I found the work of Hagar Vardimon van Heummen on my most recent curatorial project and really loved her use of vintage imagery and threaded lines. I am so happy that I decided to interview her as her answers are so very thoughtful and honest about her experience as an artist balancing life and connecting her ideas. Read on…
Tell us a bit about your background?
I am a full time artist, living with my husband and two children in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I’m running my own studio, working on my art and on commissioned work. I feel very fortunate to have a house in the center of the city with a beautiful garden. Our street ends on the Museumplein, the meeting point between the three most famous museums in Holland: Van Gogh museum, Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum. A wonderful source of inspiration just outside my front door.
Background as an artist?
I studied at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem (B.F.A). When it comes to thread and fiber, I am self-taught artist. I started working with thread after my daughter was born (eight happy years ago). Until then I used to paint with oil and acrylic on big canvases. My primary inspiration for working with thread has to do with my mother. She is an amazing weaver, working on a huge wooden loom. There were always baskets full of hand-dyed yarn, with rich, deep colors and wonderful (and sometimes strange) smells. As a child, I used to make embroidery work with my mother. So, looking back it all started from there.
Having no formal fiber training is a huge source of relief for me. I feel free to experiment, to invent and create my own method and path (a feeling that I didn’t have when I was painting…). I’m experimenting a lot, with lots of trial and error. In my studio, I have boxes and drawers full with all sorts of experiments with threads, textile and paper. I enjoy the process of discovering new ways of working.
If you had to describe your work in 3 words …
Storytelling with threads
Can you give us a 3 sentence or less artist statement of your current body of work?
My work is an exploration of creating pegs and anchors through memories. These memories are mostly in the shape of photographs. Working with threads in this process of search creates new narrative and connects my past and present.
What drew you to stitching?
When I start a series of work or a new project, the stitched thread is an integral part of my way of thinking about my work.
I look at thread’s work as a way to express my ideas, thoughts and feelings. When I started to work with threads on paper, it was a very exciting discovery for me. Working on a paper gives a completely different tension to the thread then working on textile. This was exactly what I was looking for. The straight lines are creating movement and dynamic of their own, giving the work another layer.
It is not a traditional way of working with threads. The surface is hard and I had to find ways and to experiment a lot to find the right method, the right threads and the right techniques to achieve the results I wanted. I still do. It is a kind of a challenge, which I like.
You work with found and collaged photographs can you talk a little about this? How do you find/select the images you use? How do you decide how to add the lines of thread?
The photographs I’m working with are connected to the main subject, which is also the red thread through all my work – memories.
The photographs I’m looking for at this moment are mainly landscape and family’s vacations. When it comes to the vacation photos – I am drawn to this particular moment in a family life. The moment of breaking the routine, living the familiar and going away. This moment is tiny capsule that preserved forever. The photos are mainly from the 50’s and 60’s. I love photos from this period. It’s not my childhood time and the photos are taken in places I have never been. What intrigues me are the faded colors, a garment, the light of the day, the landscape…
My main source that I look for photographs in are old books and magazines. Good luck for me that one of my very favorite things to do is book hunting. Antique bookshops, thrift shops and second hand markets (thank you my lovely Amsterdam!). I have quite a nice collection at home.
Besides that, I hold a large number of images of of lonely, deserted houses, barns, and caravans (they come next on my list of new projects). Lately I am looking for more nature and plants (lonely off course 😉
I put lots of thought in understanding the relation between the objects in the photo. Finding the story inside the photo itself and then tell it with threads. It’s a story on top of a story.
The lonely house series feels a little different then your other work, can you talk about the inspiration behind this work?
The “Lonely house” series started with my slight obsession with deserted houses. I am fascinated with a life of total solitude in the middle of nature. The complete opposite of my very busy city life.
This series is my attempt to thread pegs and anchors to strengthen my own foundation. Moving to another country is an earth-shaking experience. It brings lot of bliss but also loneliness.
After finishing the current part of the “Lonely Houses”, I discovered that it gives me a lot of comfort and strength. There is a lot of beauty in these houses and I can see the happy, sunny side of them…Its very personal work for me.
What is it about paper and thread as a combo that you love?
Those are my two favorite materials to work with, both are strongly connected to the house where I grew up. I love the texture and feel of paper and I’ve always been surrounded with loads of books and threads.
Paper shops and bookshops are two places where I can gladly, totally disappear in. You can imagine that combining these two is big celebration for me….
What is the next direction or step for your work?
My next step is making more collages combined with threads.
I have started already with a new series- using paper cuts and pasting. I also continue with my current works, feeling there is much more for me to explore there.
What was the last really inspiring work of art you saw and why?
There are so many amazing works and super talented artist that it’s quite hard for me to pick one….
Recently I found work of two photographers that inspired me: Nan Brown, I love her work, it moves me deeply. And also the work of Troy Moth I like a lot. Both pick subjects from nature and open space. There is a lot of power and strength in their works.
What is your favorite thing about your works space or studio?
My studio is my happy place, where I have lots of space, lots of light and a big window door that opens to our garden.
Its my place to concentrate, create, work, stare and listen to music. I’m a huge jazz fan so its playing all the time…Music is a huge inspiration for me.
My studio is where all my materials for work are kept: threads, fabric, lots of books and loads of papers…
What do you struggle with most as an artist?
The biggest struggle for me is to find the time to do it all. I don’t run out of ideas or having a lack of inspiration, the real challenge is how to manage to do it all in a single day or a single week 🙂 Between commissioned works, my shop, the constant need to create new work and everyday family life, I’m struggling finding the time….But, every day its getting better…
What else do you spend your time doing?
I have two young children-she and Him- eight years and almost three years.
My daily schedule is completely in their small hands. My son is mainly at home. It demands quite creative and flexible solutions to combine work and life.
I have only few hours a week for myself and the evenings. My amazing and supportive husband makes it very easy for me…I have no problem to dive into a late night working marathon if needed. It’s a very old and completely not original struggle but I think we are doing good…:-)
Thank you to Hagar for the wonderful answers. Do you have an artist you would like to read an interview with? Let me know. Until next time keep your needle threaded!
Joetta Maue is a full-time artist, writer, and curator with a focus on the art of the needle. Her most recent body of work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy and the domestic space. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the critical blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch and the Surface Design Journal.
Joetta Maue is a full-time artist, writer, and curator with a focus on the art of the needle. Her most recent body of work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy and the domestic space. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the critical blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch and the SDA Journal.