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Artist: Marjolein Dallinga, St-Sauveur, Quebec, Canada
Interview 45: Marjolein exhibited in the 2012 World of Threads Festival exhibition De rerum natura (On The Nature of Things) at Joshua Creek Heritage Arts Centre in Oakville, Ontario.
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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.
Marjolein Dallinga is a hands-on person and her creativity from an early age stems from her love of living things, horses and riding, movement and colours. She did training in graphic arts and painting at Minerva Academy, a fine arts institute in Groningen, Holland, where she was born, but spent subsequent years doing mostly painting and drawing. She came to Canada in 1989, married and raised a family of three boys.
With the increasing demand for physical space at home, Marjolein gradually turned from painting to focus on smaller and less demanding creative things such as toys, during which time she “met” sheep and came to know sheep’s wool, she also took a course in working with wool, particularly felting. Felting is an ancient technique that allows unlimited freedom in the creative process while demanding very limited mechanical intervention such as weaving on a loom. She also found it to be a medium in which she could express herself as she had done in her painting. Felting is also an activity that readily fits in with her lifestyle while caring for her family. Initially she created handbags, hats, shawls and mittens that interested enough people to be asked to teach the art of felting.
Through the contacts Marjolein made in her courses, she became involved in producing theatrical pieces when her work came to the notice of the Cirque du Soleil. That developed into making things to order, but the most exciting outcome is the experimental nature of her work with Cirque du Solell. How far this will go will only be limited by material aspects, not by the creativity Marjolein brings to this exciting medium. Marjolein's Website
Artist Marjolein Dallinga
Tell us about your work?
As a young girl I loved to make things with anything that came to hand, boxes of fabric, baskets of ribbons, threads and buttons. Millenary stores and second hand clothing stalls were my favourite sources for all the things I wanted to play with. My grandmother was a seamstress who could make anything and I remember how her skilful hands moved over the fabric with grace and precision. She taught me the basics of sewing, knitting, crocheting and weaving.
The best thing that happened to me was when my parents sent me to an arts and crafts school on Saturdays at the age of eight. I loved that school, the teachers, and all the beautiful things that were made there in the textile arts courses, as well as metal and woodworking, painting, ceramics and jewellery. After high school, I turned to drawing, painting and photography, but I still made my own clothes and knitted. Later I did fine arts at the Minerva Art Academy in the Netherlands, but I found it too restricting. I wanted to get more movement out of the canvases and framed pictures, so I started sewing pictures, patchwork, quilting and combining materials which resulted in making art books, which I hand bound with textile materials.
My lifelong fascination with ancient crafts, folk art and decorative art led me to use them to lighten up traditional painting.
After I had children, I gave up painting for craftwork, which is less absorbing and gave the children and me more freedom, which then led to toy making. Since my oldest boy had exquisite taste and lots of ideas, we made a whole toy world together which is where felting began. I really started to love wool and became more and more obsessed by the endless possibilities of the felting process.
Skin 2, 2011, 220-200 cm, wool felted, hand dyed, photo: FAhri Javuz, Model: Denis Bergeron
From where do you get your inspiration?
There is a whole world inside me. I often dream of something deep and colourful which moves and which is very mysterious. There are many corners, strange places, folds and holes. I have an enormous need to express that world. It does not really matter how, as long as it moves. Making things sort of balances the extremes of that inner world. I am inspired by the natural world, its sounds, feel and touch and hence by its various textures and forms. I like to use a particular material and technique as an expression of itself, rather than as a decoration or a vehicle for a narrative. The material has to speak. Felting allows me to do that. It is very free and versatile. It allows me to express feelings in colour. The colours are the light that we consciously or subconsciously crave. So the main focus in felting for me is colour and texture. I like my work to carry me away. I like to make a stream of things; I like a good volume of work where one thing leads to another, with one expression leading to another. It is a road without any particular destination but I have to travel it. And that road offers and requires a lot of dreaming and experimentation. And one comes upon unexpected material forms such as the mysteries of a simple fold.
