working together, one brick or bale at a time, to create a structure that then can be lavished with artistic expression.”

-Liz Johndrow

Liz Johndrow is a builder from Vermont. She works with cob, earthbag, adobe, strawbale, earthen plasters and floor systems, and timber framing. During the last few years, Liz has taken on a prominent role as a natural building teacher and facilitator, traveling internationally to help town residents and communities learn the joys and advantages of building. She is currently running The Nicaragua Pueblo Project in Nicaragua, working with communities to build safe homes from natural resources and learn useful building skills. 

Where did your journey with building begin?

When I was young, I loved the woodworking tools in our little basement workshop and was always making things down there. Then I worked on a women’s carpentry crew for two seasons in my twenties, when I was a young single mom. I was fascinated with structures, particularly ones that embraced nature.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I was a massage therapist for nearly 20 years. I’ve always been a hands-on person and always interested in health, nature, and creating things and community. And I was a single Mom who was incredibly resourceful in providing for my small family. This has all formed my recent work of natural building. Building for less environmental impact, creating beauty in function, supporting women’s empowerment, and working with the raw materials that nature provides.

What kind of planning is put into creating a new structure?

I like to design from the needs of the community and see how we can creatively meet those needs. In Nicaragua, there is an extremely limited budget to work with so we have to consider that! Then I like to add some fun factor; playfulness in the design. It lends to a lot more creative exploration, which is huge for those who don’t have many avenues or support towards such expression.

Do you prefer certain materials over others? Which ones?

I love, love, love, clay based soil to work with. It’s a truly magical material that allows for endless expression with so little environmental impact- before, during, and after.


How do you feel once you have finished a piece?

Like a proud mama.

Your work has given you the opportunity to travel. How different would your career be if you had stayed in the United States?

I would be seeking to work for those who have the means for natural beauty and expression in their homes. A ‘natural’ building in a more challenging US climate could easily cost several hundred thousand dollars. Natural building is very time consuming and labor intensive. But I also have the opportunity to work towards high performance homes for low income people. For example, I’m about to lead a volunteer straw bale home build for a Hopi family on the Hopi Reservation in AZ through The Red Feather Development Group.

Can you talk about your group work?

Do you mean community builds? This is the good stuff. This is where people of all skill levels come together and find where they are willing to explore, find their way as a cooperative in that moment in time, and discover a creativity within that they are willing to bring out. It breaks barriers and it creates inclusion. That and the clay soil; it’s truly magical and empowering.

One example is creating a way for the community to tell some stories of their history, their land, what is important to them. And then bring those stories to the wall of a building. Here is a link to that album (Reminds me I need to write a blog about that!)

What is the most rewarding thing about being a builder?

Seeing people find an expression of creativity and the power of working together, one brick or bale at a time, to create a structure that then can be lavished with artistic expression. And providing safer and healthier spaces for families to thrive.

Have you made connections or friends through this job that you might not have otherwise?

Natural building community is a special group of people. Artists, building science geeks, champions for people to create beautiful and affordable spaces– all around caring and supportive folks that freely share their knowledge and expertise!

How is it being a woman in your field? If it has been difficult, how have you overcome previous challenges?

I’m fairly feisty and comfortable with a lot of the building skills. But I know what it’s like to feel shut down by someone who is invested in knowing more! So I try to be humble and courageous and admit what I don’t know and share what I do. I try to remember that at all times and to help women trust their instincts, their creative energies, and loosen the performance anxiety reins. I try to think of myself as a skilled student who is passionate to share what I know with others. Like I said, natural building is labor intensive. If you can empower your workforce, they are going to create something beautiful with the proper guidance. It’s a win-win!

Are you working on anything now?

Always! Right now I am headed to the Hopi rez and will be there for two months to build the straw bale house. We are including an earthen floor and beautiful lime and clay based plasters inside and out. I will then be heading back to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to teach in the pueblos and also at some permaculture and eco based schools for international students to learn natural building. So my work continues as a mix of function and beauty. Everything from home improvements to beautiful lime plasters to storytelling into art mud sculpted and clay painted murals!

Learn more about Liz Johndrow here. Check out her Facebook page too!

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.

Isabell Buenz : British Paper Textile Artist

Artist Isabell Buenz works across the disciplines of paper sculptures, installations, photography and artist’s books. She became interested in recycling and re-purposing objects from an early age, even making clothes for herself and her family. Isbell became a full-time artist in 2000 and spends her time between her home studio near the Scottish Borders and her workshop/ gallery in Dumfriesshire.
In this interview with Isabell we talk about the influence of her father’s job at the local newspaper, the use of 100% renewable tea bag paper in her work and consider her unusual paper clothing.

