2019 / Felt matters / magazine / Engeland
"Felting is magical and very addictive," says Miriam Verbeek.
"Every time I discover new possibilities".
Miriam Verbeek is a textile artist based in the east of the Netherlands. She has a back ground at the jewellery department of the Rietveld artschool in Amsterdam. She graduated with a collection of mourning jewellery (1993). Miriam exhibits in galleries, fairs and musea. Her work is acquired in private and musea collections. She has received multiple grants for her work. In her own studio but also other locations in the Netherlands and abroud she teaches both children and adults.
Ever since her early childhood, she has always been happy working with her hands. She had a preference for textile materials and techniques that she applied in improper ways. Miriam finds a great amount of power in working with techniques and materials that have historically been the domain of women. She still likes to experiment with materials and techniques.
For sevaral years Miriam made mourning jewelery from silver with fragile materials. She crocheted with very thin silk , crystallized salt on a cotton thread or tied broken car windows (*1) in 10 denier tights to reflect the transience of life. In addition, she also uses historical materials, used for mourning jewelery, such as git and rock crystal.
Her relationship with felt goes back 20 years when she discovered felting by chance. She started to crochet necklaces of thin woolen threads. To soften the texture of the threads, she felted the surface with warm water. Except that you could accidentally felt a woolen sweater in the washing machine, she had never been introduced to felt. This was the moment her work began to change. She was so fascinated by the felt technique and discovered, through endless experimentation, the many versatility of felting.
Initially she mainly made crocheted jewelery and knitted objects that were subsequently felted. Due to an injury in her elbow, as a result of the many crocheting and knitting, she start immediately felted the wool. (*2)
From pearl necklace to leaf wreaths
The first series of felt jewelry consisted of balls and links(*3 *4). Inspired by the traditional pearl necklaces and link chains. The more Miriam got a grip on the technique, the bigger the link chains became. The largest chain necklace has a diameter of 90 cm. and weighs 1 kilo.
The pearl necklaces and link chains are made from 100% merino wool. To get the entire felt properly, the elements are built from layers of wool that are felted in between with warm water and soap. A long-term and intensive work.
In addition to the pearl- and link chains, Miriam is going to work more freely with strands of felted wool, which she makes together in all sorts of ways. To make the jewelry fall nicely around the body, she is investigating the possibility of creating movable parts. A year of experimentation follows in which everything ends up in the garbage bin, but with a wealth of experience.
From this experience, jewelry was created from a succession of similar elements inspired by nature. Because of the rhythm of the elements, the jewelry falls nicely and smoothly around the body. (*5, *6. *7.*8) The connection between the elements were generally on the back of the jewelry but sometimes on the front so that they play a role in the design of the jewelry. The elements were made of beautiful soft merino wool combined with silk fabric, silk - and vegetable fibers such as hemp. Sometimes she added stones or glass beads to the jewelry.
The jewellery looks monumental and has a warm appearance
At that time, themes as the vulnerability and transience of people and nature play a role in her work. The theme of mourning is also occasionally seen in her work, such as the “weeping willow”, “leaf wreath” and “black widow”. But don’t forget the humor. In her jewelery with animals, she makes you smile. Look at the “pregnant stork”, “baby bird in the diapers” (*9) or “grey mouse” she is knitting a scarf with silver knitting needles that immediately hangs on her neck.
The color palette consists mainly of tone to tone (ton sur ton) colors. Laying the colors on top of each other creates a connection in the colors during felting. This creates depth in the work. Nowadays Miriam also uses the card grinder frequently, this gives a different effect than overlapping the layers. Miriam has its own fine way of wool laying.
If you walk into Miriams studio on a weekday you will find a mess, unless she teaches. There are things everywhere; sketchbooks, papers, kilos of wool, bags with fabrics, trays with experiments and all kinds of materials such as sticks, plastic forms ect. You might need it! All those materials around her inspire her enormously. But after a while it has to be cleaned up completely, otherwise it gets lost in the mess.
In addition to jewelery, Miriam has been making felt panels, inspired by nature, since 2010. And since 2016 she has been combining ceramics with felt in collaboration with a ceramist Els Bottema (www.ateliervuurwater.nl) . There is still a lot to discover!
Welcome to my website: www.miriamverbeek.nl