Enter the Maus Haus

Q&A with Alice in Wonderland-inspired street artist Claudia Osborn

All images courtesy of the artist

Meet the earthy Australian artist and Instagram sensation who’s turning Indonesian kids’ drawings into ‘T-shirts for good’

My love language is landscapes.

Born and raised in a small beach town surrounded by parklands in Australia, mountain-loving artist and illustrator Claudia Osborn – AKA Maus Haus – is inspired by the outback as much as the ocean. You can see the Australian landscape reflected in the calm tones, lines and folds of her paintings.

This interview is part of a TOPIA series in partnership with Face This. The Dutch charity brings together street artists with Indonesian school kids to turn children’s drawings into merch to support their education. Read all the interviews.

Osborn’s love of earthy, dusty colour blocking has proven extremely popular online. With 225k followers on Instagram, she has been able to leave a successful design career to focus exclusively on her artwork.

Whether still lifes, mountains or skeletons, Maus Haus likes experimenting and playing around with different mediums, styles and techniques. And now she’s joined forces on a collaboration with Face This to create tees, sweater and tote bags from the drawings of Indonesian school children. Two worlds come together in order to create a new one, to a point where both artists lift each other up. The proceeds of this collection will support their school with a playground and a water tank construction.

Mountains are very much her muse, because when you reach an outlook from a mountain it allows you to see the world from a different perspective. We spoke to the rainforest, board games and Bob Ross-loving artist to ask her about playfulness and cultivating your inner child.

Q&A: Maus Haus

Hi Claudia. Did you always like to draw? 

I was born in Australia and grew up in the northern beaches of New South Wales. I remember being quite young and drawing with my parents, which I think is what made me love it so much. Ever since, they have always encouraged my creativity.

Is there one drawing that you can recall from your childhood?

I can only remember an Alice in Wonderland colouring-in book that I took very seriously. But, the thing was. my dad had bought some really nice Derwent coloured pencils for my birthday and this particular colouring-in book was the “special one” that I had to use the pencils properly in. I had to make sure I stayed within the lines and used the appropriate colours.

Flower Pot Painting, Maus Haus

Are there specific moments in your life that made you decide to become an artist?

I always wanted to be an artist. I remember drawing a lot, and people around me commented that I should become an artist. However, I would also hear how hard it is to become an established artist and that you can’t make much money from it for a long time – you would be struggling. Throughout high school and university, I dabbled in different creative fields to fulfill that side of me. Once my work started to be noticed on social media and I was being approached for collaborations in 2020 I thought this would be a great opportunity to be a full time artist. I am happy to have landed into a style that I love to work in. 

Magic Mountain, Maus Haus

What is the best thing about being an ‘artist’?

I love making my own interpretations of the world and having it emotionally reach other people. I didn’t anticipate the variety of things my art could be put on, or even that companies wanted to put it on their products. I’m extremely lucky to have worked with all of my clients.  

I love making my own interpretations of the world and having it emotionally reach other people. 

And the biggest challenge?

Staying creative and fresh is always a challenge, especially with social media being the main part of showcasing and marketing my work. It can be so grueling at times, it’s a full time job in itself.

Skull Life Skull, Maus Haus

Do you have any dreams, something you’re building up for?

I have dreams of different projects that I would like to do like making an album cover for a band or musician I admire, or doing a large scale mural in my city. Ultimately I’m looking forward to seeing how my style develops throughout time. I will usually say yes to doing an album cover. I love being able to visually convey a musician or band’s story.

Maus Haus’ first mural: “A great activity during the first COVID lockdown”

What is one thing you do regularly, a simple ritual or hack that brings you joy or elicits a sense of self care? 

Something I do almost every morning is put on some music and have a boogie in the kitchen while I make breakfast. Until writing this, I didn’t realise that it is sort of a ritual I do, but I love starting the day this way. It has become a lot more wholesome lately with the addition of my daughter as well, who loves a little boogie to 70s’ music and Elvis. 

