Textiles in Tilburg: SDA Europe/Ecovision Report from the Netherlands

I recently attended Ecovision, the 2nd meeting of European SDA members in Tilburg, NL (October 21 – 22, 2011), organized by SDA Europe area representative Karina van Vught. There were 35 participants from 8 different countries.

The Ecovision conference was held partly at Zijdelings, Karina’s textile-arts focused studio/shop and partly at the AUDAX Textielmuseum. This museum presents an historical overview of the area’s rich textile industry –  both past and present – via its textile acquisitions. Starting several years ago, it has been possible for designers, artists and students to experiment and work at the museum with the latest technologies in the fields of computerized weaving, embroidery, knitting and laser cutting machines. The museum works in collaboration with other European academies, textile museums and industries on special projects; a recent one involving partners from several countries was called European Textile Trainees (ETT).

DAY 1: There were 6 lectures on natural dyeing from 6 different points of view. The level of the lectures was very high and related to the theme Ecovision. Each lecturer spoke very personally, explaining about struggles and successes.

Anco Sneep, owner of Rubia Natural Colours, told about his enterprise that produces natural dye colours primarily based on madder. His first-of-its-kind factory processes madder he grows in Holland into clean dye powder that is ready to be used in bulk by the textile industry.

Just the opposite of large-scale production was the work of Nan Groot Antink, who talked about her abstract, poetic work that has a strong Japanese influence. “Natural dye colours are vulnerable. My art will change as a human will change over time,” she observed. I loved seeing her work and having the chance to talk about it with others. She was featured in Li Edelkoort’s recent horticultural trendbook Bloom20.

Textile designer Leentje van Hengel from studio/shop Tinctoria in Amsterdam takes a different approach by testing her colours thoroughly for light and wash fastness. She openly shared her detailed insider information on discharge printing with natural dye extracts.

Art historian Rosalie van Deursen gave a fascinating lecture comparing similarities and differences in traditional and contemporary African art and about Kunstnomade, a cross-cultural exchange between Dutch and Malian visual arts students.

Linda Hanssen, curator of textiles at the ethnographic Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, took us to the other side of the world to the weavers and dyers of the Okinawan archipelago. It was fascinating to learn that the textiles of each island had its own specific characteristics and were more or less influenced by either Japan or China.

The second art historian, Frieda Sorber, is attached as a curator to the ModeMuseum (Antwerp). She plunged us into the rich history of textile dye chemistry and printing technologies and how they evolved during the 19th century via the Voortman collection held in the museum’s archives.

Later that day we moved to the AUDAX Textielmuseum where we had an introductory lecture by curator Carolyn Boot followed by a guided tour of the exhibition iFABRIC: EUROPEAN TALENT. This exhibition showcased recent experimental work by young European student/designers in the fields of fashion, interior textiles and design. It was interesting to see the diversity of techniques, ranging from traditional weaving, knitting and dyeing to new technologies like 3D weaving, laser cutting and even cooperation with biologists. Wooden textile by Elisa Strozyk is shown above right.

DAY 2: Back at Zijdelings, Saturday started with a trunk show and/or show & tell. This gave all participants the opportunity to become more familiar with each other’s work – including indigo-dyed cloth (which attracted a lot of attention), batiks, felted scarves, jewelry, small artwork and books. We could share information about techniques and materials; there was ample opportunity for making contacts and brainstorming about future projects. Many articles were for sale and collectable.

A lecture and 4 demonstrations by different artists filled the afternoon. Magie Relph started with an interesting hands-on lecture about African textiles: resist dyeing, strip weaving and indigo dyeing. She had brought many items in different stages of processing.

Artist Olga Prins-Lukowski demonstrated her cutting and drawing techniques with a soldering iron. She showed how she meticulously cuts and weaves narrow strips of transfer-dyed organza into new sheets of cloth.

Artist Eszter Bornemisza’s workshop was themed Thread Traps. She demonstrated her methods of trapping various textile and non-textile pieces in a thread net using water-soluble paper and film.

Norwegian designer Emily Halvorsen from Kolør gave a very informative demonstration of screen printing with natural dyes on wool and silk. I had no experience with natural dyeing but, after being warmed-up by the first very informative day, Emily’s explanations and hands-on samples made me want to start experimenting.

To end the day, mixed media artist Cherilyn Martin gave a demonstration of mono-printing paper with encaustic wax on a warming plate. She showed several techniques of resist printing and block printing on different papers. I work with encaustic on wood so it was interesting to discover new ways of combining techniques.

SUMMARY: Like the previous conference she organized, Karina planned and prepared everything very well. Although the time schedule was tight, there was plenty of opportunity for networking in a pleasing atmosphere. Before and after the 2 conference days there were several workshops and tours focusing on natural dyeing which I was not able to attend. For highlights of these events I refer you to Karina’s blog.

Dutch textile artist and SDA member Mirjam Pet-Jacobs has a degree in art and an MA in English. Since 1989 she has been focusing on textile media and techniques to express ideas about social issues – from the personal to the universal. Her layered wall hangings, sculptures and mixed media works have been selected and exhibited by museums and galleries worldwide.  She has twice won 1st prize in the European Quilt Triennial in Heidelberg, Germany.


  • Leisa Rich says

    January 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautiful overview! I really enjoyed it- it looks like it was a very enticing, professional event with great speakers and venues.

  • Flox den Hartog Jager says

    January 12, 2012 at 3:38 am

    I was so fortunate to be there and loved it! The secrets of natural dyes were unveiled. I didn't know that they are already used in the wool industry in the Netherlands!

  • Hannie van Weel says

    January 12, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Hello Mirjam, Thank you for the blogpost. It was sure an inspiring event in many ways which you covered seriously. Especially the lecturers and the exhibition. I cannot say that the demonstrations were insprational at all. You see the tricks and hands-on approach of someone else doing things her way but why not trusting your own way? I always think: discovering things for yourself is much more rewarding and inspirational then this "one step at a time" approach a lot of demonstrations show. My motto: Be courageous textile pros and develop your own visual language! Sincerely yours, Hannie van Weel

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