Claudy Jongstra, fiber artist

The Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra creates tapestries and large-scale textile art installations inspired by the beauty of nature, raw materials and crafts such as spinning, carding and weaving.
In 2011 Jongstra showed her pieces at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York and at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2012. She has been awarded the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prijs for Applied Arts and Architecture and has recently received two awards in the Netherlands for sustainability. Her work is included in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum in New York among others.
Claudy Jongstra
1. How would you define savoir-faire?
I design pieces by exploring intuitively the raw (natural) materials, I am constantly experimenting and the way I like to work is also ‘by trial and error’. My hands are my tools, mixing natural raw materials and integrating the different skills of weaving, embroidery, etc. I transform the raw materials into a new fabric.
I am doing this for more than 15 years now; 1000 and 1000 hours of working with my hands and with these materials made me a master in crafts and feltmaking. Our work entails allowing our creations to ripen slowly.
2. According to you, what is the added value of savoir-faire and craftsmanship?
Our dedication to the natural environment (our own production chain with sheep etc) also demands a great responsibility to keep the cultural heritage alive by constantly experimenting with ancient craft techniques such as spinning, carding, felt-making, etc.
These are old traditional skills and part of our cultural heritage. These crafts require great skills, patience and time.
To work with your hands so closely with natural, pure ingredients gives a lot of joy and self esteem.
3. Can you develop the importance of nature and local production in your work?
From a stewardship perspective, the flowers in our garden with only traditional dyeing plants and our own fields with dyeing plants can be used for the promotion of bio-diversity and preservation of a natural heritage, as well as ensuring the quality of the colours.
We believe that we, all of us, need to seek a new approach or new ways to re-discover our connection to the environment.
It is about stewardship.
The materials are such an inspiration to work with and we try to provide a glimpse of this beauty.
We endeavour to open doors to a truthful, honest life, to awaken everyone’s childlike sense of wonder, to awaken people’s senses.

4. Can you give us more details about the control of the whole process of production that you apply to your work?
Every little step in this own production chain (sheep, garden, plantation, bee-keeping) asks for a specialistic approach and knowledge. This takes time.
This is the same for all the crafts like felting, the natural dyeing process, spinning, weaving, embroidery etc.
It is all about lost heritage. We try to keep this cultural heritage alive by innovating these ancient techniques. And to use on new contemporary art pieces to create a softer, more humane atmosphere. To bring a sense of beauty, of belonging and pleasure and a sense of meaning into daily life. That is also the main reason why we like to work for public buildings on contemporary textile art pieces, like tapestries and wall coverings.
We believe in healing architecture so we are dedicated especially for public places like political buildings (to inspire the political people to do their utmost best for the good things in life) and for hospitals.
Claudy Jongstra
Claudy Jongstra