I have big news! I have to tell you guys where I’m flying this morning… I’m heading up north to a Swedish island called Gotland. Have you heard of it? I mentioned recently that I was going but left out WHY… Well my friends, I’m taking a masterclass with Creative Director and Stylist Dietlind Wolf.
Dietlind is a leading stylist for 25 years in Germany, styling stories for magazines globally, but mostly German and Dutch publications. She also is a self-taught photographer and for the past several years has coupled her styling work WITH her own photos. Dietlind is also a columnist for Sweet Paul magazine. She designs and makes a line of heartbreakingly poetic and beautiful ceramics that sell in New York City’s own ABC Carpet + Home too, all produced in Hamburg by her own hands, with her own paint, infused with her unique point of view.
Dietlind also does some beautiful collaborative efforts with talented people since she is more than a stylist, she makes so many of the props she uses, she is a true artist. She is the first stylist in Germany that ever caught my eye whom I’ve followed for years. When I moved here in 2009, I saw her work more and more in magazines and really took a liking to it. Her style just speaks to me. I am hard to impress when it comes to styling these days. I’ve seen it all… And most of the work I see doesn’t stand out as a signature look or even as special. I feel like some work doesn’t tell a real story and stylists are just showing what everyone else shows in almost the same way because it “works”. I am sure this is largely driven by their clients or the magazine they work for. It’s not that they are copying, it’s just how they were trained. I fall into this at times too. No one is to blame! But some stylists are just fantastic, they definitely tell a story and awaken the senses bringing objects to life.
I don’t find most of the styling I see in most magazines and especially in catalogs, that inspirational lately. Do you? Sometimes I believe if you’ve seen one issue you’ve seen them all. The styling doesn’t change and neither do the photography angles, nor do the portraits of people who look almost depressed sitting in their beautiful houses. I don’t find that beautiful or touching, a lot of times I walk away feeling empty. To see a home story with everything perfectly placed and people looking “too cool” to smile or at least show some emotion in their eyes… it’s almost like showing where ghosts live.
Why bother learning to become a better stylist if what is already out there works fine though? What has become popular, mainstream, or trendy, isn’t always inspirational, touching or magical. Lots of work can run very vanilla, generic, simplistic but in a negative way. It can sometimes look like everyone has the same muse and is just replicating. A home as a museum and a person as unfeeling doesn’t speak to my heart.
On the flipside, there is still genuine magic out there being produced, it’s just not so common. But you can spot it and immediately you’ll know it’s special. Like some of these stories produced by leading Aussie stylists. Or some of the Americans, especially the New Yorkers… Or you look at the work of some of the Spanish or French stylists… Or those living in the UK, Denmark and Sweden… You can’t help but look at their work and feel fire in your belly and love again for interiors, home, food and family. When I stop to study a photo because the placement of objects are so interesting, then it’s no longer just a photo of stuff in a home or on a table, it’s a piece of art, and I love that.
That’s why I admire the work of Dietlind as shown throughout this post. Storytelling through mini scenes, through objects, food, flowers, ceramics… inspires me to no end. I am excited that I will get to share nearly a week under her masterclass as a student, to soak in her wisdom and learn a new way. Starting in a few hours, I will land in Gotland and live in an old Swedish farmhouse with my friend Leslie Shewring, and we’ll be only a stone’s throw away from the beach, with a private greenhouse and an organic garden on the property. And we will travel to prop shops on the island and create scenes and take photographs. Dietlind will train us on how to develop all of our senses and bring them into our work more fully, making our styling more robust and magical. I simply cannot miss this experience to train under one of my favorite stylists. I’ve invested so much time and money into this trip, I want to make the most of it – I have a two-year-old boy so stepping out of my role as mommy for 5 nights is a big deal. I miss him already but I cannot think about that… This is fuel for my soul and good for my work, so off I go!
I’ve not spoken much about this course because it was something I wanted to keep in my back pocket until I felt ready to talk about it. But I’m thrilled and ready to be molded and shaped like a fresh piece of clay. I am stuck in a certain way of styling and I want to grow. I want to start styling the things my heart feels when I touch objects, I want to display them in a way that tells a story, that makes people think and feel something, I want to approach my work more artfully and create a certain intimacy but also improve my skill set. To me, creativity is an ongoing process of learning, feeling stuck, wiggling out, learning again, getting inspired, going into a hole, coming out, learning, working hard, again and again and again.
I want to learn how to put my own stamp on the work I style, because also take my own photos now and want to write, style and photograph my own book from beginning to end someday. In order to do that successfully, I must take on a new adventure, become a student, and allow myself to feel new light and breath fresh air. My 4th book, with Leslie Shewring, to publish in September, has many photos inside styled and photographed by me. But of course, not solely. I could never style and shoot an entire book at this point along with write it! Yet, this is my goal so to get to that point, I need to train hard. This is the first creative retreat I’ve ever been on in my life where I was the student, so I’m absolutely ready and excited for whatever comes my way and to see what results.If you want to follow my journey on Instagram, I'll be posting live from Gotland, Sweden from 21 June until 27 June so please enjoy my Swedish feed and leave comments as I go, I would love to read them. I'm @decor8 on Instagram.Click To Tweet
Wish me luck and see you on Instagram!
(Photography + Styling: Dietlind Wolf)