I am more focused on sculpture than two-dimensional art. I look a lot at photography books and books about nature and the body. Movies from Tarkovski, Bergman, and Kieslowski have deeply influenced my work. Music has more an indirect influence on my work. I look a lot at all kinds of books about art and art making, because I am curious and always fiddling around. I have subscriptions to several magazines about felting and fibre arts.
Skin 3, 2011, 220-200 cm, wool felted hand dyed, photo: FAhri Javuz, Model: Denis Bergeron
Why did you choose to go into fibre art?
As a child I loved to play with bits of fabric and yarn with which I made all kinds of things. My grandmother as well as my mother did craftwork, and as a young girl I was sent to a craft school, where they made all kinds of beautiful things out of various materials. That made a big impression on me. Later at the Arts Academy Minerva in Groningen, I studied painting and graphic arts, which led to wanting more creative freedom. I introduced fabric into my drawings and paintings that became three-dimensional with folding and filling. But I always found craftwork more colourful and decorative.
Since 1989, in Canada, I began to involve quilting and embroidery in my work. I looked for small and labour intensive projects such as making day/travel books, which I would bind and fill with small drawings and paintings. Another attractive medium was papier-mâché, with which I could make strange sculptural forms and animals and then leave them to weather outside and return them to the earth with the help of the elements and wildlife. My world had become very small physically but the horizon beckoned. As soon as the children arrived, eventually three, I could not paint anymore and I returned to a child's world by making things for them. That's when I discovered felting and became immediately fascinated by the material. So now I could paint with fibre. And the physical aspects of working with felt were a good fit with our household.
Red spikes, 2010, 150-90 cm, wool felted, hand dyed, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Which is your favourite fibre medium?
First is the attraction to the natural material, its softness and texture, its volume and yet lightness. I like the muted, sturdy and solid quality of the material that can produce such varying results. Felting is an ancient art, employing many different processes and in spite of the many technical complexities, it is the inherent simplicity of it all that attracts me. One only needs a few tools and a simple workspace. It is the magical aspect of felting which never ceases to surprise me.
Felting is a friendly art, full of forgiveness and it combines wonderfully with other textile techniques. It is a combination of handwork and painting. The placement of the fibres is repetitive but calming and meditative, and the playing with colours is a soulful and balancing experience. The actual mechanical process of felting with water and soap is very physical. Textile arts have always had strong spiritual overtones from how we weave our paths, express our memories, and embellish our life's events to how we see our place in the world.
Mushroom, 2009, 20-25 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?
Although I am mostly focused on felting, I use other mediums too. I like to photograph my work in all kinds of environments. Those pictures are very inspiring and often give me other ideas and perspectives about my work. It is as if my work gets a life of its' own in the pictures. I really like that. I shoot pictures several times each week. I also like sculptural embroidery and sewing. I enjoy constructing with scraps and left over pieces of fabric. I am very thrifty with materials and I like to reuse materials in other ways. I always keep a notebook for ideas and sketches. They often come in odd moments, not only in the studio.
Skin 3, 2011, 220-200 cm, wool felted ,hand dyed, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Spleen, 2011, 40-35 cm., wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Heart, 2011, 10-12 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work?
I am interested in artists who are mostly interested in the specific expression of the material they use. Artists who see their world in a material light also inspire me. I look at all kinds of art really, from visual art, painting and drawing, to film, sculpture and video and I listen a lot to music.
Lately I have been very inspired by 'land art' artists like Andy Goldsworthy and Gary Drury. I like their use of raw materials and that they are mostly experimental and care more for the journey than the piece on it's own. I like an artist who works with raw materials like Joseph Beuys. Beuys worked a lot with felt, a material that had a profound influence on him, since it saved his life after an accident as a soldier.
Marlène Dumas has influenced me since I started art school in Holland. Dumas is an amazing painter. Her colours are very personal and daring, as are her subjects. Dumas, along with Louise Bourgeois, (especially her fiber works), Annette Messenger (France), Kiki Smith (USA) are big examples for me as a female artist. I have followed them, their themes and their lives, for more than thirty years.
The beautiful colours and forms of glassblower and artist Dale Chihuly are very inspiring and I'm impressed with the cosmopolitan art of Anish Kapoor.
In architecture, I love Gaudi (Spain) and Hundertwasser (Austria); they give me a world of dreams and imagination. I feel this in the skeleton of my own body.
