Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jette Clover: Touch and Vision

White Wall 2
48" x 48" (122 x 122 cm)

The work of Jette Clover has a combination of two elements that I find appealing: strong visual impact and mystery. I had not been participating in the world of textile competitions long when I began to see her name listed as a participant in many shows. I always try to take time to research the art of people who are in shows I enter and by doing that I became familiar with Jette's work.

Jette has lived in US and Europe where she resides today. I am pleased to be able to connect with her through my blog. There is so much wonderful work being done worldwide and there are so many creative artists that we don't always have easy access to visit, talk with, exchange ideas and share our thoughts on making art, so this is one way to get to know this excellent artist.

Many artists use text and language in their art so it is exciting to see someone who has a unique and personal way of working with this as image and subject matter. Jette has shared a great deal in her responses to my questions and I hope you will enjoy the insights she has presented here.

Letter Landscape 14
56" x 52" (143 x 133 cm)


Terry: I understand that your educational background was in journalism. What was the genesis of your art career?

Jette: I have always been doing something with textiles on the side - spinning, dyeing, weaving, knitting, batiking, sewing ... and as a journalist in Copenhagen I was writing quite a lot about art and artists.

In the 1970's, after having married an American musician and moved to California, I pursued my textile hobbies and started a textile gallery. Later, living in Seattle, I went back to school and got a degree in art history.

When we moved back to Europe, we were running a jazz club in Holland for about five years - with very little art work but lots of music. Then I got a job at the national Dutch textile museum. It was great to be able to combine my writing, art history and love of textiles. Among many exciting projects, I organized the very first European Art Quilt exhibition in 1997.

However, that also really made me want to 'do my own thing' seriously - not just late at night and occasionally on Sundays. So after 12 years as a museum curator I took the big step to become an artist and make art quilts full time.

And I am still combining writing, art history and textile. Almost all of my quilts and collages refer to text - the big pieces to big and bold public communication from the streets such as advertisements, posters and graffiti, and the small pieces to private and intimate handwriting in letters and journals.

Recordings 4
12" x 9"(29x21 cm)

Terry: How have your experiences living in both Europe and the US influenced your art?

Jette: Of course I would have been a different person, if I had stayed at my newspaper in Copenhagen ... When I immigrated to the States for the second time (Florida in 2001), I became very conscious of being European. The bright light, the intense colors, the surroundings and the lifestyle was so different from where I grew up - but also very different from my earlier years in California and the state of Washington.

It made me really want to find my own voice.

I have always adhered to the principle of 'less is more', and decided that the best way to achieve this was to work monochromatic. I started with yellow - exploring all the psychological, symbolic and emotional aspects of this color and experimenting with all the shades from the palest whitish yellow to deep bronze. After 20 some yellow pieces I switched to red, later to blue and ending up with rust.

We lived right on the water, had sunshine and lots of space around us, and I had a wonderful studio, but we both missed the seasons and the city with its community and cultural diversity. So we moved back again to Europe, and we are now living in the beautiful old city of Antwerp in Belgium.

I love living in the city again, feeling the energy and photographing the wear and tear, all the chips, cracks and scratches from centuries of everyday life. Above all I am drawn to the city walls with their collages of torn posters, faded shop signs and sprawling graffiti. These layers of partially eroded words, sentences and messages are a constant source of inspiration to me - half hidden messages connecting me to the past.

I am still fond of using monochromatic tones. I like simplicity and subtle colors, and for the last couple of years I have worked primarily in white and beige. And I don't see any color changes in the near future. I still have so much to discover about the qualities of white ...

Morolles Rags, May
16" x 16"(40.40)cm

Terry: In your artist statement you say, "My work is constructed like collage, and it is as much about touch as about vision." Would you please expand on that statement.

Jette: I am a hands-on person. I like the tactile handling of materials, the process of sorting, cutting, tearing, ripping, folding, stacking, patching and a whole range of surface design techniques. The collage medium is ideal for me. Besides the physical layering of paper, fabric, glue and stitching, collage is the layering of thoughts and ideas as well.

I am influenced by the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which can be interpreted as a philosophy of finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. I don't like anything new and unmarked. I love surfaces with a history. Organic memory - everything that is peeling, rusted, scratched, torn, stained and mended ...

I like to use discarded 'stuff', things that no longer are considered useful or 'pretty' and then give it a new life. I use found objects, both as material and as tools, and most often the found fabric and paper also becomes the subject matter: traces of the past through fragments of everyday life, fragments that are being rescued and re-used into a new context and new meaning. Recycling is good for the environment, but it is also a history lesson.

Making art to me is having a dialog with materials - and 'found' materials with a previous life and with holes and stains make me feel invited to participate in an exchange of mark-making. We all know how intimidating it can be to start on a clean white piece of paper or fabric, and how liberating it can be, if you have an accident and spill something. You no longer have to be perfect! Just a little stain - and you have something to relate to.

As a journalist I was in search of daily news, and ironically enough, as an artist I am now frequenting flea markets and second hand shops in search of 'old news' to tell stories about the past.

Marker II
26" x 26" (66x66 cm)

Terry: Tell us about your studio experience. How do you start a new work? Do you work on several things at once? Do you focus on making the various elements of your work in cycles or do you prepare fabrics as needed? I'm interested in anything that might give us insight into your studio procedure and creative experience.

Jette: I do not make prepatory sketches. I have a general idea in mind, but I work from out the material. I surround myself with piles of fabric in the color that I want to use, and then I start pinning the pieces on to each other, until it feels right.

I am always working in series, and I always have at least one series of small pieces and one series of big pieces going. Working small is very freeing - it is definitely not as intimidating to work on and 8" x 8" piece as it is an 8' x 8' piece. Working small encourages me to work spontaneously and it trains my 'composition eye' - and this experience I then take with me to my big pieces.

