Astrid Polman Interview: Embroidery on paper
Felting and paper textile artist Astrid Polman was born in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Her techniques include a combination of embroidery on paper, drawing and papercut. Reoccurring themes within Astrid’s artwork are fertility, growth and the cycles of life.
In our interview, Astrid talks about an artist’s need to communicate and to connect as well as the importance of authenticity.
A need to communicate
TextileArtist.org: Why are you an artist?
Astrid Polman: When I was very young I always felt a need to create, to add and give something to the ‘world’ – there was a great need to communicate, to connect.
It took me a long time before I could express myself because I grew up in a social environment where art doesn’t play a part and the role of the group was more important than personal growth and expression.
Did your family nurture your creativity?
To some extent there was attention to craft in my family. My grandmother was skillful with needle and thread and at knitting. She designed and stitched all the dresses for her four daughters. She also made them for my dolls. My father was a bricklayer and he made everything – he designed and made toys for me, my brother and sister. I think my love of crafts in my work was inherited from them.
What inspires you?
To be a human being, to have understand oneself, others and nature – that’s what inspires me to create my art. The wonderful forms in our bodies and in nature are also a source from which my artwork unfolds. You could say that the process of growing (also psychologically!) manifests itself in my work: to believe in the power of vulnerability and the cycles of life. I investigate how the inside and outside are interwoven.
Ideas and associations
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
I don’t know if I ever chose, maybe the medium chose me. With simple materials and a minimal use of colour I like to create as clear and powerful an image as possible. I try to realise this through drawings and papercut. I combine this with embroidery on paper and felting sheep-wool using wet/dry techniques.
Do you ever suffer from Artists block?
I’ve never felt in need of ideas, quite the opposite. A lot of inspiration, ideas and associations means I regularly struggle between the slowness of the material and the rapid nature of thoughts – I tend to work on several pieces at the same time.
Do you use a sketchbook?
Nowadays I use my sketchbook in different ways than in the past. I used to work out my ideas in a very detailed manner, I noticed that I left myself with little space to deviate from the original plan. Nowadays I only make briefly notes and sketches before I start. The original idea (mostly) exists but it regular takes a form that I could never have imagined. The artwork invited me to follow its origin.
I never throw anything away – sometimes, even after years, a failure or experiment brings me to a new insight for new work.
A spiritual experience
Do you work in silence or with music?
I love it to live in silence, but I also love to listen to music (things like flute concertos, Bach, Telemann). When I start with a new piece, it’s particularly important that I’m alone so I can optimise my concentration. My children are my company when I’m stitching, they are playing or watching television.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
I love the work of artists who you can see that they invest time and attention in their work. Art that inspires and invites you to think about it – to create a story. Authenticity is important for me so I like to see that the artist slowly creates more and more of his/her own oevre.
The Dress with Potency
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
The Dress with Potency, felted and embroidered by hand, is special to me. I made it for an exhibition titled Winter’s White. It started with a memory from my youth. When I was about 6 years old I walked hand-in-hand with my father to the Chrismas midnight mass. The clocks were ringing and it started to snow, I felt the anticipation of hearing the story of the newborn. I was totally engaged by the whole experience – it gave me wings. This spiritual experience lead to the dress as it is now.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Last year my work started to get more ‘body’. I think it has grown in relation to its form (more expressive) and its content. I don’t know how it will evolve in the future but I’m interested in the interface between the autonomous and the applied arts. Very recently I have taken the first steps in this direction by creating a series of nourishing art/wearable objects.
I also hope to publish a book about my work.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
Sometimes, mainly for international exhibitions, I apply via ‘call for entries’ in professional magazines but usually I get invited to take part in a show. My work has been exhibited in several galleries and museums in the last few years throughout Holland, Germany, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Finland.
You can see my work on my website, which is not in English just yet (that’s on my ‘to do list’). You can also find my exhibition calendar and contact details there.
For more information please visit: astridpolman.nl