Free Spirit

1st June 2018

The following is an extract from the article published in Inspirations Issue 96, written by Ansie van der Walt. 

“I love poetry and relate to it, not by quoting lines in my work, but through the inspiration that is offered by the free spirit of poets.”

Free spirit describes Tilleke Schwarz’s embroidery perfectly. Whimsical and playful yet intelligent and clever, her work keeps the viewer intrigued and involved. There is always something more to discover and think about.

Tilleke is a Dutch artist with a special affinity for cats, textiles and words, in no particular order. Most of her work includes all three of these elements, and a whole lot more. “I am inspired and influenced by American pop art, Dutch traditional samplers, daily life, cats, flowers, mass media, the FLUXUS art movement, poetry, and the oddities of life. Actually, anything that moves intrigues me.”

Tilleke creates embroidered works of art which grow over the few months it takes her to complete a piece. Her work is a conglomeration of images, words, ideas, doodles and stories collected from the media, nature, art, and… life. She usually selects a few items to start working on and will add more as her work progresses.

“The items I select somehow speak to me because I find them interesting, moving, intriguing or surprising.”

Tilleke’s work always starts with the fabric. She only uses one kind of linen, an evenweave 50-count fabric made in Weddigen, Germany. She works in a range of threads, which she buys on her travels all across the world. Her collection of more than 2000 different threads is neatly organised by colour and consists of silk, cotton, rayon, metal threads, embroidery floss and sewing threads.

She uses mainly simple stitches like cross stitch, couching, running stitch and has recently started adding small pieces of appliqué to her work. Just like her affinity for text and poetry, Tilleke is also drawn to the ordered nature of traditional cross stitch samplers and often includes pieces of more structured counted stitching in her work.

“My work contains a narrative element. Not really complete stories with a beginning, a storyline and an end, but rather narrative structures used as a form of communication with the viewer. The viewer is invited to decipher connections or to create them. By assembling the stories and producing chronological and casual structures, the viewer might step into the role of the author, and it becomes a kind of play between the viewer and the artist.”

Tilleke refers to her artwork as ‘maps of modern life’ that look like finely stitched graffiti. A kind of visual poetry. Maps, graffiti and poetry – the perfect lexicon for a free spirit.

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