Claudy Jongstra (b.1963) is an internationally acclaimed Dutch artist of large scale wall tapestries. Her work can be seen all over the world in displays at the V & A Museum in London, MOMA in New York, Fries Museum in Leeuwarden as well as many other public spaces such as the headquarters of the United Nations and the Dutch Embassy in Berlin where she worked alongside the acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Her portfolio is substantial and her reputation equally impressive.
There are many layers to Claudy’s wall tapestries both physically and metaphorically. When you look at one of her works you are not just looking at a panel of beautifully coloured abstract felted wool but the demonstration of a deeply thoughtful, sustainable and unique creative process and mission.
Claudy’s passion for nature and sustainability are intertwined and as she explains part of her creative motivation stems from a sadness at the endemic “superficial, agitated consumption” of pretty much any consumable item. That is also partly why you find so much of her work in hospitals, and buildings of cultural, social and political importance regardless of the fact that the abstract pattern, colour and soft texture of her wall tapestries is also very well suited to these minimalist interior spaces.
So what is so sustainable about their work? Well, everything they require to create the wall tapestries is reared, grown, cultivated in and around their studio in North West Friesland in a town with around 300 inhabitants called Spannum. The wool is sheered off her own flock of rare Denth Heath sheep and the dye they use (woad, carmine to name just two) comes from the plants they cultivate in the studio garden and neighbouring fields. They even have their own bee hives in order to cross-polinate the plants.
Interiors Monologue would like to share with you one of her latest installations at the Arts Two Building, Queen Mary, University of London. There you will find two tapestries, and they measure approximately 4 x 5m and 3.5 x 14m. It took four people to make them over a number of months and the dyes used are from ingredients more commonly found in the kitchen or in the medicine cabinet. They are weld, onion skins and St John’s wort.
(i) Weld which yields a yellow dye and has been used as such since ancient times. If you believe what you read, it is said that in Roman times weld was used to dye the clothes of Vestal Virgins!
(ii) Onion skins that can produce colours ranging from olive green to yellow to brown also has a long and rich past. Ancient Egyptian art has often been painted using it as well as it being part of the subject matter as a highly prized addition to a banquet.
(iii) St John’s wort offers many colours depending on what part of the plant is used. The fresh flowers produce a series of four different shades – green, maroon, brown and yellow. The plant tops yield beige and brown.
We love the movement in each piece and how they relate by colour but are equally powerful on their own. We hope you appreciate the beauty of them as much as we do.
Please visit Studio Claudy Jongstra’s website to see more of her work. Better still, go to Queen Mary in London and see the pieces for yourself.