International Foundation for Women Artists would like to thank for allowing us to repost this interview.

1 IsabellBuenz RoseNecklace 2013 540x540 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Rose Necklace (2013)

The freedom of fabric What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Isabell Buenz: Nowadays textile art forms an important element of my work, however, my core work has always been creating things with paper. I started sewing as a child and still enjoy the freedom I experience in my work with fabrics. I find it interesting to compare working with textiles with the level of versatility and possibilities paper offers.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My Dad’s work has always captured my imagination. When he worked for the local newspaper we always had big rolls of waste paper in the house. Early on I became fascinated with the idea of making all sorts of things from paper and discarded newspapers. I still have one of my first craft books: ‘Basteln mit Zeitungspapier’ which I bought in 1975!
I also started designing and making my own clothes after a school sewing project. It had never occurred to me before that you could make your own outfits! Initially I made my clothes using my granny’s indestructible Singer sewing machine. When I was a teenager my parents finally bought our very own electrical machine. I started making my Mum’s evening dresses and showed her how to sew too.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I wanted to be an artist since I was a teenager. I spent a lot of my time collecting my ideas, designing and making things. I was dreaming about having a gallery with a workshop where I could make and display my own and other people’s work.
However, I took very different career paths before setting out as a paper and book artist in 2000. At the time I was still working part-time for the NHS in Edinburgh which I finally left in the end of 2011.
I am now a full-time artist and mostly self-taught in the areas I work in, including book binding, textile work, paper art and photography. Over the years I have attended a variety of short courses that helped me increase specific skills and knowledge.

100% renewable tea bag paper 

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I like working with any kind of paper but prefer to use discarded books, mulberry paper or tea bag paper.
2 IsabellBuenz PaperRam 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Paper Ram (2013)
Over the last few years I have mostly worked with 100% renewable tea bag paper as my main medium, creating a collection of whimsical dresses, fashion accessories and shoes. My shoes are mainly made by papier-mâchéing paper over shoe moulds I make from clay. I aim to make them as thin as possible to allow the structure to show through in the light.
3 IsabellBuenz LilyShoes 2013 25cm Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Lily Shoes (2013), 25cm
My paper dresses are made like ‘real’ dresses and the latest ones can actually be worn. I first create the patterns by draping and then finish the outfits by gluing or sewing, depending on the type of tea bag paper I work with.
4 IsabellBuenz TheMuses 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – The Muses (2014)
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work is a collection of whimsical paper fashion items. Many have a fairy tale quality and range in size from tiny matching dress and handbag ensembles to giant shoes. The work is often inspired by encounters with nature and my close-up plant photography.
5 IsabellBuenz TinyDress 2014 15cm Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Tiny Dress (2014) 15cm
6 IsabellBuenz GiantStiletto 2011 Isabell Buenz – Paper TextilesIsabell Buenz – Giant Stiletto (2011)
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I have an office/studio in my home outside Edinburgh and a studio space in Dumfries and Galloway, working in one or the other depending on my work load and the size of the project. I like the fact that I work with material that is often considered worthless, too delicate to handle and is frequently thrown away without thought. I have been interested in recycling and re-using things for unintended purposes from an early age.
That unfortunately means I’m a hoarder as anything could one day be useful in a very different form! I would love to work in a spacious, organised office and try to create this before every new project starts. By the end of the process I can usually count myself lucky if I can still get into the room and find a space for my coffee cup. Fortunately the studio in D&G is much bigger and I seem not to have the same problem there!
 7 IsabellBuenz Studio 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Studio (2013)

Ideas and interesting images

Do you use a sketchbook?
I rarely leave the house without a sketchbook and one of my cameras. Calling it a sketchbook however is probably misleading. I consider myself a complete amateur when it comes to sketching and drawing. A lot of the time my scribbles look like kid’s drawings (the only thing I seem to be able to draw a bit better are my fashion illustrations)… so the books are more like mood boards holding my ideas and interesting images. If I start a new project I usually make a new notebook for it.
8 IsabellBuenz Drawing 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Drawing (2014)
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I recently visited Aberdeen Art Gallery to see Kaffe Fasset’s ‘50 Years in Colour’ exhibition and attended his talk and quilting workshop. Having been to South East Asia earlier this year I am very interested in the use of colour and patterns (even though most of my recent work is white).
I love the work of Howard Schatz, Nick Knight, Issey Miyake, Nicholas Kirkwood, and I LOVE Spanish high street labels Desigual and Smash!
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Probably my first paper shoe collection that I made for the summer exhibition at Bellcraig Studio in Fife in 2006. By then I had thought a lot about making paper stilettos but with work and trying to establish myself as an artist I never found the time. For that show I decided to make my paper shoe dream come true and created a chicken themed collection as the owner of the gallery was going to give me a wee coop to display my work. I don’t know how many shoes I’ve made since then.
9 IsabellBuenz PaperStilettos 2006 30cm each Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Paper Stilettos (2006) 30cm each

