Photowall meets author and illustrator Stina Wirsén
It all started in 1968, when Stina Wirsén was one year old and clutched a pen for the first time. A single moment, and that was it: a lifelong acquaintance and a future career. That day was followed by a degree from the Stockholm University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, illustrations in daily newspapers in areas ranging from politics to fashion, public art exhibits in Sweden and the world – and, of course, a multitude of children’s books. And she’s still going strong.
I love creating. I haven’t let go since the first time I lifted a pen. Drawing is my second language – sometimes even my first. It’s best when it revives childhood memories of building and sewing at home with my sister in Älvsjö,
says Stina Wirsén.
Stina has created toys and other items related to her beloved books with her sister Anna Hörling. Many books, such as the Brokiga series, are also written in collaboration with Anna and Stina’s mother, Carin Wirsén. Most of their creations stem from personal experience.
“My everyday life is my inspiration, or, let’s say, everyday life with a twist. When Anna and I make toys, puzzles or other products, we start from our childhood and then add today.”
As Stina Wirsén says, a lot of everyday life shows up in her beloved books. For example, the characters from the popular Vem books experience everything from fights and everyday troubles to friendship and death – but everything is illustrated in a way that children understand.
“To me, it’s all about the children, and that’s what drives me to create motifs that speak to them.”
Stina Wirsén’s books transformed into wallpaper and canvas prints
Even outside the world of the books, children can experience the playful images and colourful, diverse daily lives of the characters. Gula katten, Nallen and their friends appear on Swedish television often, and the images from the Vem and Brokiga books are available as wallpaper and prints.
“To go from the page of a book to the wall of a room is exiting, but challenging. For example, when I created a wallpaper pattern for Ersta Barnhospice, I had to expand my watercolours and pen drawings on A4 letter-sized pages to cover an entire wall. I had the same challenge when Vem and Brokiga moved up onto the wall.”
Although the images and characters have moved up onto the wall, the motifs continue to tell their own story. A canvas print rich in details or a bright coloured wallpaper is also a medium for parents to tell stories, practice counting with their kids and name things together. Yet Stina says the intent of the books is not at all educational.
“But I think everything I do reveals my opinions and philosophy of life, and then it probably becomes obvious that I believe art and literature to be enriching. Encounters and conversations are stimulated when reading my books and looking at my patterns together,” says Stina Wirsén.
About Stina Wirsén
Background: Stina Wirsén graduated from the Stockholm University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in 1992 and has worked as an illustrator and author ever since. She has written children’s books and been an illustrator for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.
Stina’s works include about 21 Vem books and 18 Brokiga books. The books have been translated into 15 languages.