Let's continue the textile/yarn thread that started yesterday by looking at another exhibition currently on at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden (The Netherlands), and revolving around the art of Claudy Jongstra.
Based in the village of Spannum, two hours from Amsterdam, the award winning textile artist and designer owns her own flock of rare Drenthe Heath heritage sheep, keeps bees and designs felt pieces made in collaboration with her team that comprises felters and dyers.
In this space Jongstra - who actually trained as a fashion designer, but in the 1990s she moved onto textiles starting an in-depth research into the ancient art of felt making - experiments with traditional techniques such as carding, spinning and weaving, with all the production processes being carried out in-house.
Her sheep produce the wool which is then turned into felt and dyed using vegetable materials derived from crops such as madder, St. John's Wort, marigold, calendula, camomile and dahlias from the artist's organic botanical garden.
Jongstra's work is characterised by the use of natural materials and a high degree of tactility: her work is included in several museum collections (the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, New York; The RISD Museum, Rhode Island; and several important Dutch museums) and at times she developed pieces in collaboration with nationally and internationally renowned artists, while receiving commissions also from designers and architects. She created indeed wall hangings and installations for the Atrium at Lincoln Center, the United Nations building, the Dutch Embassy in Berlin, and the Rem Koolhaas Kunsthal in Rotterdam.
Quite often her projects are aimed at helping people on a special healing path: she designed for example a fresco of textile materials in a corridor to the new building of the Zuyderland Hospital (MC Atrium Heerlen) putting together at the same time a medical dyeing plant almanac, and created a tapestry for the mortuary next to the Chapel of the Sisters of Dominicans in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Developed in collaboration with graphic designer Irma Boom and Oma Project Manager Barend Koolhaas, and curated by Jorn Rabbit, "Claudy Jongstra: Ancient Light" (until 2nd October) is an insight into the world of the artist. The event includes indeed her best pieces from recent years and examines the new direction in her career, while taking visitors behind the scenes of her works, showing inspirations and motivations and above all her sustainable creative process.
Displays include sketches, proofs and photographs of the large-scale textile mural for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (a monumental, site-specific installation in which Jonstra applied Bay Area minerals to hand-dyed wool), ideas for the costumes for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, information on Project Farm of the World for the Leeuwarden Capital of Culture 2018, and a new work inspired by the seasons (in the hall of the Fries Museum there is actually a monumental and iconic mural by Jongstra, made in 2013 for the new building).
Yet while the event introduces to Jongstra's past and new work and helps visitors discovering innovative felt solutions thanks to clever combinations of wools of different animals with raw silks, cottons, linens and cashmere (a trial and error process of alchemical experimentation that has so far allowed Jongstra to explore new possibilities), the most interesting thing about "Ancient Light" is the layout that transports visitors to Jongstra's studio.
The emphasis is indeed on artisanal production, natural materials, attention to quality of life, and biodiversity. Visitors will terefore be able to admire samples of felt, discover the stages of the felting process and look at plants used to make natural dyes.
Sustainability is therefore one of the keywords behind this exhibition: Jongstra's studio works indeed with the smallest possible footprint, respecting nature and using local products and traditional handicrafts.
Hence the exhibition could be considered also as a way to ponder a bit more about time, modern life and speed: in Jongstra's studio nothing is wasted, nature is respected, local resources get employed to make unique products, while traditional skills and cultural heritage are promoted. There is therefore a more human atmosphere in Jongstra's studio and in this space the Fries Museum dedicated to her.
At the moment there is so much empty talk about reforming and recreating the fashion industry with long and tiring debates that aren't taking us anywhere. Luckily, there are pioneers like Jongstra who are contributing to rediscover and reawaken our collective need to connect with nature to develop genuinely innovative products.
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