As we climb the stairs of the ‘Altbau’ house in Berlin on a chilly Tuesday morning, armed with a camera, notepad, and a sense of anticipation (along with masks and negative tests, of course), we're not expecting to be quite so blown away by what we find.
We step inside the apartment and are instantly enamoured by the charming interior and thoughtfully curated furnishings, but above all: by Djaheda, aka. LEEMO. Today, we're lucky enough to be granted a tour of her new home and studio space, and get some insight into her creative processes.
We start in the living room, which, like the rest of the flat, has impressively high ceilings and beautiful parquet flooring. It’s a stylish interior; thoughtful, minimalist, without being pretentious. We take a seat on the brown leather couch and get chatting.
Djaheda, who was born in Bochum in the West of Germany, discovered painting as a child. This creative streak and passion for art runs like a thread through her school years. After graduation, when it came to the question of what she wanted to do for a living, it had to be something "stable". "That's why I first studied communication design and went on to work in various agencies," she explains.
However, even after years as a freelance artist and illustrator, there is no such thing as a typical working day for Djaheda. "Actually, I work all the time. I always have everything prepared, so I can start right away and take advantage of every free, creative moment. Sometimes I try something out for 15 minutes and come back to it later. Often, I only rediscover paintings I've started after some time, tucked away in the drawer. In the best case, I then think ‘wow, this is actually pretty good’, and I’m happy to get back into it. I let my design emerge little by little.”
It quickly becomes clear how much being a mum changes Djaheda's everyday working life. But what impact has the new role had on LEEMO, on Djaheda as an artist, I want to know. "Of course I have less time, but the less time I have, the less time my inner critic has. Since my son was born, I’ve become more spontaneous—not only as an artist but also as a person. I live more in the moment, I am more playful and less critical of myself. I also find it easier to accept the things I do without second-guessing myself. I feel freer overall."
Meanwhile, the biggest challenge Djaheda faces as an artist? "Social media. You know," she tells me, "I come from a generation where they said if you worked hard enough, success would come. Now it's different: you have to talk about your work and promote it constantly. To be honest, I like to work in secret. That's also one of the reasons I make art: because it allows me to look inwards and get lost in my own world. Sometimes it's a bit difficult for me to put all of that out there and make it public.”
When asked about the one thing she enjoys most about being an artist, there’s a shift. "Everything!" she says, beaming. "It's a way of being in the world, always looking for visual cues." Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious. "Sometimes I'm lying in bed and suddenly I'm overcome with an idea, which I'm then so fired up about that I’m impatient to make it happen. I love to observe and try new things.". She pauses for a moment. "Yes, that’s the key word: observing. I think observing things and approaching everything with an open mind is central to working creatively.
We talk about her dream home and her studio, which she shares with her husband Deniz. On the wall, there are several beautiful sketches that immediately catch the eye, not only because they complement one another so well, but also because the colour matches Djaheda’s blue linen dress perfectly. If these are the visual cues Djaheda spoke of earlier, her studio is full of them. I'm interested in how much her immediate environment influences her artistic work, and whether there are elements in her home that she feels particularly inspired by. Djaheda doesn't think twice. "Light is the most important thing for me! Being on the fourth floor, our flat stays flooded with light all day. I am infinitely grateful for that—even if the climb is sometimes exhausting." she laughs.
She goes on to vividly describe how sometimes beautiful plays of light can be observed in the kitchen through the trees. And how the sun recently fell through the blinds on the bedroom windows in such a way that the light created prisms on the ceiling: "I love to observe all these things; they’re an endless source of inspiration..."
It’s not only natural elements that serve as a source of inspiration for Djaheda. "At the moment I'm really into Claire Oswalt's paper studies. I also love Heather Day's interplay of colour and texture. And Lourdes Sanchez creates the most amazing watercolours!" The JUNIQE artist community also gets a mention: "I really like Iris Lehnhardt's work, I'm a huge fan of Mareike Böhmer and the body of work she’s created. All her works fit together so amazingly well and can be combined in any way. I also really like the graphic designs by typealive, and Leigh Viner’s botanical watercolours. That certain mood and essence that is conveyed there—that's what it's all about."
And last but certainly not least, Djaheda's son. She stands up and picks up a booklet of sketches, all small works of art, all by Mikah. "I admire his courage in painting. I learn a lot from him every day."
Djaheda is intensely attuned to the world around her, drawing inspiration from such a broad array of objects, moments, and people. Through her open gaze, creative and emotional ‘triggers’ can be found everywhere. She wants her own work to have a similar effect: "First and foremost, of course, I want my art to have an impact on the viewer and, in the best case, for it to be a positive experience. My dream is that, at some point, my work will act as a kind of hook for conversations, encounters and exchanges. That someone enters a room, sees my artwork on the wall, and a conversation about the content or theme of the artwork arises in a free and natural way. That is an incredibly beautiful thought.
Thank you so much for the lovely morning and the great interview, LEEMO! If you'd like to see more of LEEMO's work, check out her artist profile below.
Text: Eva Klann
Translation: Caitlin Hughes