Willy Schut interview: An intuitive process
Willy Schut uses a combination of painting, appliqué and free hand machine embroidery to create mesmerising pieces of textile art. For several years now she has created work that has focused on the theme of connections; between man and material and in a broader context. The layering of different materials and the power of the subject matter gives Willy’s art both a visual and an emotional depth that caught our attention whilst flicking through the pages of the book Textile is Alive! in which she is featured.
The balance between precision and creativity
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Willy Schut: Because both my mother and sister were always busy with fabrics, the choice for this material seemed automatic. I think the use of textiles make my images more layered.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?
My mother and older sister were seamstresses so there was always someone sitting behind the sewing machine. My mother made the clothing for all five of her children. She and my sister are both very precise, whereas I am more creative, but the attraction to textiles as a medium was born very early.
I always felt the need to use embroidery to create something original and was sometimes allowed to sew onto small pieces of fabric. Very occasionally, that piece then served as pocket or decoration on a skirt or blouse.
In addition to painting and drawing, my father was very skilled in woodwork. He made all kinds of things from toys to furniture.
In my youth and social environment it was unusual for anyone to train at an art academy; according to my father only long haired scum went this route. He also thought it preferable that I learn a trade and exercise my art as a hobby.
The influence of both parents is still prevalent, but I’m on my own path now.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
I have always followed courses and workshops related to textiles and painting and, later in life, I attended the art academy for two years.
Lyrical abstraction with a hint of figuration
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
My work is a combination of painting, applique and free machine embroidery.
I use painting, drawing, graphics, transfer print, collage and machine-embroidery.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I have a passion for free machine embroidery. As some artists draw with their pencil, I draw with the needle of my sewing machine. Because I do not hem, the materials that I use get all the space they need. My work begins with sketches created by images or memories of things which I am moved by.
Sometimes it is a word that inspires me or a sudden clear idea can come from a nice piece of fabric, splendid yarn or a beautiful piece of antique lace.
My intuitive working process usually leads to a satisfactory conclusion. Subconsciously my hands lead a life of their own; they know what threads are needed, catch the right fabric and make the correct stich. What I actually make are paintings, with the colour, structure, expressive strength and brilliance of textile.
Among other things, I use yarn, fabric, paint and paper. My work is sometimes called lyrical abstraction with a hint of figuration.
I also make textile collections, which I present in art books and boxes.
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?
I like working in my own studio with music in the background. After I am content with my sketches, I start to prepare my background fabric by painting it with acrylic paint and lots of water, so that the whiteness of the fabric is gone. Then the search for suitable material begins; besides fabric this can include paper, photographs or newspaper clippings.
Do you use a sketchbook?
For my paintings I use sketches. I do have a sketchbook, but often I just use whatever paper is available, such as newsprint, covers, advertising leaflets or wrapping paper because it’s nearby at that time. I draw with a ballpoint pen, pencil or pastels.
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
The last few years the inspiration for my work has come from everyday events, such as new connections, lost contacts, and new experiences.
I am working on a large series called CONNECTIONS. It is based on the connections that occur between man and materials, but also broken or closed connections. The images are built up layer by layer with different materials and techniques.
I have no special admiration for other artists. Although artists like Berend Strik, Barbara Broekman and certainly Michael Raedecker make very interesting work.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
If you go to Berlin for the first time, you have to go to the Berlin Wall. It was a particularly inspirational experience for me, especially since a lot of my work deals with connections and disconnections.
When I saw the movie that was made about the construction of the wall and the hectic situations that arose from it, I immediately knew what my work named Blockade should look like; walls and in between them a person running away from the wall.
Discovering free machine embroidery
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I used to embroider by hand in large flat stitches and my theme was usually mankind. At that time I found the sewing machine inappropriate for that subject matter. After I got a neck hernia I was no longer able to bend and hand embroider for long periods, so I started to explore other ways of stitching.
Also I became attracted to new themes: the City for example.
Everything came together; my material, my theme, my way of working. I learned free machine embroidery and how to write with the sewing machine as an artist does with a pencil.
I find the repetitive sound of continuous stitching extremely soothing.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Don’t talk too much but go and get started!!!
Which resources do you find useful as a textile artist?
Where can readers see your work this year ?
My work has been exhibited in various small galleries and museums in The Netherlands.
Occasionally, my work is exhibited outside The Netherlands if I take part in an international competition, such as Pfaff Art Embroidery.
I also show my work in art fairs in The Netherlands and Germany and of course you can visit my website: WillySchut.exto.org.
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