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Interview with Illustrator Saga-Mariah Sandberg

Saga-Mariah Sandberg is the mind behind the designs of the DAWN CHORUS wallpaper collection. This collection draws upon the thematic motifs of Nordic nature and consists of eight hand-drawn wallpaper designs full of meadow flowers, magnificent roses, and Swedish forest berries. In our interview with Saga-Mariah she talks about her love of nature and describes the inspiration behind the wallpaper motifs.

Dawn Chorus Collection

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the DAWN CHORUS collection?
I was really inspired by the first signs of spring and summer that we’re always looking for when the seasons turn: those first blooming flowers or the burgeoning trees, those initial signs we see in gardens and forests. The birds returning to their nests and the gentle flowers that provide the ecosystem with nourishment.

Dawn Chorus" specifically refers to the choir of birds that all let loose their song in the mornings, one of the dearest signs that spring has returned! Waking up to a soundscape of birdsong after a long and cold winter is an absolute delight to experience. Here in Sweden we still celebrate the old tradition known as "Gökotta" where in the spring you get up in the early morning to listen to the first song of the cuckoo.

What does your creative work process look like?
I typically get started with a specific site in nature. I sketch out the elements that I think really represent the place and then put them together to form a pattern!

Where do you find your inspiration? Is there something specific in nature that inspires you?
Every corner of nature fascinates me; even something as minute as badger droppings are fun to find and make me look forward to summer — you can see what berries they had dinner, for instance. Sitting and watching is an important part of it: staying to see what the ants are carrying back to their home is just as fun as watching a rainbow rise over the horse meadows in the early morning mist. Just before I started the collection, I could feel my heart longing for those first telltale signs of spring and summer. I was listening to Swedish folk songs such as Vårvindar Friska (Fresh Spring Winds), Längtan till Landet (Longing for the Country), Uti vår Hage (In Our Garden), and Gustav Fröding’s Strövtåg i Hembygden (Hiking in the Homeland), and I took a lot of creative inspiration from these. You might say that it’s a kind of encounter between folk romance and field biology.

What colours have captured your attention at the moment?
The bright, cold violet of the marsh violet flowers; the fresh green of ferns on stone; and the sky blue of a robin’s egg.

What do you enjoy most about your work as an illustrator?
Besides painting every day, which is the best thing I know, it is that I can work at my pace and in the conditions that suit me best. I enjoy the freedom of being able to wear pyjamas in the studio one day and then a beautiful dress the next!
Sometimes when I need to focus, I’ll work in silence; other times, when I need energy, I choose to work with music on.

Saga-Mariah Sandberg

Each of the wallpaper patterns corresponds to a specific scene in nature; can you tell us about some of the wallpaper motifs?

Skogsgläntan — (The Forest Meadow)

In this spruce forest meadow grow many plants and flowers — it’s just teeming with life: violets, blueberries, thrush eggs, Polyommatini, lily of the valley, and Linnaea borealis all grow together. Meadows and glades have a different kind of vegetation and life than the forest that surrounds them, which means it is a whole other biotope. A biotope is a biological term for a place that possesses certain special properties that make specific organisms thrive over others; therefore, the biotope affects which animals and plants live in the area. It’s what makes small forest meadows such special places, which we can experience as pure magic!

Forest Meadow

Wallpaper pattern — Kerstin

This is a wild rose pattern composed of illustrations inspired by the glaucous dog rose, one of the many flowers that grow around Astrid Lindgren's childhood home, Näs. It also incorporates representations of the powder pink climbing roses that grew on our house wall when I was a child. I used to pick their petals in the late summer and put them in a jar so I could smell them later. I would imagine that the petals were silk sheets and covers that the beetles would use as they sat in the flowers.
The pattern is named after my grandmother Kerstin who loves roses. In her home everything bears a beautiful rose pattern: the chairs, curtains, tablecloths, napkins, dresses, pillows, tableware, just everything. My grandmother is an artist and she loves painting roses so I wanted to dedicate this wallpaper to her.

Kerstin (bright)

Mossträdgården — (The Fern Garden)

Inspired by the old posters from the biology halls in school, I wanted to capture the places in our Nordic nature and represent all of the exciting life that grows there. Deciduous forests and shady gardens are natural places where you can see the bracken, ferns, and moss completely take over a place, welcoming the animals and insects that come to thrive there.

The Fern Garden

Here you can see all the motifs from Saga-Mariah Sandberg's wallpaper collection, DAWN CHORUS.

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