Unusual, wearable paper dresses

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Over the last few years I have become more confident in my work and my ideas and I think it shows in the results. I have moved on from my little shoes to creating unusual, wearable paper dresses that I show as installations with a theatrical twist.
10 IsabellBuenz LittleWhiteDress 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Little White Dress (2013)
I would like to continue working along those lines and possibly introduce other materials, such as fabric into my work. I am hoping that I can develop a more relaxed style and improve my fashion illustration skills.
11 IsabellBuenz MermaidWeddingDress 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Mermaid Wedding Dress (2014)
I am also continuously updating my sewing skills and am working as tutor in an Edinburgh sewing shop.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Be bold, go for it and don’t worry about what work other people create. Also, network. Loads.
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
Paper Textiles by Christina Leitner, A&C Black Textile Perspective in Mixed-Media Sculpture by Jac Scott, The Crowood Press
Fairie-ality Style: A sourcebook of inspirations from nature AND Fairie-ality: the Ellwand Collection by David Ellwand, Walker Books Fairie-ality Style: A sourcebook of inspirations from nature AND Fairie-ality: the Ellwand Collection by David Ellwand, Walker Books
1000 Artisan Textiles: Contemporary fiber art, quilts, and wearables by Sandra Salamony & Gina M Brown, Quarry Books

Resources, equipment and exhibitions

What other resources do you use? Blogs, websites, magazines etc.
I am following a number of textile and fashion related sites online, including: MODH,Textiles Scotland, Institute Magazine, V&A, Fashion and Textile Museum, WOW,Recycle Runway. For opportunities I check out: a-n, the Cultural Enterprise Office,Creative Scotland, local council, arts trusts/organisations and my network of contacts.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
Quite a few, I think: my tablet, a camera or phone, the current note book, my ‘pencil’ box full of pens, markers, scalpels etc. And my new sewing machine. And the old one… I mentioned I’m a hoarder, didn’t I?
12 IsabellBuenz WithOldSingerMachine 2014 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – With Old Singer Machine (2014)
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I usually give talks or run workshops in connection with my exhibitions and get invited to teach in schools, colleges and prisons. I work as a tutor for Materialise  the sewing shop I mentioned above. My workshops there revolve around my interests in creating new and unusual items from pre-loved clothes, free-hand machine embroidery, sewing with stretch fabrics and manipulating pattern magic constructions.
13 IsabellBuenz YoungDesignersWorkshopAd 2013 Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Young Designers Workshop Ad (2013)
Information about workshops open to the public in other areas is usually announced on my website ‘News’ page. Or if someone is interested, they can contact me to be added to my mailing list.
Where can readers see your work this year?
I have just shown my solo exhibition ‘Little White Dress’ for the second time and am now planning two potential new projects for next year but have not finalised anything as yet. I am a member of the Galloway Textiles Collective ‘Intertwine’ and we will shortly plan our exhibitions for 2015. Until then my work can be viewed online. My website is a good place to start.
14 IsabellBuenz DaisyShoe 2013 25cm Isabell Buenz – Paper Textiles
Isabell Buenz – Daisy Shoe (2013) 25cm

Learn more about Isabell Buenz on her Website and follow her updates via her Facebook page and Blog.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists in collaboration with Textile Artists

Australian artist Meredith Woolnough : Embroidered with nature


Meredith Woolnough: I am always trying to move forward with my work and develop new pieces that push the limits of my materials and techniques.

Interviewed by Jiin Kim

1) How long have you been making art? Where or how did you begin?

I first developed my embroidery technique when I was studying Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. During my honor year, in 2006, I decided to work exclusively with the process of freehand machine embroidery onto a water-soluble fabric and it was during this year that I fell in love with the process. Since then I have continued to work with this technique and I am constantly pushing its limits and finding new ways to work with it.

Ginkgo Study #2 (detail) embroidery thread and pins on paper

2) Tell us about your artwork.

