Don't let the cheery colours fool you, the whimsical world of Latvian illustrator and object maker Inga Ziemele is chock-full of adorable danger and seedy characters. In the interview, Inga talks using art to work through the themes of self-acceptance and anxiety, bringing joy into people's lives, and professes her love for deceitfully cute bunnies.

Your illustrations look often a “bit disturbing but in a friendly and cute way.” What draws you to this unique aesthetic, and how do you balance your work’s dark and whimsical elements?

The juxtaposition of innocence and mischief for me creates an intriguing contrast. It allows me to embrace the multifaceted nature and express different aspects of my own personality without conforming to traditional labels or expectations.

Your academic background includes graduating from Central Saint Martins and currently studying an MA at the Royal College of Art, focusing on the theme of anxiety. How does this academic pursuit influence your creative process and the themes you explore in your illustrations?

Education has helped me to make big leaps in my creative practice without the expectations from the outside world. It is a bit of a bubble but I think, sometimes, it is necessary to have it, whether through carving time out on your own or through educational institutions.

Commercially, you’ve collaborated with well-known brands such as Nike, Spotify, and Jameson. How do you approach these commercial projects while maintaining your distinctive artistic style and vision?

I don’t really take on projects that I am not able to bring my own perspective and flavour to. When working with someone, you always have to manage not only your own expectations but also the client’s or collaborators’ ones, so it is all about finding a balance and creating a project that both sides will be happy about.

Your work often features anthropomorphic characters, such as brave bunnies, as a way to explore themes of anxiety and self-acceptance. Can you delve deeper into how these characters serve as metaphors for personal struggles and growth?

Bunnies <3 

I like combining characteristics that are opposite to cute or naive. In some ways, I often tap into the trickster archetype because it really embodies the state of current capitalistic and neoliberal systems, while at the same time, having, in my opinion, positive aspects like being a boundary-crosser who defies social norms.

Creating these characters is a way to connect with my true self that’s not held back by anxiety or conventional behaviour. With drawing, I am able to distance myself from my feelings and express more than I would with words or actions.
For example, when it comes to anxiety and depression, it can be very hard to express those feelings verbally. I find that drawing the feelings is much easier but also a lot more precise than words can describe.

Can you discuss your recent exploration into 3D and physical object-making as part of your creative research project? How does this expansion of your practice contribute to your overall artistic development?

One of my first explorations into extruding my work into Z-axes were these alien pillows I sewed. I wanted to make a creature that would be non-judgemental and soothing, something that maybe within 2D boundaries was hard to achieve. You can’t hug a flat drawing! Haha.

There is something about 3D that’s so much cuter and attractive that I don’t get from my usual flat vector-based work. Ultimately, my goal is to bring more acceptance and joy into people’s lives and when I made my bunny incense holders, so many people responded that it brings joy to their homes. That means the world to me. I don’t think I have ever been able to get such an actual positive change in people’s mood by simply drawing.

Looking to the future, what are your aspirations as an illustrator? Are there any particular themes or projects you’re eager to explore in your upcoming work?

I am working on a bunch of projects relating specifically to anxiety and the way it manifests itself in many different forms. So, hopefully, in the next year, these will be out there either IRL or online.

We now have an ongoing theme named Sugar Rush. If the art is kinda like eye candy for people, what would be your favourite sweet treat?

Anything with faux fur on it!

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Inga Ziemele is a Latvian illustrator known for her bold anthropomorphic characters that some have described as ‘disturbing but in a friendly way’. Inga graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015 and is currently studying an MA at the Royal College of Art where she is doing her creative research project on the theme of anxiety and expanding her practice with 3D and physical object making. Commercially, she has worked with brands such as Nike, Spotify and Jameson. Her illustrations have won several awards from D&AD, One Club, YCN, ADAA and has been featured on websites like It’s Nice That, The Brand Identity and The Pangram Paper. Inga has also participated in several group exhibitions in London and Hong Kong.


Artist/ Inga Ziemele @inguuuna

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

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