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Marjolein Dallinga is Dutch felt-maker. She moved to Canada and that’s where she now lives and works.
Before discovering felt, Marjolein expressed her creativity primarily through painting. However, as soon as she found this century-old expressive medium, she has never abandoned it. Her work, vibrant with color and deeply influenced by Nature, haven’t gone unnoticed. In fact, she even has collaborated with Cirque du Soleil, for whom she designed wonderful costumes. Here at DHG we are lucky to know her, and even luckier to have the opportunity to have her as a guest here in Prato next October, with an exhibition and a workshop, both to be held at the Museo del Tessuto. But now, let’s hear what she has to say.
DHG: hi Marjolein. Would you like to tell us about how you discovered felt and what it means to you?
MARJOLEIN: I discovered felt 21 years ago, on a sheep farm here in Quebec. I went with my baby to a sheep shearing event and the lady from the farm did some demonstrations: spinning and felting. I was fascinated by the magic of the felting. I bought some wool there and off it went. Never stopped felting, never took on other mediums since. I did one workshop on the same farm, we made a carpet. I really feel I’ve found my medium when I discovered wool and felting. The medium is the message, this is very important to me. Felt is protective and a material of connection, it is rather uncomplicated and forgiving, it is light, inexpensive and I don’t need tools to create. This all is very important to me. It is close to my soul, so to speak.
D: I read in your biography that you attended an Art Academy where you studied drawing and painting. Do you think your artistic background helped you in felting?
M: yes, I did study art on ART academy in the Netherlands. This is a 5 years study. But my whole life I’ve been busy creating things, with all kind of materials. In Felting I feel I did find a way to combine painting and sculpture and my love for craft techniques. Even in art school I often sewed my drawings together, ripped the paintings out of their frames, to cut them, patchwork them or making sculptures while sewing pieces together. I felt very unsatisfied with just the drawings or paintings. Doing this study had great influence on my work today, I still am very interested in modern art and craft, I study this for myself now. I definitely have a visual art approach towards my felt works as in my teachings.
D: you were born in the Netherlands, but you have lived in Canada for 20 years. How much have your roots shaped who you are now and your artistic career?
M: the emigration to Canada, and leaving my country, Holland, has still an enormous influence on my work. We immigrants want to be in two world, wherever we go, our heart longs to be somewhere else. Belonging, roots and identity are themes I see coming back all the time. Being an emigrant in this enormous country, having to speak two foreign languages, having never a real sense of belonging are handicaps that became my best allies for my art and teaching. It is my conviction that you mostly find creativity in the shadows of your life. I feel that the wool and the felting as technique has given me a lot to hold on to. The wool gives me protection,and a second skin and it has been very good to me. Traveling, over the world, teaching and exposing my work is an amazing privilege. I feel very grateful the wool came into my life. Simply said, it is my life.
D: after a long series of successes, you got to work with the Cirque du Soleil, a world famous, spectacular circus act. What has this experience given you, and how did it stimulate your creativity?
M: the meeting with the Cirque du Soleil was very fortunate. I have been very lucky that they called me. My work was noticed by one of their employees who came to one of my workshops in Montreal. I’ve met there the late Francois Barbeau a famous costume designer in Canada. He was blown away by my felt works and then I started doing a lot of experiments for the Cirque to see if this was an interesting material for their shows. Later some creations were used in their shows. This opportunity completely changed my work, I was so inspired it felt like I had been under the snow here in Canada and suddenly my flowers burst out and started to bloom quite extraordinarely. I worked with him for 7 years. Nowadays I only do production work for the Cirque. You never do something alone, there is always somebody who, helps you. For me Francois has been very important, his respect and believe in my art has given me a lot of courage and worth.
D: your latest works celebrate Nature, and, at least for me, the underwater seaworld. How are these creatures of yours born? And why is there such a strong connection to Nature?
M: I love nature deeply, if you could see where we live you would understand. Nature is very present in my live, that’ s what I love here in Canada, the presence of wild nature. But I always loved this also in Europe, we travelled a lot when I was a child, I loved to snorkel in Spain at the coast, maybe that’s the sea world which seems to be coming back all the time. I like to look at plants and animals. I spend a lot of time outside strolling, looking, taking pictures and shooting little movies. This all goes in my work, I never try to copy nature, I just feel very at home there. I try to express that feeling in my work. As if I try to overcome the duality of the outside and inside, to make it one.
D: your hands are the most important tool for your work. What relationship do you have with them?
M: I love to touch and I also feel very shy to do so. I am easily overwhelmed, maybe it is a hypersensitivity. I feel mostly alive in my hands.
D: I am happy to give our readers a little preview. Next October you are going to hold an exhibition of your work at the Museo del Tessuto in Prato and DHG will sponsor the event. Can you reveal something about the event?
M: the invitation is of great inspiration to me. This went all very organic, which I like I think I am in a right space when there is no forcing. I want to make seven rather big sculptures, they are all related. All new work because I am still very in the process of creation I would prefer to leave it still a bit in the twilight zone.
D: you are a wife, a mother of three children and you have a very demanding job. It seems like you are living such a full life, without giving up anything. What’s your secret?
M: I love what I do and I have unconditional support from my husband. Without that I would not be able to do all this. I am very grateful for my live and my family here in Canada.
D: what do you expect from the future?
M: I can’t really say…
Marjolein Dallinga Bloomfelt
If you liked this article maybe you are also interested in Catherine O’Leary interview.