I work with a unique embroidery technique where I draw with a sewing machine on a water-soluble fabric that allows me to create sculptural, lace like artworks. It is embroidery that is liberated from its base cloth.

3) Describe your creative process.

I use a domestic sewing machine that is set up in a way that I have complete control of the stitches – so I can basically draw with my sewing machine. I stitch with polyester threads onto a base fabric that is later melted away to leave only the stitched drawing.

4) Are there specific themes or inspirations that your art tends to focus on?

I draw inspiration from the shapes and patterns found in the natural world. From the tiny veins in a leaf, the pattern on a seashell or the structure of a coral branch, I find these forms to be beautiful and fascinating. I am interested in the interconnectedness between structures – the way things grow and function is so similar across all species.

5) Where do you gain your inspiration?

Wherever possible I like to go out into the field to observe, collect and draw. It is from these observations and drawings that my designs develop. I am a keen scuba diver so this is where I get a lot of my underwater inspiration. When it’s not possible to physically observe my chosen subjects in the field I will do extensive research into the plant or creature via books and Internet searches.


6) Are you attracted to work with other medium, say paint or sculpture or else? Or even use your technique to non-realistic shapes or different medium like metal wires or gigantic pieces? 

There are many other mediums that I am drawn to and would like to explore, but I never seem to have the time to develop them. I do a fair bit of drawing and painting for my own pleasure and as initial studies for my embroidered designs but these don’t make their way into my professional work. Some of the artists that I find most inspirational work in metal – but this is a medium that I have never explored personally. Perhaps there will come a time when I will be over embroidery and want to work with something else, but for now I am still developing new ways to work with my embroidery technique and I find it very satisfying creatively.

7) Do you have future plans or projects coming up?

I am always trying to move forward with my work and develop new pieces that push the limits of my materials and techniques.


8) Do you aim to create a certain emotional tone in your artwork?

Many people have told me that my work delights and confuses them at the same time. They find the work captivating and beautiful but they can’t always figure out what it is made from or how it is made.

It’s a good feeling to know that my work creates such a sense of wonder in people.

9) Is there a reason that most of your artworks and images are of nature?

I have always found natural forms to be interesting and inspiring and that is probably why my work is dominated by nature themed pieces. I have explored other subjects in my work, traditional lace patterns and written text to name a few but that is not what I am best known for.

10) Are you working on any projects currently?

At present I am catching up on some commissioned pieces I have from various clients all over the world. I seem to be doing more and more commissioned work these days and I love the collaborative process of working directly with a client to create a special piece for them.


11) On your blog, you very eagerly and enthusiastically share the work of other embroidery artists you admire. Is there a collaboration between you and others possible sometimes?

Most of the other artists that I admire live overseas and I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing their work in the flesh, let alone meeting them in person. Working as an artist is usually a very solitary existence and I haven’t ever collaborated with other artists because my artwork is a very personal thing. In saying that I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity of collaboration if the right project came up.

Scribbly gum leaf, Embroidery thread and pins

12) Your “sea spiral” is quite remarkable. How difficult was it and how happy are you with the final result? 

The ‘Sea Spiral’ was actually a bit of a happy accident. It was originally designed to be a hanging sculpture inspired by a colorful Christmas tree worm that I had seen on a dive. I planned to make a long spiraling piece that mimicked the fine fronds and spiraled shape of the worm’s crowns. Unfortunately the hanging piece didn’t have the impact that I wanted so it went into the reject pile that I have in the studio. After about 6 month’s I was having a quiet day in the studio so

I got the piece out and started to play with it, twisting the individual fronds and pinning them onto a board. This simple twist transformed the piece into a lovely three-dimensional shape that resembled a shell and I was delighted with the result.

13) Is it leading you into a different direction, say 3D or bigger pieces or more  sea creatures?

I am always looking for new directions and ways push the limits of embroidery. The problem is that I generally have more ideas than I have time to attempt them and many ideas never get past the pages of my sketchbook. I am currently working on some larger, installation based pieces that are pinned directly onto the gallery wall. It’s great to work on a larger scale; all the hours at the sewing machine pay off in the end.

More information: – Facebook – Instagram

ROMY MAXIME: A Fashion, Portrait, and Art Photographer Based Between Cape Town and Berlin

Interviewed by Gabriella Alziari

“Being an artist has taught me that no emotion or state, be it vulnerability, pain or happiness, is wasted.”

-Romy Maxime

Romy Maxime is a fashion, portrait, and art photographer living between Cape Town, South Africa and Berlin, Germany. She graduated from the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania, and since then has committed herself to making thought-provoking and  aesthetically compelling artwork. The following images are new pieces from her project, Everything was better Yesterday.

