October 28, 2013

Natural Dye + Wax Print + Sweaters

= Dutch Design Week 2013

Last week I visited the Dutch Design Week (DDW) two times and both times I went to see the Vlisco Unfolded* exhibition at the IGLUU. They showed their fabrics as hanging banners over the ceiling like they freshly rolled out of the machines and the beautiful creations they made for their campaigns. There were tables full of sketches and drawings, walls full of their epic campaign photos, animations and a replica of their archive with the impressive sample books. I made a ton of photos, so I will dedicate another post to them with more about this wonderful exhibition. Congrats Vlisco!

The first day, Wednesday, I went to TAC. TAC always has great (alternative) exhibitions and events, so I was looking forward to their view on Dutch Design. The place was packed with young and original designers. Every designer had its own space to do with it as pleased. In this way the way it was showed matched the designed product. I was most surprised by The Colors of Orange.
The Colors of Orange** is a collaboration of three designers. Eugenia Morpurgo (IT), Amélia Desnoyers (Fr) and Olivia de Gouveia (PT) tell the unexpected story of the carrot. The bright orange vegetable hides a family rich in shades and tonality. They use the color to dye fabric in this case a digital wax printed cloth that they later made into a bag. I loved their Labratorium set-up, the reverence to Vlisco and that they made a nice, simple cotton bag that I could take home with me, just lovely! (earrings by BLOK)

Wednesday was a gloomy day, but when I visited Garden Mania the sun shortly broke through. I was there a while back, but they were closed then, I already liked the big construction bags full of plants and furinture made out of pallets. For the DDW they made a program with the title "Re: La plante; un poéte. Le jardin; un maison".
After my carrot dyeing wax print surprise at TAC, I was even more surprised when at Garden Mania they were painting fabrics with Marigolds, the husks of walnuts, elderberries and other things from their garden.
Am I detecting a natural dye trend?

Friday my parents went to the DDW, so I joint them for lunch and to see Vlisco Unfolded again. In the afternoon I had an appointment at the Van Abbemuseum. I'm helping creating the newest acquisition of the museum, Laurent Mareschal's Beiti, a temporary tiled floor made ​​of spices!
I was to early for the appointment, so I made a fast visit to their DDW exhibition "Self Unself".
The collected knitting of Loes Veenstra, presented by Christien Meindertsma is definitely my favorite.
Since 1955, Loes Veenstra has knitted more than 550 sweaters. Until recently she had them stored in boxes, in the attic of her home on 2nd Carnisse Street, Rotterdam. The sweaters have never been worn.**** Christien Meindertsma designed the book "Het Verzamelde Breiwerk van Loes Veenstra uit de 2e Carnissestraat" and now shows a selection of the sweaters at the Van Abbe.
Another strong work in "Self Unself" is Wolwearen . Wolwearen is a series of seven blankets made by people with a mental or physical impairment. Pieter Smit designed looms that reflect the psychological and physical possibilities of the operators. "Beauty springs from the impairments of the weaver."
The exhibition "Self Unself" at Van Abbemuseum is till the 17th of november. And Laurent Mareschal's Beiti is part of the "Once Upon a Time... The Collection Now" that opens this Saturday!

* See also www.v-inspired.vlisco.com/vlisco-unfolded and my post "Vlisco Unfolded"
** More about The Color of Orange on www.cargocollective.com/thecolorsoforange
*** More about Garden Mania on www.gardenmania.nl
**** See also "Flasmob Truien van Loes" on YouTube

October 23, 2013

Wax Cloth Statements

For my work as an artist and as a blogger I Google a lot. Reading different blogs about textiles, art, design and more keeps me updated about what I need to see and know. A few weeks back I gave a lecture, De reis naar Batik: making a statement, during the Najaarsdag of the Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging in Amsterdam.
They asked me to tell about the origin of Vlisco and about the Batik industry today. When talking about these subjects, next to a lot of books and articles, I needed a lot of pretty pictures. This of course is not very difficult with such great subjects.

