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 ;)
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.
Thank you so much, Anton!