The project description: “I lay down, the wave of nostalgia flooding my chest, and I remembered everything as bitterly and beautifully as I could.”

This ongoing personal project was born out of nostalgia, a love for classic art films and the style and colours of photographs from the 1960s.

Tell us about yourself and your work.

I have always felt like an outsider. I completed a finance and marketing undergraduate degree at the Wharton School of Business in the USA where I felt like a misfit. I found refuge with my friends who were  studying something random in the liberal arts. I was born with a severe cleft lip and palate and as a child has been a blessing in disguise for my interaction with people and my work. I’m a gypsy at heart. I currently live between Berlin and Cape Town and love to travel whenever I can for my work and for my soul. I draw a lot of my inspiration from old art house cinema and novels.

Describe your creative process.

Inspiration comes in all forms. People I meet, places I go, books I read and dreams I have, influence my work the most. I have a diary to keep track of ideas that would otherwise dissolve in my ADD headspace. Usually with a project it starts with a person or a story that has inspired me. Then I choose location and do most of the styling myself and decide on the lighting etc. So much is left up to the energy in the room on that day, in that moment, not just how I feel, but what my subject will give me or allow me. It’s a privilege.

How has being an artist influenced your life?

It’s a privilege. And looking back, it was something I knew I would be even as a child. I always wrote a lot, I always felt more emotionally complex.

I have tried multiple “normal” jobs and always felt this complete inner restlessness to the point that I cannot actually do anything else. Before I had this extreme emotional and spiritual constipation. Being an artist has taught me that no emotion or state, be it vulnerability, pain or happiness, is wasted. Luckily I feel too much anyway- emotion and empathy are the engines of art.

Do you tend to photograph women? If so, why?

Yes most of my subjects thus far have been women. I grew up in a household of mostly women and above understanding them, I am fascinated and in admiration of women.

To what extent does your relationship with a subject affect the success of your portraits?

Trust and being relaxed is everything. If I am calm and open with my subjects, they feel safe and trust me. For personal projects I need to get to to know my subjects and they need to get to know me, the more I share, the more they share. Funnily enough I think doing yoga has helped me a lot on focus and calmness, which affects my work.

What do you most enjoy about fashion photography?

It’s totally unrealistic! It’s the fantasy genre of photography – mostly an illusion with every excuse to include beautiful things. I do try to create some sort of story when I shoot fashion otherwise the clothes remain just beautifully cut textiles on a model.

Do your surroundings in Germany and South Africa influence your work?

Yes of course!

I grew up between Zurich, (where I was born), Cape Town and Cannes, so it has always been the movement between and contrast of the places I have lived that makes me love and appreciate each one for their special qualities.

In Berlin I have never felt so at peace. I love its culture of arts; it has so much diversity, history, and so much darkness and creative inspiration and I love the people I know in Berlin above all. Such beautiful souls I have found in Berlin.

Africa and Cape Town are my aesthetic havens for beautiful locations, golden light, open and deserted spaces, and endlessly happy weather.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career (a certain project, an experience of personal growth…)?

Admitting to myself and my once highly dissuasive family that I cannot live without doing what I love, even if that means there are hard times. Keeping the balance between doing work to keep financially afloat and making art for your soul no matter what the cost.

How do you find being a woman in your field? Has it ever been difficult?

I love being a woman. There are some privileges that come with being a woman artist and those are: approaching people for portraits and projects are always gentler and less intrusive by virtue of being a woman. Other women don’t think you have ulterior motives or creepy agendas and working with women as a woman myself is only helpful. On the negative side: I cannot go to a lot of places I would like to go traveling as a woman alone, particularly in parts of Africa.

What advice would you give to aspiring women artists?

Befriend other artists and women you admire. Do not see them as a threat, but as a blessing and inspiration, because that is what they are. Believe in yourself, being a woman, an artist, and young can be a dangerous combination for self doubt. I am not one for political commentary but Hillary Clinton once said it was surprising to her how many young women think they have to be perfect and how rarely she meets a young man who doesn’t think he already is.

Use all your experiences with love, happiness and devastation and put it into your art. The world craves “real”, be brave and share your heart.

Are you working on anything currently? 

Yes. I am currently working on a series that will be finished come the end of this year, as well as many other personal projects, in addition to some fashion work.

Learn more about Romy Maxime on her Tumblr, and follow her updates via her Facebook page.

Presented by the International Foundation for Women Artists.