Depression and gobelin weaving

This morning this video of The Getty Center about The Art of Tapestry showed up on my Facebook news feed. It's a fabulous video about the immense and timeconsuming process of making a tapestry, from designing the image, coloring the wool, warping the loom to the actual weaving. Have a look, I guarantee you'll feel less stressful afterwards. Maybe that's why in the 1970s Amsterdam had a project of gobelin weaving for psychiatric patients...

In 1977 my mother was trying to recover from a severe and ongoing depression. She participated in the weaving project at Sociale Werkplaats De Blauwbrug. There is not much that I can find online and I doubt my mother kept any photos from that period, but I do remember the huge loom we had in our kitchen and my mother sitting behind it. To me it looked incredibly complicated what she was doing, but she seemed to be in her element.

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Sometimes she took me to the studio, where more people like her were working. Young as I was, I was told there was something wrong with them, but all I remember is a group of very friendly and even happy people working together on huge tapestries.

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

My mother gave up weaving when my stepfather had a heart attack and he needed her to nurse him. She just didn't have the time to warp the loom and weave the wool anymore. It is such a shame that he didn't see she needed that time to heal herself. She never fully recovered from her depression the way she could have.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge now. I am happy I bumped into the video today that made me search for the gobelin project and that allowed me to actually find my mother on the internet. My beautiful and talented mama...

Rococo lady, part 1


Those of you who follow me on Instagram, have been able to see the development of my latest piece. A needle felted portrait of ... what exactly?... a snow queen, a drag queen perhaps? My first thought was Rococo when I saw her outlines taking shape, so I guess that's what she'll be. 

Prepping my 'canvas.' At this point I still have no idea what I am making other than a face.

The birth of a face. This is such a magical moment - always - when I see the features of a face emerge from the wool.

Mouth, nose, cheek bones and eye sockets are in place. Now the fun part starts.

This is where I go a little crazy. I know I'll cover it up with white wool again, so the initial colors can be as bold as I want them to be.

See? The colors are just shining through.

First time I am using eye lashes. What a dramatic effect!

The bow is added for maximum Rococo effect (I used one of my daughter's ballet shoe ribbons).

Opening party art show SCULPTURES IN WOOL

It's almost April, but I am still reminiscing about the opening of my art show on my 45th birthday early February. What a party! So many lovely people showed up. 

I was overwhelmed by all the love and attention I got. I am glad my husband took some photos so I have a better image to hold on to than the foggy one in my head.

This is the wall in the foyer. I printed four of my photos on black wallpaper. 

What a thrill to see the name of my website - finally ready - on the wall. 

Getting a big hug from one of my oldest friends.

So happy to finally show my work to everybody I love.

Here are a couple of pics from my guests.

I even gave a speech. Which is kind of against my nature, but I am so glad I did it. I just had to explain. At 40 I finally realized I had always wanted to be an artist. I started to take art classes here and there, and I discovered the art of needle felting. Some of my work might not be that easy to look at, because a lot of my dolls are pretty sad, but they are a part of who I am and I am willing to show that part now.

I concluded by thanking a bunch of lovely people; my husband Greg for his love and support, my children Ila and Imre for their patience, my friend Marieke from Woolwoofles for inspiring me to make needle felted dolls and my father Peter for letting me show my work at his club Sugarfactory.

I've been spoiled with flowers, books and other lovely things. Thanks to all who came to my opening party at Sugarfactory!

Textile collage number two in the Pink Girl series

This time I created a new image with the same fabrics I had left over from last time. It's a very fun process, to almost randomly assembling little scraps here and there, until it feels right.

I am not making a drawing before I start. Wouldn't have to patience for that. I am drawing with the fabric itself.

The girl is embroidered with silk (my grandmother's silk) with a very simple stitch. Even here I don't make a sketch. I see her face in my mind. And my hands follow that 'print.' I don't mind if she turns out differently. It's about the process, not necessarily about the result.

My girls have a mind of their own. I took the skirt apart a few times - even after working on one a whole afternoon - because my flower girl wanted to have more ribbons and an apron.

The textile collage is attached on a canvas that is ready to hang on the wall. If desired it could be framed, but I like it just the way it is.

New kind of project: the textile collage

Inspired by my friend Marieke from Woolwoofles, I also started working with scraps of fabric. It resulted in three different textile collages, of which I am listing the first one on Etsy today.

We both love to go one of the best Amsterdam markets, the Noordermarkt, where you can find vintage clothes, fabric and haberdashery. Over the years we have both accumulated huge amounts of ribbons, yarns and beads. We both never throw away any fabric that might be reused. 

Introducing: Lia Miché

Last weekend we went to visit my mother who lives in the east of the Netherlands. One of the things we always do when I visit is to have a look at what she's been working on lately.

My mother is an allround artisan and artist. She can work with textile, thread, paint and clay, but recently she's been focussing on watercolors.

I took some snapshots with my phone (which could be better quality) because I got really excited about her latest work.

My mother is a very sensitive, very fragile but also very intuitive person and I love to see her character shine through in het art work. I believe it is pure and authentic. And I am truly touched when I look at it.

Some work is more abstract. But it has the same transparent and somewhat insecure quality of the still lifes.

But my favorite work is this portrait of a dancer. She has character, she's communicative and she's just lovely.

How to present one's work

Over at Christmas, I was talking to my father about the dolls I have been making recently. My family had wanted to see them and I showed them by holding them in my hands. After having them been admired, I put them down again. A pile of colored wool. Just limbs. Almost carelessly tossed aside.

