A Conscious Conversation with Mira Lou
Ahead of the launch of our collaboration collection with Mira Lou, incredible German illustrator and sustainability advocate, we wanted you to get to know her a little better. We sat down with her (virtually!) to find out more about her background, her art and her ethics, as well as how she feels about the collaboration now that it is so close to launching.
We would love to know a little about your background, when did you start drawing, did you train?
Drawing and sketching has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. When I was young my mother spent a lot of time with me drawing or crafting. I feel like this definitely sparked my interest and passion to find creative ways to express myself from a very early age.
In my teens I switched my medium from drawing to portrait photography, mainly self portraits. I loved to turn my emotions and feelings into visual pictures!
I only got back into illustrating while in university studying communication design (graphic design). As I learned to create meaningful design and art instead of only creating something “pretty”, I lost touch with my photography. But I realised that I needed some creative output that I could create simply for myself without any real intentions behind it. So I started illustrating again with the help of reference photos as I still was visually thinking a lot like a portrait photographer.
When I look at my current situation now, I’m amazed that illustrating now is my main job as a freelance designer. I’m so happy about how things have developed, as I would have never imagined it or actively planned in this direction.
So in my opinion what matters most is personal interest, passion and creating from your heart, based on your own experiences. If you have a story to tell or a purpose, you don’t need to “learn” or get “professional” education. It’s always much more interesting if you bring the unique parts of yourself into your art.
Has your style and technique changed over the years, if so, how?
As I mentioned above I switched mediums from drawing to photography and back to illustrating. I’m sure that I will switch my focus again, maybe more in the direction of design. But I think that my style will always be recognisable in some way. An important part of it always was creating very emotional pictures focusing on people and their connections or the connection to ourselves. I also prefer to work in a minimal way to emphasise what is most important and to leave out all unnecessary and distracting parts.
How and when did you decide to make your skill and love of illustration into a business?
Once I had started an Instagram page for my art, I really enjoyed the feedback I got. It was so much fun in the beginning as I felt like I was starting something new and there were no limits at all. Over time my Instagram got more popular and I got requests for custom works. I then started my Etsy shop and have been creating custom portraits, tattoo designs and other personal illustrations ever since. In early 2019 more and more businesses contacted me for commercial work, so I’m now constantly working on private and business projects at the same time. Which I absolutely love, as I enjoy different aspects of both sides.
Can you offer any advice to aspiring artists who want to create a business with their skill and passion?
As I mentioned already, I believe that passion is the most important quality you need. Skill will develop over time and skill alone doesn’t make art or design interesting. So focusing on your own personal experiences and feelings in your art is the key to make your work unique and recognisable! Plus it makes much more fun to follow your heart instead of trying to fulfil someone else’s expectations ;)
To push your art into the business direction I can really recommend to put yourself out there. Share your work on social media (Instagram worked great for me, but is always changing their algorithms…) and get in touch with the artists. Also don’t be shy to promote yourself and let people know that you are offering your skills and are available for commissions!
Have you always been interested in sustainability? - Was there a stand out moment when you decided to live a more conscious life?
Sustainability has always played a role in my life in some way or another. Both my parents raised me to be conscious of the world around me and especially when it comes to food, they focused on buying organic.
For me a big changing point was the decision to try out eating vegan. I had been vegetarian in my teens for a year and a half, but switched back to being an omnivore. So I was interested in trying out a vegan diet for one week or one month. In the end I never switched back and stayed vegan until now, because I learned so much about food, cooking, nutrition and environmental aspects through being vegan. It was so much fun to discover new recipes and ingredients! At the same time I got more conscious about my lifestyle and made changes outside my diet as well. But starting a vegan diet definitely opened me up to a more sustainable lifestyle in general.
For a few years now i have been buying ‘‘new“ things, second hand, as often as possible and otherwise supporting fair fashion and ethical brands.
How important is it to you to discuss environmental and sustainability issues in your work?
I cannot wait to answer this question! Connecting my sustainable approach with my art and design always gets me exited and I’m always happy to share my thoughts about it!
One aspect of me being a ‘‘sustainable artist“ is based on the messages that I try to incorporate into my illustrations. Many of my posts on Instagram are connected to a sustainable topic and I want to raise more awareness for a sustainable and conscious lifestyle with my reach. I also connect and collaborate with brands that stand for eco-friendly, fair and ethical products.
How do you incorporate sustainability in your digital illustration and design?
I think often people don’t realise that it is not only your personal lifestyle that has an impact on our planet, our jobs and how we work is impacting on our environment as well! As a freelance artist and designer I’m very independent and luckily can easily take action to change and adapt my workflow. For example I’m selling my art prints on recycling paper and offering print on demand as well to avoid ordering prints that don’t sell which would end as waste. As I’m working digitally most of the time I do not use resources like paper and analog drawing materials. However the resources I consume working digitally are not to be dismissed either! I’m working on an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil and use a MacBook and a larger monitor. This all uses lots of energy and each product isn’t produced sustainably either. As those devices are absolutely necessary for my work, I have to accept the negative impact of their production and focus my actions elsewhere. I also will use my devices as long as possible and rather fix broken ones than buy new ones. Buying things like these second hand would also be an option.
