Irma Frijlink interview: Feeling that it all ‘fits’

Irma Frijlink interview: Feeling that it all ‘fits’

Irma Frijlink makes two-dimensional artworks with textile components. Although her background is in traditional textile art, she currently uses a variety of mixed-media techniques; painting with acrylics and sometimes with Indian ink, drawing with the sewing machine and embroidery.

Irma’s work is well known for its narrative style and for being critical of society. She aims to shine a light on the paradox of guilt and innocence, good and evil.

Having been struck by the impact of Irma’s work in the contemporary textile art book Textile is Alive! we’re delighted she has decided to share some of her experience and knowledge with us.

Irma Frijlink

Textile artist – Irma Frijlink

The softness and flexibility of materials What initially captured your imagination about textile art?

Irma Frijlink: From childhood textile art has fascinated me. The softness of the materials and its flexibility appealed to me. At the age of 18, I joined a school for textile teaching. Then the ‘virus’ hit me.

What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

My first impressions of textile art were textile artists like Eisi Giauque, Sheila Hicks and Moik Schiele. Each of these artists pushed the boundaries of the possibilities of textiles. Textures were suddenly three-dimensional. Textile art developed beyond the world of “applied art”.

What was your route to becoming an artist? (Formal training or another pathway?)

I have attended a school for a “first degree” in textile teaching. We were stimulated to develop and create objects of art using the techniques being taught. They particularly encouraged us to approach art in a non-conformist way: not following the traditional methods. Thereafter, I attended many workshops with well-regarded artists and finally I participated in a masterclass by Frans Megens for some years.

Inspired by life

What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques ?

My art is made with mixed media techniques: I draw with the sewing machine, paint with acrylic paint and finally embroider the parts that require more attention with cotton or linen threads. Occasionally I use “transfers”.

Irma Frijlink, Portret dementie 001

Textile artist – Irma Frijlink

How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary textile art?

I am inspired by life, both my own and the lives of others. In my work, I try to confront people with what happens in someone’s life or in their world. Often, my art takes a critical view on “world news”. My art is mostly in a narrative form.

Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

Often, ideas come to me during walk with the dogs, listening to the news or lying in bed. I always keep a note pad nearby. I try to jot down at least one idea per day. While thinking over the ideas, the artwork is revealing itself in its first form in my mind. Then I make a composition like a picture collage. I pencil in the lines I will use in my definitive work. Then I use the sewing machine and sow the composition on canvas.

Standing in front of the easel, the paint is put on the canvas. Then the embroidering starts. This is almost meditative. During this part, the work can take a totally different direction than I originally thought. This part relies heavily on viewing, pulling out and adapting.

I love to work in my atelier, but if no one is at home I enjoy working in our sitting room with the dogs around me.

The emotional impact of art

What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?

Currently, I study my mother’s generation; women born in the first half of the 20th century, women who have been educated with the idea that they should help others, who were forced to stop working when they married. These women were often very capable, but were required to stay at home to take care of their husband and children, to give their husbands the freedom and opportunity to pursue a career.

In addition, I am working on a project about people who died at an early age, in the prime of their lives and about people with Alzheimer’s disease.

There is not one particular textile artist that I admire. I can be moved suddenly by a particular image, a photograph or a painting. I am especially moved by art that shows a clear “narrative”, that has a certain emotional impact.

Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?

The work of Christiaan Bastiaans, that I recently saw in the Kröller Müller Museum (in the Netherlands) touched me in a special way. His photography alone is already confronting, but by adding the embroidery it becomes even more profound. I particularly like this way of working.

The impact of the times

How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

When I look back at my work over time, I can see the impact of the times. I have always been influenced by, and tried to depict, what happened in the world or in my personal life. Expressing it in my art has always been my way of sorting things out and putting them at a distance. But the way I express this has changed over the years. And I now have the feeling that it all “fits”. I needed all previous experiences and work to be able to create what I presently do. Therefore it is difficult to see what the future will look like. I hope to be able to “capture images” for a long time to come. Also I hope to be to further deepen my knowledge and experiences.

Irma Frijlink – De pauw (rein)

Textile artist – Irma Frijlink

Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?

I give lectures and masterclasses. Please see: or

How do you go about choosing where to show your work?

Because I owned a gallery for contemporary textile art for over 10 years, I am very critical and particular about where I show my work. First of all, the gallery needs to be spacious and bright and I have to have a personal “click” (feeling of connection) with the gallery owner. I’d rather not show my work if I do not have a good feeling about the place.

Where can readers see your work this year?

Jubileumexpositie Jeannette Hollaarfonds, Deventer (Jubilee exposition Jeannette Hollaarfonds, Deventer the Netherlands)
Kunstschouw Westerschouwen, 15 t/m 23 juni (June 15 to 23 2013)
Galerie Help u Zelven, Winterswijk, the Netherlands, June 16 to September 8 2013

For more information please visit: or

Let us know if you’ve enjoyed this article by leaving a comment below.

Sunday 19th, May 2024 / 07:47

About the author

Sam is the co-founder of and son of textile artist Sue Stone. Connect with Sam on Google+c/a>

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9 comments on “Irma Frijlink interview: Feeling that it all ‘fits’”

  1. Louise Cohen says:

    What a beautiful interview and it gives me whole new insites on Irma as an artist!

  2. Carl Grasveld says:

    Excellent interview. I am proud of my sister!

  3. Beverly Schuil says:

    Lovely interview; the feeling of ‘it fits’ , of different life and work experiences coming together to create more inspiration and at the same time, a sense of direction and of peace, comes across very clearly. Keep creating, Irma!

  4. Great interview, proud!!!
    Yesterday we saw your work ‘live’ as colleagues.
    It was a very nice meeting again, thank you!!


  5. Dear Irma, thank you for this link.
    Great interview! I liked your work also when we met yesterday as colleages. It was a nice meeting, and proud to read this interview with you.

    with love Carola

  6. vicki miller says:

    What an inspiring interview. I love the way irma illustrates with the machine and hope one day I will be able to do as well.

  7. Wow Irma, what a really nice interview, very interesting to read ……. good for you, well done. Looking forwards to seeing the end result of the handkerchiefs !
    x Wendy

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