Conversation with Jette Clover, Belgium

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I was born and raised in Copenhagen, Denmark, but have lived for many years in the US and the Netherlands and since 2005 in Belgium. I started out as a journalist working at a daily newspaper, but then I met my husband and moved to America. I got a degree in art history and opened a gallery.
Later living in the Netherlands I worked as a curator at the Dutch Textile Museum for more than ten years, but in 1998 I decided to give up my museum job and become a studio artist full time – and that’s what I have been doing ever since.
Jette will be teaching for Fibre Arts Australia in April 2016 go here to enroll…
CWTM Did you always envision a life as an artist?
JETTE CLOVER(JC) Not really. I was interested in art, and I was weaving and spinning and knitting early on, but I always wanted to be a writer. I got a degree in journalism and worked at a daily newspaper in Copenhagen, and a lot of my writing was about art and artists. Later when I moved to America, I got a degree in art history and took studio classes in painting and printmaking and became more and more interested in surface design and fabric.
WTM What was your first experience with making art?
JC My journalist days were pre-computer, and I wrote on an old typewriter with no possibilities of correcting mistakes. I would cut and re-cut my typed papers and often end up with many meters of pasted papers that I then would re-type into normal manuscripts. I honestly think that this cut-and-paste activity and the handling of the paper was the beginning of my love of working with collage constructions.

CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?
JC Yes, I am very lucky. The ground floor of our house was earlier a grocery store, and it is now my studio.

CWTM Can you describe a typical day?
JC I start every day spending about ½ hour making a small paper collage, before making breakfast, before doing laundry, before checking e-mails …. so no matter what happens the rest of the day, I have made sure that it started right.
CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?
JC Absolutely about the process and to the point that I’m sometimes a little sad when a piece is finished.

CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?
JC Yes, Yes. And that’s also what drives you to the next piece, isn’t it. It seems to me that if you completely accomplished what you set out to do, there wouldn’t be any reason to continue.

CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?
JC Besides my sewing machine probably my thermofax machine.
CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?
JC I never plan or make prepatory sketches. I am a real hands-on person. I have ideas in my head – most often something about text and communication and the effects of time – and then I collect a pile of possible materials and start pinning it to my wall and moving it around, until it feels right. A collaboration between hands and eyes. I think as an artist it is important to let go of the control and respond to your materials. I also like working with techniques that involves an element of chance such as discharge and rusting.

CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?
JC Yeah, that’s tricky. It’s probably the most difficult part of making art. There is always a little voice making you doubtful. It is my experience, however, that if I start to ‘correct’ a piece, it is seldom an improvement. It is really a question of developing trust in your intuition.

CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….
JC The urban landscape and all the manifestations of communication, from overlapping posters and advertisements to messages about lost pets and colorful graffiti.
CWTM Favourite quote?
JC ‘Art is an experience, not an object’ (Robert Motherwell)
CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?
JC Often when I have a deadline.

CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
JC I love the gathering and collecting of materials for a new piece and the excitement of not quite knowing how it is going to end up.

CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?
JC Follow your heart.
CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?
JC Forgot. I didn’t listen.
CWTM Best part of your day?
JC Early morning and early evening.
CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?
JC I assume they don’t all have to be alive …. Robert Rauschenberg, Hannelore Baron, Andy Goldsworthy, Greta Garbo, Joseph Cornell and John Coltrane.
CWTM What inspires your creativity?
JC Because of my journalist background I am always interested in writing. I like words, both because of the marks they make and their ability to convey meaning. I like the intimacy of handwritten letters and journals, but I also like the public signage in the streets. It’s all about communication. I live in the city and I am constantly inspired by the city walls, especially the layering of posters, advertisements and graffiti.

CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?
JC The use of all kinds of flexible materials.
CWTM You’d be lost without…
JC A room af my own.

CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day?
JC Just continue what I am doing.
CWTM Your favourite luxury in life?
JC Not having to use an alarm clock.
CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?
JC No, not directly. Only in a practical sense for information and communication.
CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?
JC That it keeps me curious and keeps surprising me.

CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?
JC Of course we should be part of the art world, but maybe we shouldn’t call ourselves textile artists, just make good work with reference to textile but not emphasize textile materials and textile techniques.
CWTM What is next for you?
JC I just keep working.

Jette Clover, Belguim