Klara Vollstaedt is a transfem artist based in Canada whose work explores identity, loss, connection, and relationships within a digital world. Her work primarily exists in the 3D digital medium, and her interests include animation and character design. Klara’s work has been presented in galleries across North America, including UnF01d, Dcentral, For the TL, and even Graffiti Queens.
Klara’s avatar, the EXO-1 suit, is part of a broader narrative piece about a young person who volunteers to be a part of a company that extracts resources from planets. The rugged, battle-hardened suit has elements of retro-futurism. We talked to Klara to learn more about her creative process.
Talk me through the trajectory of your work as an artist.
I first developed an interest in art at a young age, particularly in 3D art. I was really into video games, movies, and other digital media, which sparked my interest in the medium. I started with creating mods for video games, which allowed me to experiment with character creation and storytelling. That eventually led me to sketching and drawing. Through school, I began taking art classes, including painting, which I got really into. Photography also became a part of my artistic life. Eventually, I ended up going to art school, where I was completely dedicated to painting. I was very interested in characters and faces, and storytelling through paintings. When the pandemic hit, I lost access to my studio. I didn’t want to oil paint at home in my little apartment because it’s super toxic, so I ended up rediscovering 3D art. What started out of boredom ended up being a total obsession. This was about six months before NFTs really started popping off. From there, I’ve been dedicated to 3D work.
What themes inspire your work?
A lot of my work revolves around the themes of identity and relationships, especially in the context of digital media and online connections. I aim to tell stories about loss, struggling to find yourself, and the search for community. I often interject a lot of personal experiences and stories about people close to me into my work. My pieces are highly narrative and I use characters, objects, and statues to convey the themes I want to explore. I try to blend character design with fine art.
What does digital creation allow you to do that you can’t in a physical space?
I think working digitally offers an immersive experience that combines both technical and physical elements. Unlike traditional mediums like sculpting or painting, digital art doesn't have the upfront cost of buying tools or having an industrial factory. It allows me to create believable things that don’t necessarily exist, which I can put in environments and animate for a full 360-degree interaction. It also offers a wide range of natively digital tools, such as lighting effects and the integration of photography, that can be challenging or impossible with traditional mediums. 3D is such an insanely powerful tool.
Walk me through your creative process.
My creative process ebbs and flows, but it typically revolves around a central idea or narrative. For example, one of my pieces was about my dad getting cancer, and this idea of the Corruption of a Sacred Heart. This piece was a dual narrative that explored the idea of the heart as a persistent, unchanging part of a person, even after a heart transplant.
I interpret my narratives through character design. I flesh out a world and characters that can help me tell the story and bring my ideas to life through visual storytelling. I tend to work with robotic elements, which is kind of what I’m known for. It’s a big part of my visual language and reflects my interest in industrial design and mechanics. When designing characters or objects, I start with the basic function and try to make it believable and aesthetically pleasing by incorporating elements of real-world design. Then I add my own flair.
Tell me about your avatar, the EXO-1 suit.
The avatar is part of a larger narrative piece that I’ve been working on for a long time. In it, characters are exploring and discovering a new planet, but there’s a darker underside to it. There’s always something under the surface. EXO-1 is one of the suits in my world used for exploration. The suit is rugged, worn down, and battle-hardened, reflecting a whimsical space travel theme with a super dark undertone. I wanted to incorporate cool elements of retro-futurism. The suit is kind of like a 1950s version of a sci-fi future. It’s a standard issue suit that I imagine a company in my world having.
Follow Klara Vollstaedt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kvollstaedt