I already had the colorful photos by the Italian photographer Anthony Pappone, of the Dipo Ceremony* in Ghana, for a long time in my download folder. I wanted to use them for a blogpost, I saved them and for the lecture they came handy. I used them to show that Vlisco is still very important for ritual and ceremonial use. We in the Netherlands mostly know it for its bright, powerful campaigns with beautiful models showing high fashion clothing, but in West- and Central-Africa Vlisco is not only a fashion item, it's cultural heritage. When I found these photos, I was so surprised to see them used in such a traditional, basic way. Beautiful and very strong photos!

While preparing for my lecture I was looking for images of Mama Benz, the entrepreneurs that not only sold Vlisco but also named them. Today at the Design Dialogue at the Vlisco Unfolded exhibition (Dutch Design Week) I learned that it's supposed to be Nana Benz, and not Mama Benz. Nana means woman and not mother or grandmother, so there is our Dutch mix up with the translation.
The legacy of the Nana Benz is very important, they made the Vlisco into the African fabric it is today. By giving an extra meaning to the cloth, it represented more than just showing of your great new design. You gained a voice, you could make a statement by wearing these fabrics.

“The wise man says during the day what the wax says at night." A proverb from Burkina Faso

The last two images I wanted to share are made by photographer David Pace**.
"Although I photograph on the street and not in the studio, it was easy to find the colorful backgrounds I had in mind in Bereba on market day. In their booths merchants hang bolts of colorful textiles, sheets, blankets and fabrics of every color. My practice is to find a suitable background with even, soft lighting and wait for my subjects to appear. The market is always crowded with villagers dressed in their finest clothes so I seldom have long to wait."

I love these photos, instant Wax Cloth Statements! I showed these two during the lecture because they nicely show why you need 6 yards. You can make a dress, skirt or top and a headband out of one cloth. Traditionally it had to be the same pattern, but now it becomes more common to mix up patterns and Vlisco stimulates to do so in their campaigns.

Today I visited the exhibition Vlisco Unfolded*** and the Design Dialogue: History Unfolded at the Dutch Design Week. I will write about it soon, but first try to visit it yourself! Just follow the Vlisco-patterned arrows in Eindhoven (NL)! Enjoy!

* More photos of the Dipo Ceremony by Anthony Pappone on www.photographyserved.com/gallery/Dipo-Ceremony-Krobo-Ghana/5767485
** More photos by David Pace see post "PHOTOLUCIDA: DAVID PACE: SUR LA ROUTE AND MARKET DAY" on www.lenscratch.com
*** See v-inspired.vlisco.com for more about the Vlisco activities during the Dutch Design Week (till 27 october)

October 9, 2013

Lepidopterist simply observe lepidopterans

"Little Nana's Cape", wallpaper installation by me

Making maps* and telling stories, that's what pattern designing is about for me. When I'm creating a pattern, many stories, at first very different stories, get together in one idea and form a hopefully readable design.
My latest wallpaper work, "Little Nana's Cape"**, is based on folktales about migrating Butterflies.
I have been a butterfly monitor for two years now. It started as a way to learn more about them so I could read Batiks better.
These butterflies used in Batiks are good luck charms, copied after Chinese use of the symbol. Because of this, Batiks with Butterflies were mostly worn by brides of Chinese descent or used to hang above their bridal beds.
The way the butterfly was put on the fabric changed from Javanese (small butterfly with thick bodies) to an European style (bigger and finer). In 1940 the butterflies developed under Chinese influence into the even bigger, more boldly decorated ones we know today.

Butterflies on the Batiks from madame Rosielle-Bergsma collection which I'm wearing in my previous post "What's a Bday without some new Batik Statements"

"...Butterflies sipping nectar from flowers are an emblem of felicity and the joy of married life"
- Fabric of Enchantment

As I mentioned before that I started as a butterfly monitor last year. To learn to determine different local butterflies I followed a course and started reading about the subject. The world of symbols and science seems miles apart, yet entomologists are more rock 'n roll than lab geeks. Frontman Kars Veling of De Vlinderstichting looks more like someone who goes stagediving than looking for bugs in the undergrowth. And many writers and artists were Butterfly hunters. Vladimir Nabokov for example found his inspiration for his novel Lolita when he was catching butterflies in a suburb.

