Interview with Carolin Wanitzek

Carolin Wanitzek is an independent artist, scenographer and set designer based in Mannheim/Germany specialising in handcrafted illustrations, window displays and stop-motion props. She designs three-dimensional installations using a variety of materials. Working in the field of scenography she blends graphic design, set design and photography to develop concepts for extraordinary worlds. Her work has been published in digital media, magazines and catalogues. Currently she is working for national and international clients, such as Hewlett-Packard, Vodafone, Spiegel Verlag and the BASF and she is a partner at OUI R Creative Studio.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in 1984 in a small town in the southwest of Germany. Following my high school graduation with a focus on nutritional science, I took the classical path and studied chemistry, however, after some time, I decided to dedicate myself to my second passion – art and design. After graduating in graphic design and scenography, I worked for national and international clients and I am currently a partner at OUI R Creative Studio.

I already specialized in tactile design during my studies. In the field of scenography, I combine graphic design, stage design and photography to concepts for extraordinary worlds. In addition, I design three-dimensional installations from various materials and constructed design objects that appear in interior architecture and public spaces.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a nice village in the southwest of Germany between Karlsruhe an Heidelberg.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in art and design?

As I mentioned earlier, I had studied chemistry first. However, my interest has always been in science and art but art was just a hobby. As a child and teenager, I was drawing and crafting a lot and I attended art courses once or twice a week. When the study of chemistry didn‘t work out, I decided to go into the direction of art and design.

How would you describe your creative process?

Most of my clients come to me because they want paper illustrations or room installations on a particular subject. I mainly develop visual concepts and colour schemes. Since I deliver the complete package to my clients, each project is varied in itself, as I have to go through different processes. Most of the time a job starts with a text or sometimes just a word fragment. I always start such projects with a pencil drawing because it helps me to find the right ideas. But sometimes I directly start to construct ideas before sketching. When things get a little more concrete, I usually go digital, because it‘s easier to colour. This gives me the freedom to put different colour concepts on the designs. Then the whole thing is constructed, built and integrated into the set. In the case of photo illustrations, the last step is processing.

Does your city and surroundings influence you as a creative and individual?

I think that you are always influenced by your surroundings unconsciously. However, Mannheim is rather my resting pool, my home. It is my familiar environment in which I know my way around. I know where to buy the best flowers and where to get my favourite food. As an artist and designer, I need a lot of input, so I love to travel around, sometimes it‘s for business but often just personal. I love to absorb the atmosphere of new and foreign places and let them flow into my projects. These are sometimes just little things that give me a new impulse and have nothing to do with the project in itself at first glance, but they do inspire me in the end.

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Mannheim?

This problem may be independent of the city, but it is difficult for me to find a suitable place to meet my needs. My work is very multidisciplinary, sometimes I need a workshop, sometimes I spend a lot of time at the computer, and a photo studio should always be part of my workplace. So far we haven‘t found the perfect place for us and our studio OUI R, here in Mannheim, but we will keep on searching! From time to time I have to leave the city, but that‘s independent of the city I live in.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art and cultural facilities, is that evident in Mannheim?

I think Mannheim has a lot to offer in this respect. There is a large creative industry scene, which includes support for start-ups, various platforms and creative industry centres that are spread throughout the city and offer creative people a space for their ideas. In addition, we have a wonderful art gallery that opened its doors just last year in a new building. There are various vocational colleges in the field of design as well as a design faculty at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences. The music industry with the Mannheim Pop Academy is also a big topic.

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the designer/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

I think that as a designer you already have a certain moral and ethical responsibility. There are jobs I would never accept because they don‘t fit in with my attitude.

Can you tell us about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about?

Together with my studio partner Dennis Adelmann, we have been working for 2 1/2 years on some design objects and we can‘t wait to show what we have created. Our release party will be at the end of May in a beautiful gallery at the port of Mannheim.

What is the one thing you can’t live without in Mannheim?

Three times a week there is a beautiful market in Mannheim. As I am enthusiastic about fruit, vegetables and delicacies of all kinds, this is the perfect place for me. About a year ago I discovered a small stand by a very funny old man who offers steam noodles made of spelt flour. These are freshly prepared at the market and anyone who has tasted these steam noodles knows what I‘m talking about. I can‘t imagine Mannheim without it!

If you could add or change something about Mannheim, what would that be?

I would love to change the littering in some areas. I think some people don‘t have a feeling for that. They are throwing all their rubbish to nice areas and they are destroying the beauty of those places. I would love to change the mindset of those people and if everyone would take care of his/her rubbish nice places would be more enjoyable.

Describe the perfect day for you in Mannheim.

It would be a very relaxed day. In the morning a bit of sport and then breakfast at „Cafe Lido“, one of my favourite cafes in Mannheim. My favourite is scrambled eggs with avocado and rice pudding with fresh berries and of course a cappuccino with almond milk. Afterwards, I like to go for a nice walk through the city and have lunch at „Kombüse“ in the Jungbusch. It's a vegan and vegetarian restaurant and is situated just right around the corner from my apartment and my studio, I often go there and love it! My favourite is the gluten-free Falafel. Coffee at „Helder&Leuween“ with a Yirgacheffe Cappucino with coconut milk, super tasty! A visit to the Kunsthalle is always worth it, and those who are more of a nature lover should visit the Luisenpark. I would recommend dinner at „Bori“ for an excellent Korean cuisine! If you need an overnight stay I can warmly recommend the „Speicher 7 Hotel“ directly on the Rhine. There is also a super cute bar where you can let the evening fade away.

If you could choose any artist/creative to collaborate with, who would that be and why?

I would love to work with Sarah Illenberger because she is one of my biggest role models. I would say we work in a similar way. She designs breathtaking shop windows for Hermès and her visual language is defined by giving common things a new meaning.

What do you do to switch off?

I‘m very active in sports, especially strength training, rowing and a bit of Yoga. I try to do my workouts two to three times a week. In summer I often go to the lake after work and swim around. It‘s a 15- 20 minutes bike ride away from my studio and on the way there it leads through a beautiful forest park, along the Rhine river. Even if I have a lot of work to do, I always find the time for a cup of espresso with a bit of almond milk in the afternoon.

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does Mannheim evoke a personal smell to you?

I live at the „Jungbusch“ which is bordering the port area. It‘s that district where you can find a lot of cool bars and restaurants. There is also a chocolate factory so some days it feels like the whole Jungbusch is a huge cup of hot chocolate.

What is your favourite time of the day?

I love the peaceful atmosphere in the morning when the first rays of sunshine come out, the birds chirp and most people are still sleeping. During the weekends I usually take care of my plants and I love to have breakfast on my balcony. I‘m definitely a morning person!

If you weren’t living in Mannheim and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

My three favourite cities are New York, L.A. and Paris. If I could live in the U.S I would prefer to travel between New York and L.A. In 2016 I lived a few months in New York and there was that unimaginable energy. What I like about California is that it‘s just easy to handle! 

mannheim BY carolin wanitzek

A selection of places in Mannheim - recommended by scenographer and set designer Carolin Wanitzek. See all of Carolin's favourite places here

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