Heart, 2011, 25-15 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
What other fibre artists are you interested in?
In fibre arts I love the felters whose work is kind of raw, who really use the expression of the material or the technique. I love more organic looking work. Some felters who I admire and who have had a great influence on my work, are Dagmar Binder, Claudy Jongstra, Janice Arnold, Jori Johnson, Keilo (Japan), Agostina Zwilling to name a few.
The Cirque Du Soleil is an added impetus for continual searching and experimentation and fortunately they have an amazing staff of artists and craftspeople that I love to work with. They also offer me the opportunity to use their great library and documentation centre for inspiration.
In fashion and design I love the work of Tord Boontje's, Franck Sorbier, Misake, Valentino, Galliano, Alexander McQueen, J.P. Gaultier and Geoffrey Beene. I like to look at fashion, although I hardly make clothing myself. Again, I love the raw and emotional look. The intense designers who make weird items, with daring difficult themes.
It is the same somewhat for the theatre designers. I admire Linda Brunelle in Québec, Christian Lacroix, Leigh Bowery and Rien Bekkers in Europe. Of course there are many more whom I could mention. It is the imagination, guts, emotional work that I like. I know this work is more personal and I enjoy working with others who have good synergy, this really changes your work and your mind. More particularly in costume design for stage outfits, François Barbeau, Dominique Lemieux, Meridith Caron, Alan Hranitelj, and Elko inspire me for the Cirque du Soleil.
Overall, I love looking at other people's work, I am very curious by nature.
Tubes, 2010, 120-120 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Green kraters, 2009, 120-120 cm, wool felted with organza, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Tell us about your studio and how you work:
I don't know exactly where ideas come from but they seem to come from deep down inside me perhaps below the stomach. Colour plays on my emotions and I am drawn to organic, irregular forms. I need to be alone to have ideas, to be inspired. The world is so distracting with all its techno wizardry. I need solitude, nature, and water. I love swimming, walking. I love dreaming and giving my thoughts free rein. Most of my designs result from all the experimentation I have done without any particular goal. But since the Cirque Du Soleil came into my life, my experiments are now shared with designers whose input I then adapt to practical purposes, a process of cooperation that I find hugely inspiring and joyful. I am as concerned with craftsmanship as with creating.
Brain, 2011, 25-17 cm, wool felted., photo: Marjolein Dallinga
Fat, 2011, 20-20 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
detail of Air, 2011, 50-60 cm, wool felted, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?
Nowadays almost all the categories in art are less defined. Disciplines are overlapping each other. Arts and crafts are less separated worlds. Textile art is taken more seriously; many artists are experimenting with this medium. Textile art is tactile and originates in wearable and useful goods. Modern textile artists have placed this art form within the contemporary art scene. I think the tactile quality is a big attraction. Also oriental influences, where textile art always has had a respectful role, helped textile art to gain a more important place within the contemporary art in the west.
Workshop picture in Holland 2010, photo: Annemie Koenen
Pic workshop in Holland 2010, photo: Annemie Koenen.
Where do you imagine your work in five years?
The hands convey feelings to the material and conversely. You surrender to the material and breathe. Inside me is a dark world associated with pain which I often dream of and which wants to be expressed. I want to create the opposite of that world. Felting more than any other medium allows me to do that because of its sensuousness, its warmth and lightness. It invites me and it makes me happy doing it. I want to share that experience with others. My dream is that my enterprise Bloomfelt.com grows into a fibre atelier where I can create and produce and where there is the space and opportunity to work, share, teach and have exhibitions.
Alan Folds, 2009, 90-80 cm, wool felted with organza, photo: Marjolein Dallinga
What interests you about the World of Threads festival?
The possibilities to exhibit my work and the numerous opportunities to meet other artists.
Skin1,and hat, 2011, Wool felted,hand dyed., Design for WOW, NZ 2011, photo: FAhri Javuz, model: Noémie Glen
Do you have any upcoming shows?
World of Wearable Art: August 26th 2011, Wellington New Zealand
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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.
Heart, 2011, 40-35 cm, wool felted, 2011, photo: Marjolein Dallinga