Nicole Schedalke’s friends in Berlin can’t comprehend why she has turned her back on the vibrant capital city and moved to tiny little Os in Østerdalen. But then, they haven’t seen a fox slinking along the edge of the forest while they are drinking their morning coffee.
Lying on her stomach in front of a dandelion, or leaning against a pine tree looking across to Hummelfjell mountain. This is where you are likely to find Nicole. Always curious, always observing and always with a sketch book or camera in her hand.
«I drink in everything around me and I’m always getting new ideas. The area here is so inspiring. The first thing I saw, the very first time I visited Os, was a fox. ‘How cool’, I thought».
Ceramic artist, photographer, graphic designer and website designer. Nicole has plenty of hats, but the one that she prefers is her illustrator’s hat. She grew up in East Berlin during the Cold War. School was a strict place, where you had to behave yourself and sit quietly. It wasn’t exactly a place to blossom, but Nicole’s imagination needed an outlet, and she found it on paper.
«I began to draw at a very early age. There was so much inside me. My mum worked a lot on texts for an advertising agency. I often went to work with her, and saw how she worked on acetate, painting text with a brush. ‘I want to paint, too’, I said. My ultimate dream was to paint for a living».
Longed for a quieter life
It didn’t matter what she painted, as long as she was able to use a brush. So it was quite by chance that she got into ceramic work. Nicole used to work in a venerable castle in Germany, painting traditional flower patterns. As well as her craft certificate in ceramic art, she is also a qualified ceramic decorator. She has specialised in printing illustrations on a range of materials, and has worked for several studios.
«It’s in my nature never to be satisfied; I’m always stretching myself and pushing myself. I never want to stop developing. In order to adapt to the labour market and our modern age, I trained as a media designer. This really complements all my other skills».
For 15 years, she has been self-employed and running her own company. She combines professional art and illustration with design, digital media and traditional advertising material. You would think that the ideal place for a creative spirit like Nicole would be somewhere like Berlin. But Nicole was aching to be away from the city, to find inspiration elsewhere.
«The world has become so fast. It’s so easy to miss out on details, to forget the interaction between people and nature. I was longing for more peace and quiet. In Berlin, accommodation is so expensive, and it’s a difficult place for creative professions. There is so much stress and pressure. You have to be visible all the time. We just couldn’t take it any more. My husband is a carpenter, and it was through his work that we ended up in Oslo».
They lived there for three years, but never felt quite at home. There was no nursery school place for their youngest child, and they didn’t know many people. It was through a Norwegian-German forum on the Internet that they got in touch with a German family in Os.
«Amazingly, one per cent of the population of Os is from Germany. There are a few German families here. The municipality guarantees nursery school places, and we got one of the German families to help us find a house. We only came for a weekend, to see what it was like, and I fell in love with it in the first instant. The forest, of course. It’s just wonderful».
Dark winter is a challenge
The fox that ran across the road when they came for that first visit was a little sign of the adventure that was ahead of them. However, the decision wasn’t an easy one to make. For a whole year, they weighed up the pros and cons. Could they really live in a place where it was so dark and so cold? There was only one way to find out.
«After we moved here, I was extremely unsure. It was difficult when it was so dark. The trick is making sure that you go out a lot. Go skiing, meet up with friends, and be with your children. Have plenty of contact with people and go to cafés. And we travelled a lot; in fact, we still do. We went to the Canaries for some sunshine, and saw our families in Berlin. If I need some city life, I go back and meet up with friends. But Berlin is far too fast for me. A week is enough, more than enough».
Her friends find it hard to understand that she has swapped all the superb galleries, cafés and culture of the city for a municipality that only has one restaurant and less than 2,000 inhabitants. You can hardly even compare it with a cul de sac in Berlin, a city of 3.5 million people. The contrasts could not be bigger.
My favourite local places for a cup of coffee
– On a mountain farm
– Dalsbygda Cafe
– Trygstad Bakery
«They don’t understand why I moved. When I was growing up, all my holidays were spent visiting my grandparents who had a farm not far from Berlin. Being close to nature is important for me, but if you have only ever lived in a city, then you can’t understand that».
«What was it like getting to know people in Os»?
«We spent a lot of time with the other Germans who live here. And it was through our children that we gradually got to know other parents. We are involved with the football team and sports club. Word spreads».
And word spread about the little business that Nicole was running. For the first few years in Norway, her only customers were German. After a few years, she changed the name of her Germany company ‘Nickersten’ to ‘På linje’ (‘On the line’). «It is the line that is the basis of everything», explains Nicole. It wasn’t long before customers in the Fjellregionen district were more or less queueing at her door. She has created printed material, websites and advertising material for public and private companies in Tynset, Tolga, Os and Røros.
«I never really needed to advertise myself. Suddenly I had so many customers that I wasn’t sure if I could handle everything on my own. Things have gone so well over the last few years. Actually, I’ve had so much work that it’s almost been too much for me. Right now, I’m at the point where I need to stand back and figure out where I want to be. Yes, I know a bit about advertising and a bit about communication, but it’s art that really fires me up. I am really moving towards wanting to making a living as an illustrator. And ideally take on some projects outside of Os».
Back full circle
So she has made up her mind to take a break from advertising work. From now until the summer, she will only be working on one project. She is designing a colouring book, full of imaginative illustrations from Fjellregionen.
«I am so fascinated by the beautiful wooden houses here with their turf roofs, by the horses, the ‘bunad’ costumes and by trolls. The colouring book will be a test to see if I can make a living purely as an illustrator. This is what is closest to my heart. Instead of doing a little of everything, I want to go back to doing what I can do best. I have so many ideas for illustrations, they never stop coming».
She even gets ideas when she is building Lego with her son. They never build the same thing twice, and have created their own imaginary world. Nicole is constantly jumping up and rushing into the office because she has had a thought about something she must paint. Or inspiration comes when she is standing in the kitchen, drinking her morning coffee. Suddenly a fox comes loping past.
«You can’t really describe it. Inspiration can come at any time. My imagination finds an outlet when I’m with my children, so I combine that imagination with what I see around me».
On the wall, she has a picture of a girl drawing circles in water. Out of the water rises a circle of feathers, leaves, rabbits, flowers and birds, with the caption: ‘Reality is boring’.
«My style is pretty organic. My paintings are often close to reality, close to what I see. But it’s true that reality can be a bit boring, so I compensate with my imagination. Now my style is probably in a transitional phase, I’m playing more with elements. Everything is not quite straight, not quite on the line».