Anita Botman interview: Women and textiles
We came across Anita Botman’s work in the 2013 book Textile is Alive! We were intrigued by its seeming innocence and childlike quality. Here Anita tells us about combining her work as an illustrator with her love of textiles.
Strong and fragile at the same time
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Anita Botman: There is a connection between women through the ages and textile art. It is tactile, it’s soft, you can bend it any way you like. It can be strong and fragile at the same time.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My early influences were fairy tales. Illustrated fairy tales. I devoured them when I was a child. I liked crafts back then, but I didn’t get into textiles until my early twenties. I wanted to become a children’s book illustrator, I went to art school, but somewhere along the way I got distracted. I walked home past the market and I saw all these beautiful fabrics. I fell in love.
First there were colours, but somehow my taste became very monochrome through the years. I love to use fabric as paper, to draw on it.
But lately I rediscovered threads. I love spinning and knitting and I’ve admired needlelace (oya or mediterranean lace) for a long time. I learned the basics during my education from a magazine I found in the local library. I have used it here and there through the years, but lately I’ve integrated it a lot more into my work.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I’m an art teacher. Or rather, I have a degree, but I never used it. During my final exams I decided to become an illustrator so I went to art school. I loved everything about it. The teaching was very liberal, we were stimulated to try very different things, even performance art (which I hated, so I didn’t love everything about it after all). But I found textile art and I’ve loved it ever since.
Stuck in the middle
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
Being an illustrator, I still love to draw. I use pen and ink on fabric, but I also draw on paper now and then. (It has to be special paper, though, no plain white sheets for me).
I like to sew, though I’m terrible at it, but that makes it even more fun for me. I like to find my own way when I use a technique or a medium.
I’m working on my needle lace skills at the moment, I like to work on challenging patterns during my spare time, but when I’m working on something I like to let go what I’ve learned. Same with drawing. I like a certain childlike innocence.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
My work is somewhere in the middle between fine arts and children’s books and I never seem to fit in.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I don’t plan ahead. I do have some idea in my head, but it can go into any direction from there. I work at home, I made a nice little studio of the master bedroom and I work at my desk, surrounded by materials and the sewing machine I recently bought but hardly ever use. I’m a very organized person. I always listen to music when I’m working. I love world music and folk music.
Inspired by crafts and tradition
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I’m very inspired by crafts and tradition. I love a good knitting book with a lot of history about the people who made all these wonderful pieces. Also, nature is an endless source of inspiration. I think folk art is very beautiful as are traditional costumes. I do have a subscription to magazines about textile art. There are things that I love and things that I hate and they teach me both about my own work.
Do you have fond memories of any particular piece and why?
A lot of pieces I made during my education are very dear to me, because they were made during a very happy time, full of exploration and discovery.
ntegrating new techniques
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
In the beginning I was still very focused on being a children’s book illustrator (and even author) but now I’ve let that go. I’m not focused on being anything at the moment, I just make what I love and what makes me want to run to my desk in the morning.
I’ll always keep drawing but I’m integrating other techniques (lace, knitting, crochet) into my work as well. My theme has become a lot more clear to me lately. It’s always been there, sometimes very literal, but now I’m a bit older (almost 34 already!) I feel I have enough focus to stay with it.
My theme is the archetype of the wise woman. Mother nature, or the wild women from Clarissa Pinkola Estés book: “Women who run with the wolves.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Stay true and love your work. Don’t forget to play with the material. Look around you and look inside you where you’ll find everything you need.
To find out more about Anita Botman visit www.anitabotman.nl
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