If you had to look at one artwork only until the end of days, what would it be – and why?

The first one that comes to mind is Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black by Piet Mondrian. It’s not the most beautiful thing to look at, but I find it so thought provoking and easy to get lost with. In art school I wrote a huge essay about De Stijl (the art movement it’s from), so I can go on and on about this artwork. Though essentially, this artwork along with the De Stijl movement and Bauhaus school were so revolutionary in their way of bridging art, design, abstraction and minimalism.

Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black, Piet Mondrian, 1921

Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” How do you remain an artist? And do you have tips for non-artists to cultivate their inner child?

I really think that experimenting and playing around with different mediums, styles and techniques will always keep you inspired and engaged with art in a new way. Children don’t have many expectations when it comes to creativity, they just go for it, and I think we should maintain that when we need that spark.

Rainbow Mountain, Peru, Maus Haus

You designed an artwork by using some of the Indonesian kids’ drawings by Face This. The proceeds will provide the kids you’ve collaborated with a playground. How important is playfulness for you as an artist? 

Playfulness is really important. Iit is a very useful tool to get out of an artist’s block, trying to find some new inspiration for a specific work, or to loosen up.

Playfulness is really important.

What made you want to get involved with this “good” project?

I loved the idea of taking on another child’s work and interpreting it in my own style, it’s something I had never done before. Then what made me want to join was that it goes towards helping these children.

When you received the drawings, what was your first reaction?

It was very cool seeing the characters that the children would come up with, and the little scenarios they would put them in. I saw a great appreciation for their friends, family and nature.

You are inspired by nature and landscapes. Which drawings did you use to create your artwork with and why did you pick these? 

I chose Zulhandi’s drawing (Kindertekeningen Duduk Atas, 2008-15). I can never pass up a cool mountain range, and Zulhandi was so detailed in the ridges of the mountain, it was so much fun to play around with.

Is there something you would like to say to the kids who made the drawings you’ve worked with?

You’re so creative and detailed in your work and I hope it’s something that you keep doing in the future!

Lastly, we are creating a playlist for TOPIA. What is the last song you’d want to hear during your time here on Earth?

‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac. It is beautiful and timeless, and about a relationship ending, which I feel is pretty appropriate for this situation. 

The Maus Haus World of Good

Claudia’s Osborn’s tips of outrageously good people to follow

@dodgy.paper – Dodgy Rodger The Pulp Professor repurposes and reuses paper and other materials to make their own paper. They have such a cool variety of colours and textures, I’m always so amazed by what they come out with. 

@elayna.carausu – Elayna & Riley have been sailing around the world for eight years, and also have a thriving youtube channel, documenting their lives onboard La Vagabonde. I just love that they have been able to make this their lifestyle, it’s great seeing people make life however they want it. Elayna is quite open about their trials and tribulations which I find really refreshing and fascinating. Riley is on @riley.whitelum.

@thezerowasteguide – What I love about this account is that the tips you’re given are so easily adoptable, and also quite beneficial to the individual.

@furrylittlepeach – I have been following Sha’an since Tumblr days and have always admired her social presence, and the way she showcases her work. All her social platforms are really enjoyable and inspiring. 

What’s so good about this?

Creativity has a transformative power for children of all cultures. The Face This Foundation works to empower Indonesian schoolchildren to “design their own future”. Maus Haus’ artwork is available on tees, sweaters and tote bags. All pieces are available to buy online. Check out more of Claudia’s work on her Instagram account and website.

Meet the writer

Born in Indonesia and raised in the Netherlands, Jos van der Hoek is trying to give back his country of origin by telling an unexpected and inspirational story about equality and creativity. No matter where you live, children have something many adults are longing for: creativity. With his Face This Foundation, he unearths and gives a platform to the creativity of kids living in marginalised areas of Indonesia. They take ownership of their own future by designing streetwear in collaboration with street artists from around the world. Proceeds support their education – so the kids literally design their own future.

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