I have been thinking about that image a lot. 

Making the dolls is one thing, but showing them is quite another. How can I show them in a way that does justice to the nature of their character? I need to talk to someone.

My father instantly googled the name of the artist he had just met in Barcelona last November: 

Gerard Mas (Spanish sculptor, born in 1976)

What started as a search for ways how to present one's work, turned into an intense fascination for Mas's work. Here's a sample of what I found online.

The repetition of the statues and the pedestals could work for my dolls too.

It took me a moment before I spotted the bees. The expression on her face is  powerful and distracting.

Again, a quick glace doesn't do this one justice.

Like a fish on a plate. I wonder how big this one is.

Do you see 'it'?

The skin texture is almost real.

How about a frame?

Here the pedestal is part of the sculpture.

I welcome any suggestions about how other artists have presented their work. Please leave your comment below.

Making a companion

Making one doll is one thing, but making another... that's a whole new challenge. I was eager to see what would happen with a new batch of wool. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to create a more pronounced nose.

Very quickly a character appears. I have no real control over it.

At this point I am still convinced I am creating a girl. Albeit an older one...

She's not a very pretty one. She reminds me of a friend of the family, so I start calling her Ruth.

She's waiting for me to finish her hand.

But then something shifts. It happens when I am working on the hair. This rather ugly girl turns out to be a boy.

 I think they look rather beautiful together.

9th drawing, day ....?

I always have all kinds of recycleble materials in my studio. I had already cut out some pictures from an old calendar that I wanted to use for another project, and I have stacks old boxes that I like to use as a canvas. Why not practice on cheap materials first, eh?
I started this project with no other idea than to use my new gouache paint box. As I was cutting, assembling and glueing, my thoughts wandered of. I had to think of my little boy who is so unhappy at school, and the image of a child, disconnected appeared.

 "I have a body that feels, a head that thinks and hands that make, but how do I make them all work together? How do I make sense?"

Artless - Roland Berning - 2nd class

Only a short session for me tonight. There's been some stress at the kids school lately and there's a conference about it tonight. I don't want to miss my entire class for it, so rush over to the East for just an hour.

The assignment for tonight was to choose the cover of a magazine and change something about it. I chose the cover of Time Out Amsterdam because of all the letters (and the fact that we had several lying around the house and it would not matter if I would cut up one). I was wondering what would happen to the lay out and the information if I would cut away all the letters. I started doing this one by one, but as some letters where really small, I feared I would still be at it by Christmas 2011. I decided to cut the letters away in boxes.

The result speaks for itself. Leaving the shape of some letters still intact, the content of the magazine is still understandable. Visually I am quite drawn to the upper right side. I love the irregularity.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see what the others had made with the assignment, because I had to rush off. So I didn't get an other perspective on my own work. It was an interesting little job, that required dedication and concentration, and a willingness to go with a conceptual idea, and work it out till the end.

To be continued.

MK24 - 2nd class

Babysitter does not show up tonight. Greg has to do a show, so it looks like I have to stay home. I won't accept that. I have to, must paint tonight. So I throw a fit. Greg stays home and I go.
Half way there I realize I made my husband give up paid work so I can discover the artist in me. Hmmm... I refuse to feel guilty.
First part of the class is charcoal again. The teacher is showing different art works to inspire an abstract drawing. First we make the paper black, then we use eraser to bring out shapes and light, and more charcoal to accentuate lines and shadows. It is fun to work this way. It gives a quick result.
After the coffee break we prepare a big sheet of paper with colored gesso. We choose one of the charcoals to transform into a painting. I keep it very simple. I have an intense need to just feel the paint, the brush, the paper. It is all so new to me. It doesn't behave the way I want it to. Sometimes the brush is too wet, sometimes too dry. The paint (acrylic) dries up too fast, or too slow. I mix colors when I don't want to. And when I want it, I don't get the right color. I feel so new at this, and it is not all that fun. I want it to work right away.
The teacher keeps an eye on us during this process. She is very encouraging and sees what we all seem to struggle with. She has good suggestions for everyone. At the end of the class we look at each others' work. The teacher points out the strengths in each work, and she gives suggestions for improvement. It's all very gentle and enthusiastic. I feel like I can relax in this class. And breathe.

Introduction Gerrit Rietveld Academy

I am so proud to walk into that building. The Gerrit Rietveld Academy stands for ART. Renowned art. If I could study here, I would definitely become a great artist. So I also feel humble. I am not studying here, I am merely allowed to come take a peak on Saturday afternoons, to watch the masters of the future in action, to humbly take direction from elevated teachers.
All Saturday students gather in the restaurant. So many people, and so young most of them. All of a sudden I feel old and not so special. I recognize the majority of people who I also saw at the audition. Hmmm... Did they allow everyone into this class?
They divide us into four groups. The assignment for this first day is to connect the five flours with books and elastic bands. I hate this. I did not come here to work together. I hate group dynamics. Leaders, followers, protesters. Where do I belong?
Think outside the box, says the teacher. And nothing my brain comes up with is innovative. What about inside the box? I am not interested in outside, I want to go inside! What is there that I haven't discovered yet? Maybe some... NEW things!?
I work myself through the day. Make up my own little project within the communal art work. And at five o'clock I go home with my first assignment. To collect 10 torn pages from the books we brought today and paint them in different colors, in different ways. Then we are to choose one of these pages and turn it into an independent art work.
To be continued...