Thursday, June 7, 2012

anton veenstra - tapestry artist q + a

Anton Veenstra has been a textile artist working in tapestry and, more recently, button mosaics since 1975.

Anton is the man who has been encouraging me to combine my tapestry, cross stitch, and goth-ness all into my work - his work and attitude are so inspirational ;)

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What made you want to learn tapestry weaving?
I watched a primary school teacher demonstrate tablet weaving on a piece of cardboard at a teacher’s college summer camp. I had a go. It was fun. But I was drawn to it, I sensed this was part of my cultural DNA.



How did you learn?
As above, then I taught myself, made a lot of mistakes, learned what worked, changed my settings, started to listen to other people, started to do some workshops: Ian Arcus, Lynne Curran, Archie Brennan, Susan Maffei.

How long did it take for you to be confident with the techniques?
Years. It helps to listen well, I was stubborn. There’s a delicate balance in learning: accept what the teacher offers but don’t crush your own impulses of inspiration. DISTRUST a teacher who is authoritarian and bullying.

What is your preferred warp sett?
I now use 4 per inch on a wrap around loom, so that’s doubled. The warp size I use with that is 12/18 bung cotton. But by all means experiment.



What is your favourite weft material?
Multiple question: my weaving balances colour texture & luminosity. SO, I’ll use a polyester weft together with perhaps a linen thread, giving a “rouched”, boucle effect. But it depends on what you’re aiming for.

What is your preferred method of finishing and presenting your work?
A row of double half hitches top & bottom, then sew the warp ends onto the back of the work. I sew the tapestry onto canvas or other fabric attached to a stretcher frame.

Are there any aspects of tapestry that you have to pay attention to every time you weave?
Selvedge, the vertical edges on either side.

How did you create your own ‘visual language’?
It happens, it’s been happening all my life, I began drawing as a child, as a fetus.



Is there any advice that you’d like to give to beginners?
Trust your own impulses & dreams, but also be very self-critical. Respect even the flaws in your work, they are your signature, slowly you must learn what you want to keep, what to develop, what to discard. In my work there is a self-taught quality, that has often been criticised as not “an international style” or as “outsider art” but for me was naïve, now part of my visual signature. A friend who collected abstract expressionist art said: people always urge you to finish your work well, tidy, polished; I think it’s interesting to keep art rough. Of course this fitted with his viewpoint and taste. Always remember that advice comes from a person’s own taste. William Blake said the lion wasted a lot of time learning from the fox.

Of course you need supreme tact in dealing with teachers, teaching makes them co-dependant. In my Master’s my supervisor wanted to know what I was doing next; had to make it a cardinal rule we would discuss finished work only.

About joining: I started leaving gaps in my early work; only to hear Brennan say you sewed up each gap row by row; to me that was self defeatingly slow. But the gaping bits on a finished work looked yuk; my solution late in my career is the houndstooth join which gives a shimmer to edges as 2 colours are constantly made to jostle together. BUT a lecturer at ANU said the indigenous bark painters of Arnheim land talk of the shimmer as a measure of the spiritual strength of a work.

Where can we find out more about your work?
Study photos of my work, you will soon gain interesting insights, some I may never have thought of, all of them relevant to your own work.
http://antonveenstratextiles.com

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Thank you so much, Anton!

15 comments:

  1. I wasn't sure what "interesting insights" I was supposed to get from the above photo, but it's worth reading Mr Veenstra's comments in his blog.

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    1. Hi John - I think Anton has given a lot of interesting insights in this interview!

      His work is cutting-edge - I love artists who push the boundaries of their medium ;)

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  2. Michelle, you're naughty but I like you. Some guys object to having a wiener shoved in their face. By the way, the image is intended as celebration & affirmation NOT titillation. Publishing the photo of the button portrait of my mum introduces the complexities of mixed media, what it's about & what it does. There's a debate raging currently about ornamentation. I'll have to write a 20,000 word thesis on the topic for UOW.

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    1. ;)

      I chose images that reflect your amazing textile art career and skills ... both style and content.

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  3. Hi Michelle
    Thanks for these wonderful interviews. I am really enjoying them. I am also learning about people I would never have otherwise heard of.

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    1. I'm glad you're enjoying them, Mary! They're both awesome people ;)

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  4. This is the second interview I have caught on your blog-loving it. I note the first reply stated photo, not photo's. Unfortunately artists depicting breasts or genitalia in their art often have their work referred to as feminist, queer, uncouth or uncomfortably provocative.
    This more narrow attitude towards viewing often leads to immediate dismissal of the artist and their work. Offense or mistrust towards such work is an indication of the various baggage and experiences the viewer brings to the work. It is not usually the intent of the artist to shock. Good art, such as this shown above, is merely a reflection of where we are at as a whole society, it is merely one persons visual comment of a place or time in which the artist has passed. Personal taste should not distort or interfere with the actual quality of a volume of work as a whole .

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    1. Well said, Stephenie! Your own work is cutting edge in a similar way, so you would know what you're talking about ;)

      I must confess, I'm interested in art rather than technically clever tapestry. 'Nice' art bores the hell out of me - I want to be challenged as a viewer, and I want to look at something and say 'WOW!'.

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  5. long live the wiener!

    also, long live your new added function as art interviewer and go-between. Good and useful info. Thanks again, Michelle.

    misha

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    1. No worries Misha! I just wanted to know stuff, and am cheeky enough to ask ;)

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  6. Hi Michelle
    I am really enjoying your interviews as they provide insight into other people's work. And as Misha says, long live the weiner.

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    1. Haaha, glad you're enjoying them Glennis!

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  7. I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like what I see... and what I like is work that challenges and encourages discussion. Much more interesting than still-lifes of vases! :)

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    1. Yes, exactly! That's what 'art' is all about - pushing boundaries - anything else is craft ;)

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  8. thank you all, and after the above reactions, clearly the wiener will live LONG.

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