Marijke van Welzen creates wearable art using techniques she developed over the years. Not afraid of experimentation or a challenge, Marijke produces unique art garments that explore a theme or tell a story.
How long have you been creating wearable art? How did you get started?
I have been creating Wearable Art since the year 2000. I was incredibly inspired by the book The Art of Fabric Collage by Rosemary Eichorn. Before this date I also used to make clothes for myself, some with embellishments. But this was a whole different approach.
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How do you define “wearable art”? What trends do you see in wearable art today?
To me Wearable Art is any kind of clothing and accessories that are created by individuals using their own design, style, by hand, one-of-a-kind.
How does your education in textile art and craft influence your work?
Most of the crafts I learned at home from my Mum. The art part was new to me and I learned a lot about colours, composition, art movements, history of art, etc.
What inspires you to create?
I am inspired by themes, fabrics, fibres, fashion, people, fairy-tales, the natural world. I love to participate in challenges I find online. And I like to tell a story in my pieces.
When you have an idea for a new design, what do you do first?
First I let the idea simmer for a while. I do some research online or in a library. Look at many, many pictures. I make a list of words of what I can depict in this new piece or I make a mind map. Then I start to collect suitable materials. I have a considerable fabric stash, so I start there. Then I look out for things I can use in shops or the weekly street market. This is like a kind of being tuned into the theme, not deliberate searching yet.
Do you plan your work out all ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing? How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
When I have this heap of materials, I start my piece. I choose a focal point for the back and from there I work intuitively. It is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes you find the pieces easily, and other times you have to let it rest. The story unfolds as I am working on the piece.
I work on one larger piece at a time. But in between I do some smaller pieces, or just stitch on unfinished work.
Technique(s)? What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I use raw-edge appliqué mostly. I call it fabric collage, although I hardly use glue, but the process is that of making a collage. Cutting out pieces of fabric, shoving them around, pinning to a base fabric. And finally stitching everything together. I have perfected that technique so that the raw edges don’t even show up anymore and the work looks like one piece of fabric. Sometimes I deliberately use the raw edges for visual effect.
My followers recognize my work. I do have a distinct style, although I can’t quite put my finger on it. My use of colour is often mentioned. Lots of people react emotionally to my work when they see it in person and that is amazing! They tell me they can feel it’s made with love!
What is your process for creating a commissioned piece?
For a commissioned piece I interview the client intensively about her (or his) life, pets, work, hobbies, favourite colours, which colours to avoid, objects, flowers, anything I can include in the piece. I sort of spin my own story that way. When I have a bit on the way I ask the client to come over and look at it and decide if I can go on. I have never had anybody tell me to forget about it. They have to come a couple more times to fit the garment and to pick it up when finished.
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
I am currently working on a piece I started in 2011 or 2012 about a fire. Originally I wanted to do something with Fire and Ice. That didn’t work together, for me anyway. I finished the Icy part, my coat Snowfall. I put away the Fire part. Then I twice changed my mind about the pattern I wanted to use. Put it away again. Then this autumn I worked on it again. Changed the pattern again, cut loose some parts. Now it’s almost finished, a cloak, called Paradise Lost. In honour of all the people affected by wildfires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions worldwide.
What piece of work makes you most proud? Why?
I am proud of all of them. They take a long time to make. They are shown in exhibitions worldwide which is amazing in itself and I think that makes me most proud, they travel more than I do!
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
I make jackets for myself in the same manner. I always wear them with jeans.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I have my studio at home, the entire ground floor, formerly a garage plus a small room. But it’s now one space. I have a big table, room for my sewing machines, an office nook. So I can teach workshops here to small groups because everything is ready to use.
What is your favorite tip for organizing your stash of creative supplies?
Last year I took the time to organize my stash in bins. Organized my book shelves. There is an awful lot of stuff under the big table that didn’t fit the bins. I will have to use up a lot before buying more!
Are there indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I have many sewing machines. But I use them for different tasks. Plus an embroidery machine, an embellisher, a serger. Fabrics, fibers, thread, every notion you can think of. With everything organized, I can easily find what I need.
As a creative individual, do you believe that you perceive the world differently from other people? Do you think that any unique thought processes are involved when you create something?
I have an enormous eye for detail, often to the dismay of people I talk to. I am easily distracted by little things I notice that are not of any use in the actual conversation. Only creative minds get it and switch flawlessly back and forth with me on this.
What’s next for you?
As I have retired from teaching Middle School this year (after 40 years), I have planned a few exhibitions and teaching dates at museums and craft shows for the next 2 years!
And of course I will make more Wearable Art.
Interview posted December 2018
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