I have lived my life around the world, but I’ve never really left Wales

My family’s roots have always been in Wales, where I grew up in Cardigan. My dad was an agricultural engineer, so his job took us abroad a lot. We would go away for a year or two, and then return to Wales. My dad is a fluent Welsh speaker, and my mum is German. I learnt Welsh as a second language at school, and dad spoke Welsh to us when we were living in Indonesia and all over the world – it is crazy how languages follow you around.

frau, die ein Getränk hält
Anja continues to spend as much time in Wales as possible, and ensured her children were born in the nation.

Today, I am back and forth all the time. I have never left the nation in that sense, and I made sure that my three children were born here because it mattered to me greatly. Having a German mother was my main influence growing up, even though the majority of our time growing up was in Wales. I always thought I would live in Germany or somewhere else in the world. However, the older I have become, the more I realise there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be. Having grown up in a lot of places and experienced other cultures, I don’t think it can get any better than being in Wales.

The sense of community in Wales fuels inclusivity and opportunity

To me, Wales has a unique ‘creative’ feeling about it in every aspect, from the language to the geography. It’s one of the most poetic countries, so it’s hard not to be affected by this ‘feeling’ if you live there.

The landscape is populated by lots of villages where community sits at the heart. I think this creates inclusivity, and this sense of community extends into towns and cities, making the whole country feel familiar and unintimidating. This relaxed feeling brings out the creativity in people more.

frau, die in einem Topf rührt.
Some of Anja's regular creative work in Wales involves cooking at the 'Do Lectures' every year.

Anyone looking to embrace their sense of creativity in the nation will experience a lot of encouragement and a welcome from the community. This culture, combined with the possibilities of the modern world, is creating some fantastic opportunities for a balance of work and life.

In my view, creativity is just a way of being. I believe everyone is creative in different ways. Spreadsheets might not be my idea of creativity, but to others they are masterpieces. I don’t think the word creative should solely apply to the arts.

Some friends of mine have set up a gin company, In The Welsh Wind, in Tan-y-groes, and when I visited recently seeing the scale of their operation was incredible. Their label designer, for example, has moved to Wales to raise his family, and completes jobs for clients all over the world anywhere in the world from his home.

These kind of creative opportunities are growing all of the time. One of my earlier jobs was as an in-house producer for Howies, an outdoor, skateboard and bike clothing brand in Cardigan. The office was full of all kinds of creative people, from clothing designers to graphic designers, customer service, PR and accountants - all together on one floor. The environment had a great energy.

I met the owners while I was managing a cafe in town - Ultracomida - where they would pop in for lunch every week, along with most of the team. The convivial  atmosphere led to a job opportunity with them at a time of life where I also wanted a change. I'd had no prior experience in producing, but getting the job came down to having strong organisation and communicating skills. I still think it's brilliant that a business like this is willing to take people on with core skills, and train them to develop the specifics while they're on the job.

Growing up near Cardigan, I never thought jobs like this would be possible in my local town. Now, I really think every town in Wales has great opportunities, you just have to seek them out.

Some of Anja's earliest creative career inspiration came through her first jobs in Cardigan, Ceredigion.

You can find a sense of creativity in Wales that is hard to replicate elsewhere

Living in Wales offers you something that other countries don’t give you from a creative standpoint – for me, that comes from the fact the population density is lower than other developed countries, and the people that you do meet are fascinating. This country has a unique ‘creative’ feeling about it in every aspect - from the language to the geography. It is one of the most poetic countries, and it’s hard not to be affected by this feeling if you live there.

Whatever factor has attracted people to come to the nation, there’s something very encouraging about the Welsh people, and being here brings this quality out in everyone. I can’t imagine there are many places in the world that feel as open to creativity as Wales.

Ultimately, for me Wales is a place of great opportunity and it gives me space to breathe. It’s just such a beautiful, unspoilt country. The coastline is so extensive compared to the size of the country, and this is greatly inspiring for my painting work. Nothing comforts me more than a calm sky, and that’s because of my roots in Cardigan!

coastal landscape of grass topped rocks in foreground and sea in background
View of Poppit Sands and Cardigan Bay looking from Gwbert Ceredigion

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