Metal Works by Bregje Sliepenbeek [Interview]

As a Gerrit Rietveld Academy graduate, Bregje Sliepenbeek is not your usual jewelry designer. Her work contains a diverse range of wall pieces and wearable heavy metals.

In honor of her exhibition on the 24th of May at VAHQ in Amsterdam, I sat down with the artist to get to know more about her Metal Works.

Can you tell a little more about the process of developing your own style?

I believe developing your own style partly happens by trying things out while doing and making. Another part is feeling if the work you are creating interests you enough to continue with it, most of it happens intuitively. It’s a certain feeling and of course, a matter of taste. I really like colourful work of artist and designers, however, my work never really contains colors. Choosing the jewelry department in art school was very defining for my work, It’s here that I developed my love for metal and handwork.

Can you describe some of the techniques you usually use while creating your work?

At the moment I’m working with very small metal chains, on which I have also been using a weaving technique, by connecting these chains I create big metal wall pieces. Last year I did an artist residency in the Moroccan Sahara, where a girl from the village taught me how to weave. Even though it’s very time consuming I am defiantly going to continue with the metal weaving, as I believe this way of working has a lot of potential. Usually, I work with metal which is a quite smooth and cold material, but somehow I always find a way to give it some tactility, as I treat it more as a fabric. When I was in art school it was a very difficult decision to either go to the jewelry or to the textile department. In other words, I guess I have a textile approach to jewelry material.

By looking at your art, some pieces seem to have an almost architectural influence. Is this something conscious or do these shapes appear whilst creating your work?

These shapes appear while creating; I decided a while ago that I wanted to work on a larger scale. Before I was always making small detailed work. When I moved into my studio a couple of months ago these bigger pieces just came naturally. My studio is in a former school building with super high ceilings so the space demanded larger artworks. Because of the size, I also decided to skip the small details and go for geometrical shapes.

A few years ago you created The Insect Project, a series of framed faux insects made from brass. It seemed like a way of romanticizing the way most people view insects. Can you explain a little bit more about how this project started?

It actually started because of a tradition, as my best friend would get a framed butterfly for every special occasion from her former boyfriend. After they broke up I decided to continue that tradition and I made her a brass butterfly for her birthday. After that, I started to make these framed brass insects for other friends and eventually I started selling them at the concept store Hutspot in Amsterdam and some other stores. Eventually, The Insect Project was a great success as they were sold in shops in Berlin, Antwerp, New York and even Taiwan.

Your work appears to be mysterious, partly due to the anonymity in most of your work. What kind of people or characters (do you imagine) embody your artwork as their identity is usually unknown?

That’s a hard question. When I was working on the Faceless Project I wasn’t really thinking of the characters behind it. This project started when I was still in art school and I discovered that in most of the pictures that were taken of me I was hiding from the camera. Either with my hands or by looking away, as a reaction to this encounter I the started to cover and hide faces on found images with metal nails, so the project was more about hiding.

Would you like to work on some kind of collaboration and with whom would that be?

I would love to do a collaboration. Although I really enjoy working alone in my studio, I am also curious to see how a collaboration turns out. I would like to do a project with my friend Maaike Bouwman. She is currently working on her own clothing line called Johnny Blood which could be described as a mix between body wear and club wear label. We have been thinking about creating an extension of her label by creating some metal wearable pieces in the near future.

Do you have any projects you are working on or planning for 2019, that you would like to share with us?

I am exhibiting my work on the 24th of May in a very beautiful space called VAHQ, it’s in the same building as the renowned club De School in Amsterdam. I’m super excited because my new metal works haven’t been out of my studio. So it is a bit scary, but the space is perfect for it, a good mix of industrial and sophisticated, a lot of sunlight and high ceilings. It would be nice to have my work shown in other places afterwards. And I really want to make some big woven metal piece. So an exhibition at the end of the year with these pieces would be great!

Photos by Arturo Bamboo & Sophie van der Perre