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...

A commission turned down and around

A while ago an anonymous lady contacted me through Etsy to request a custom order. She replied to this listing and asked if I could make a textile collage for her. 

At first I thought I had sold the collage and I was really happy about that. I thought I would never get rid of it ;-) But our conversation went like this:

What information do you need for a custom order?

Also I don't need it attached to canvas. 
Would the price be the same? I also have a specific size.

Have a happy day.


I answered :

Thank you for your inquiry!

What is it you're looking for exactly? 
Colors, size, topic?

Once I know this I could determine a prize. 

Lovely to hear from you :-)

This is what I got back:

Thank you for replying.  

I am looking for a teenage girl with shoulder length curly girl wearing a beanny hat walking with her dog (black dog that is larger then)..

Details: The girl wears worn blue jeans, a red tshirt with initials GG and black checkered sneakers. She has curly shoulder length hair and wears a purple beany. You can use a black pitt pen to indicate curly hair.

Our dog is almost bigger then her. Is black and has no tail. Like a Rottweiler. Has a blue bow around his neck. 

She walks in the forest. It could be one tree or three. Leaves are not important.

Oval size no bigger the an index card, 3 X 5. She enjoys distressed fabrics so an off white or
tea stain color fabric would work.  

I have provided details but the important thing is the colors.

Would this be too much?

I attached a drawing.



At this point I freaked out. The description of the custom order was so incredibly specific, I knew for sure I would never be able to meet T.'s expectations. Nor my own. The way I work in any artistic discipline is that I never really know exactly where I am going. The whole point is to get out of my head and into my hands. Most of my work just happens. And I like it that way.

What I also like is to make money, so to turn down a job because it doesn't feel right is hard for me to do. Part of feeling justified to choose the path of the artist is that I sell some of my work. But I am not just an artist, I am also a financial manager and I am used to assess proposals and judge potential clients.  I always use my sixth sense when making quotes and I often get the job. In this case something was telling me I would probably put in a lot of time to make a collage  - with a topic not of my choosing - and not get paid in the end.

So this is what I replied:

Thank you for your reply, T.

I am afraid I won't be able to help you. Your request is too specific for me and when it comes to my textile collages, that is not the way I work unfortunately. 

I take a feeling, a color, and take my work from there. I kind of let the image come to me as I go.

You've helped me realize I should remove the custom option from my textile collages.

I am really sorry and hope you can find an artist that will meet your needs. 

A few days later T. replied - not too happy:

Your email mentioned you needed color size and topic.

I furnished that.

I furnished the details because I thought that is what you

I did not know that you take a feeling, a color and go with it.

Hot dog, instead of removing the custom button just add, psychi fabric collage.

Yes, please remove the custom from your page.

Thank you for taking my joy.

A very, very sad girl.

A psychi fabric collage - Taking my joy - A very, very sad girl... Those words were screaming at me, and my first instinct was to scream right back. But I didn't. I just didn't want to feel like I failed to please a customer and I didn't want to give anyone the power to upset me. So after a day or so I wrote back:

I am very sorry you feel this way, T. 

Since you put so much of your heart into your idea, may I suggest you try to make the collage yourself?

I found much inspiration in the work of artists like Cathy Cullis and Viv Hens Teeth. I believe anyone can make art, it's just very difficult to make something that exists in someone else's head.

I wish you a joyful day and thank you again for stopping by in my Etsy store.

Of course I never got a reply and that's okay, I wasn't expecting one. Writing this answer did give me a sense of (self-)respect and relief though. I hope this sad girl is now working on her own collage and discovering a whole new skill.

White wool

A couple of photos of the white wool cleaning process. It was pretty dirty, but I managed to get some nice white wool out of it.

Et voila! Another bag of beautiful clean wool. I couldn't wait to get started, but first we went on holiday to France.

Rococo lady, part 2

So I made two Rococo ladies. Actually I had started with the little one back in August.

I wanted to make something quick to sell at a market.

But she didn't turn out nice at all. So I didn't sell her and took her back home where she stayed hidden in a drawer for about 6 months.

I don't remember why exactly, but at one point I pulled her out of her hiding place and decided to give her a make-over. Why not? She couldn't get any more hideous anyway.

The pearl eyes are still in there. I covered them with dark wool.

I thought it would be interesting to show the the process of reworking something that didn't turn out so well into something new. It's like recycling. And it feels good.

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).

Etsy update: Four historical busts

After having been home with me for a couple of weeks now, my dolls are ready to leave again!

I just uploaded my four historical busts to my Etsy shop.

I hope they will find a loving new home.

But if not, I don't mind keeping them.

It would be great though if they can stay together.

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!