Me in Artis with Merian's work on the background

The work by Anna Maria Sibylla Merian inspires me greatly. Anna Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717) was a German artist and entomologist. She studied plants and insects and made detailed drawings of them. As a child she was fascinated by caterpillars and their life cycle.
In Artis Merian's beautiful illustrations cover the walls of the entrance of the Butterfly-greenhouse and even a small caterpillar is named after her in the Netherlands, the Meriansborstel. What fascinates me in her work is that all her drawings have a dark side to it. At first you see this fresh, colorful image of plants and insects, but when you start to look closer you see that on most an insect gets eaten by another insect or small animal, and sometimes parts of this insect are still sticking out their mouths.

Way to divide butterfly wing, drawing by Vladimir Nabokov

Butterflies are used as good luck charms in Batiks, but they aren't always considered as luck bringers. In Indonesia tombstones are decorated with images of moths. These Butterflies of the Night are associated with death.
For "Little Nana's Cape" I collected information about beliefs surrounding butterflies. I was reading a novel, The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe, in which a girl follows the migrating path of the Monarchs. Monarchs return on the Day of the Dead in Mexico and therefor symbolize the returning souls of relatives.
I was telling about it to an Indonesian friend and she told me about a similar belief from Indonesia. When an Atlas moth gets in the house it represents a loss in the family, it's like an Atlas moth takes a soul with him. This of course makes it an unwelcome houseguest.

It's funny how inspiration comes together like that. I started collecting more stories, so I could make a pattern of butterflies that are associated with death without losing their beauty and lightness. The location, Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk in Breda, was perfect for this subject.

Photo of Atlas Moth from the Tropenmuseum archive

"Emperor moth" by Vincent van Gogh, May 1889

Around 1889 Vincent van Gogh made two paintings of butterflies in the gardens of the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Rémy. He mentions the painting with the Emperor moth in a letter to his brother. He regrets that he had to kill the beautiful moth in order to paint it. He thought it was a Death's-head Hawkmoth. I first didn't think anything of it, because I know how difficult identifying species can be. But then I read a book in which they tell that the Death's-head Hawkmoth was seen as a bringer of bad fortune and even death. This folk belief from the Netherlands was common in the beginning of the 20th century. The migrating moth with the skull pattern on his back was seen by Vincent in May of 1889, a year later on the 29th of July 1890 he passed away...

But moth-butterflies aren't just bad news, they also represent the art of transformation. The title of my wallpaper installation comes from a mythological story of the Aztecs. Their humble god Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself to become the sun. Only dressed in a paper robe with a paper cape he jumps into the fire and brings light to earth. The god Quetzalcoatl flies as a butterfly into the new sun. Falling back on earth she forms the flowers and butterflies.

"I almost wish we were buttefflies and liv'd but three summer days"
- John Keats

Making of "Little Nana's Cape"***

* See blogpost "Making sense by making maps"
** More photo's of "Little Nana's Cape" on www.sabinebolk.nl
*** Making of "Little Nana's Cape"
**** More cool entomologists: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_entomologists
***** Photos "Little Nana's Cape" by Koen de Wit

October 2, 2013

What's a Bday without some new Batik Statements

And even more important, what's a Batikday without some new Batik Statements! Have a great Batikday and if you get inspired by these photos, please send me your own homemade statements! Looking forward to it!


First Statement: I'm wearing different batiks from madame Rosielle-Bergsma collection.
Second Statement: Blouse made out of two Vlisco calendars from 1974 and 1975 on "batikpants".
Third Statement: 'Nest egg' Vlisco and two pieces of Vlisco's (headband part of "6 bougies") out of madame Rosielle-Bergsma collection.

* See last years Batikday post "Happy Batik-day!" for more Bday Statements
* See label "Batik Statements" for all statements I received, hopefully yours will be there soon!