Something I can control and change is the source of energy I get and use a green supplier. My website is also hosted by a green service and another aspect which I created as sustainable as possible. I programmed and designed my website myself and avoided fancy fonts that would cost extra energy and only use the needed resolution for images so that they consume less energy and therefore less CO2 as well.
You can have a look at my website on www.miraalou.com and check out my carbon footprint with this calculator: https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/miraalou-com/
When working with brands I try to select my jobs from a sustainable point of view. Collaborating with people that share my values is always much more fun and the results are better too, because I’m working from my heart.
Why did you decide you wanted to make your illustrations into physical pieces? - and why did you choose to work with Wild Fawn?
Most of the projects I have done so far were so different. I illustrated a book, I created cover designs, made illustrations for social media or website use or for ad campaigns. For one project I even did short animations! What I really love about my job and being freelancer is that I have the opportunity to work with so many different people and that each project is different. It’s always fun to see me work and my illustrations in a new situation for a new purpose. As my works are based on lines I thought about a line piece being produced out of wire or metal and this brought the idea of jewellery up.
On a search for a brand that fit my values and my sustainable approach I connected with Wild Fawn. I was instantly in love with their beautiful and simplistic pieces and was exited to find out about their sustainable and ethical production. I’m still so happy I found them and that we connected. I couldn’t have wished for a better collaboration!!
How do you feel about the process of working on the collaboration and seeing behind the scenes in the creation of jewellery?
It’s always kind of magical to see the process from a simple idea and sketch to a finished product. Especially when other people are involved and bring a whole new set of skills with them which opens up more opportunities. We actually spend quite some time on brainstorming and I sketched about a hundred ideas. I’m so thankful that both of us were really patient and that we repeatedly took the time to take a step back and reflect on what we actually wanted to create. The results we got wouldn’t have been possible if this were a very commercial and mechanical mass production. The quality lies in the open and intimate communication we had and the effort from both sides to make this as authentic as possible.
Do you have a favourite piece from the collaboration collection, if so, which piece and why?
This is a tough questions! I hope it isn’t arrogant to say, but I actually love all pieces (haha!)
If I had to choose I would pick the eye design or the hands I think. They are so elegant and minimal and capture perfectly what I had in mind form the beginning. Also I can find a bit humour in the eyes watching you and the hands delicately dangling from your ears. A bit of humour is always important for me to really get to me.
What's your Zodiac symbol? - Would you say your personality is typical to that star sign?
My birthday is on the 1st of July so I’m a cancer. I honestly haven’t paid much attention to horoscopes and such, but I think I know that cancers are often described as very emotional and prone to tears. This definitely hits the spot for me (haha!) as I’m often overwhelmed by my emotions. For me this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m actually thankful for being able to feel my emotions so strongly and to communicate them as well. Maybe this is why I need to process my feelings in my illustration :D
This or that? – Sustainably handmade or 2nd hand for your own wardrobe?
That’s second hand for me! I haven’t bought something new in about four years now I guess besides occasionally something special as a memory from traveling or something like shoes or underwear! Although I recently came across a discussion that second hand isn’t always the most sustainable option. Because a lot people can’t afford sustainable and handmade fair fashion and they have no other choice as to buy fast fashion. This means fast fashion won’t so easily disappear as lots of people depend on it. Most second hand pieces are fast fashion and the option to sell them and buy new clothes again can even support an increase of consuming. Whereas fair fashion usually is made from high quality materials and tends to last longer. If you spend more money on a piece, you are also likely to take better care of it. This means that sustainable pieces often stay longer with one person and get worn more. So to combat fast fashion and the rapidly increasing figures of our consuming, the people that can afford fair fashion actually might act more sustainable in buying new sustainable pieces instead of thrifting (often fast fashion) pieces. Just something I learned and found very interesting! :)
Finally, can you offer a piece of advice for those of us who want to live more ethically/consciously?
As I mentioned already, for me, the vegan diet change brought a lot of other changes along. It really opened my eyes to alternative solutions and showed me that it isn’t always so hard to change a habit. This is my very personal opinion and a lifestyle always is very personal, so I feel that I can’t just name direct advises on what to change or what to avoid. Everybody lives under different circumstances so everybody will find some changes easier or harder than others. For me a vegan diet isn’t hard at all, but I couldn’t do what I love without my tech devices I use for my art and work. For some people it might be the other way around. So my very personal approach to live more ethical, consciously or sustainable consists of buying less, if necessary buying second hand or sustainable options and choosing a vegan and mostly organic diet.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Mira better, we have loved working with her on this project and cannot wait to share more with you soon!
If you want to see more of Mira you can shop her pieces on Etsy, of find out more about her and her work on Instagram and on her website.