I work very much in a cycle of constructing - deconstructing - reconstructing. For my 'White Walls' series I am printing letters and text in black and then 'erasing' it again and creating a ghost image by over-painting many times with white acrylics and sanding certain areas to reveal what is beneath the surface, similating the effects of time and the elements on city walls.

I told you that I am now mainly using white. I work, however, on an ongoing colorful series, 'Small Notes', that I started in 2001. These small fabric collages are portraits of famous people based on an actual postage stamp, and all the fabric comes from my scrap basket. I showed 100 of them last year in an exhibition in Switzerland, and I published the book 'Small Notes'. I recently finished #192, and the series will keep going, as long as I find new/old stamps of people that inspire me.

Small Notes - #122 - Anne Frank
about 8" x 6" (20x15 cm)

Terry: I believe you sometimes refer to your work as a form of journaling. Do you journal in any other way?

Jette: For years I have been writing three pages every morning - as suggested by Julie Cameron in 'The Artist's Way ' - and it is a wonderful meditative way to start your day. I also work in numerous sketchbooks according to themes, but I was looking for a more disciplined daily commitment.

Living with a musician and listening to him practise every day, made me question why visual artists don't have a similar routine of 'playing our scales'. I wanted to find a way to practise my art making every day, letting my art come before the laundry, before the e-mails and before thinking about what to make for dinner.

I have tried to draw every day - knowing that it would be good for me - but I don't stick with it. I made a small fabric collage every day for a month, but I knew that that would be too time consuming as a daily habit.

And then last year I found what works for me.

On January 1st I started making a small paper collage on index cards every day. No fabric, no sewing, but paper and glueing - after all, my collection of found paper is almost as big as my fabric stash.

This daily routine has been perfect for me - working spontaneously 15-20 minutes, not analyzing and not going back to change or correct anything - and I now have an impressive stack of 365 collage cards and an improved confidence in my gut feeling for composition.

It feels so natural now that I continued this year, but with a small change. I am now setting myself small monthly challenges: using only black and white, relating to the news, landscapes, circles, etc.

Jette Clover

Terry: What are you currently reading either for pleasure or information?

Jette: I just started with 'Designing Design' by Kenya Hara. He is a Japanese graphic designer and professor, and I had earlier thoroughly enjoyed his other book, 'White'.

Thanks to Augusta
23" x 23" (56x56 cm)

Thank you Jette for sharing such wonderful insights into your life and your work.

Jette has an excellent website at:

Thank you for spending time at Studio 24-7.
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  1. Terry, thanks for this wonderful interview with Jette...I love her work and am inspired to experiment with mixing cloth into my mixed media work. I have been working with paper, making "book pages" and share a similar the idea of a daily index card collage ritual! Delightful! Patti/MissouriBendStudio

  2. Thank you Patti! I too love the daily collage. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Terry, another wonderful interview and it was fascinating to read about Jette's process and statement behind her work. I've always loved her work and even own a small piece. She is true to her vision and her work continues to excite.

  4. Thank you Rebecca. It is exciting to see an artists who is passionate about the work they do and doing it! Always great to hear from you.

  5. Another great interview Terry! You always find artists that have a lot to say about their work. Jette's work is very interesting to me because of her approach to collage and process. There seem to be a lot of artists who use collage and text but she does so with so much originality. Her mixed media approach works extremely well. I'm inspired! Thanks!

  6. Thank you Tom. I'm happy you enjoyed and the interview and find it inspiring!

  7. Hi Terry,
    I was drawn to Jette's work in the Fall issue of Surface Design. Delightful serendipidity, to encounter her again through your blog.

    Excellent interview, thanks so much for sharing with all of us, both of you!

  8. thanks for posting this Terry. Jette's work is very appealing - and - "White Wall 2" is fabulous.

  9. Thanks Terry for the nice intervieuw with Jette. I know her work. She is a great artist, and she was my teacher.

  10. Thank you Jan, Ian and Sonja. It is wonderful to hear positive support for Jette's work from such diverse and accomplished artists! My best to each of you.

  11. I've just arrived here from Patti's blog at MissouriBends Studio. What a find! It seems we share many of the same influences - I specialised in weave at uni and discovered GrauGarriga there and wrote about Eva Hesse in my monograph. I'll be following with interest.

  12. Hi Carrie! That's really funny. I suppose if you think about it it does make sense. We have similiar interest and the artists you noted have much to offer. I enjoyed your blog and will be checking in. Thanks for commenting and welcome.

  13. Her work really speaks to me... thanks for this interview, very inspiring!

  14. I love this fabulous work. Thanks for sharing it. Wow!

  15. Thank you Judi and Gayle! I appreciate your taking time to read and give your support to Jette.

  16. Thanks for the great interview. I was particularly interested to read Jette's comments about living with a musician who must practice his music every day and the desire to find a counterpart in her art practice. And the connection between her writing and her visual art. As always something to ponder.

  17. Thank you Penny. I enjoyed that idea as well. Each day you spend in your studio pays off in ways we never imagine so why not go everyday!

  18. Terry-Thank you so much for another wonderful and comprehensive interview. I especially appreciate the portions of the interview that I can relate to: her "less is more" philosophy and how she is having a dialogue with the materials. It felt to me like she took the things that she knew how to do and what resonated with her and incorportaed them in to her work. It seems like her work is extremely personal which I really enjoy. Thanks again:)

  19. Thank you Libby. I am always pleased to know that the profiles are meaningful for others. Jette really presents an image of an artist who has found her way "into" her studio and is committed to her exploration. I enjoy hearing from you!