Els: Artisan Statement

Born in Holland, educated at the Witte Lelie in Amsterdam, it took a move to Saba and life in the tropics, surrounded by lots of color and natural beauty, to set me on the road to to art quilting.

For twenty years or so, frequent visits to the San Blas Islands led to friendships with the Kuna Indians from whom I bought Caribbean art pieces—molas and mola blouses—for sale to tourists at my shop, El Momo Folkart. Some of the molas were remade into bags, potholders, and such. After retiring from teaching and business, I repurposed molas into wall-hanging quilts and table runners. It took an exhibition, in Holland, of landscape quilts by fiber artist Ineke Berlyn—who herself was inspired by Ton Schulten, a painter I admire—to show me that art quilting was what I wanted, what I wanted to know more about, and what I was inspired to do. It was a no-brainer to sign up for the City & Guild internet course Creative Quilting at Design Matters. From that point onwards, I began art quilting Saba/Caribbean landscapes.

My art quilts are steeped in color and depict the things I have seen. Although I sometimes use one of my own photographs as inspiration for my work, the composition of each piece derives from my own vivid imagination, steeped in the color and beauty I see around me. To obtain the different color values to realize the art quilts I visualize, out of necessity, I do my own dyeing. This, for me, is the only way to capture the essence and color of the Caribbean, and to reconcile imagination and reality. I want people viewing my work to leave with a happy sense of the beauty that surrounds us.

As an art quilter, color, imagination, and constant work are vital to what I do. Indeed, my creative philosophy derives from those three aspects and is summed up thusly: Keep working. Don’t worry about the mistakes, but just persevere. Don’t sit and wait for inspiration for it will come while working.