Inge van Geem is a talented Dutch designer who just released a beautiful new collection of linen scarves and prints, with a big focus on sustainability.
Naturally, I wanted to find out more… We talked about sustainability, creative process, inspiration, working from home, her beautiful new collection of linen scarves and prints and more.
Hi Inge. You just released a brand new collection, can you tell us a bit more about it?
The new collection is special to me, because it’s the first collection I’ve had made by another company instead of doing it all myself and that opened up a lot of possibilities. I’ve used several different techniques to print my fabric by hand in the past: stamping, screenprinting, painting. These all had limitations design-wise as well as in considering the time it takes to make a product. By having my designs digitally printed, I wasn’t bound by those restrictions: I could literally print any image I wanted unto my linen. But so much choice proved to be overwhelming, until I remembered that anything I want doesn’t mean everything that’s possible. So I had to rethink what it is I wanted.
For inspiration I started looking back through my older work, previous collections that were led by those restrictions and some of it really stood out to me. I love simple shapes, that either capture the essence of or hint at what’s being depicted. It seemed the restrictions of stamping actually really fit with my aesthetic! I also really wanted to bring more color to my work and more colorful options to my customers, and so I decided to have some of my original paintings turned into scarves as well.
All your designs start out with pencil or paint on paper. Would you walk us through your creative process?
I love the more organic look of designs that are painted or drawn by hand. It’s very important to me that my work still shows that, even though I can’t print it all by hand anymore. I work within a theme, painting the subject with loose brush strokes, and drawing it in a more simplified form, ready to be carved into a stamp. I carve my stamps by hand, and then use their scanned prints to create more intricate patterns within photoshop.
In the past you made every product by hand. What made you decide to look for manufacturing partners and is it working out as you had hoped?
It all started with persistent pains in my wrist, that got worse and spread to my elbow. I’ve had a lot of tests done to determine what it was, but nothing was conclusive. I’ve had physiotherapy as well, but to no avail. But in the meantime I did figure out that the handmade nature of my work was the culprit. Especially stamping, placing pressure on the stamp in particular, inflamed my wrist. I stopped doing that and taught myself how to screenprint, only to find that that wasn’t right either. Hand-painting was okay, but it’s limitations prevented me from really expressing my creative ideas. Sewing at that time also made it worse, so I had to rethink my work and what I wanted to do going forward. I wanted to keep designing for textiles and so I started looking for manufacturing partners. It was hard because I wanted my products to remain high quality, durable and sustainable.
I’m happy to have found the small printing company here in the Netherlands, not far from where I live, that now digitally prints the same Belgian linen I used before. Digital printing is an eco-friendly way of printing fabric. The ink used is water based and reactive and only gets printed exactly where it’s needed, so there is no waste. Water is used to clean the fabric and the printer, but is reused within the company to heat the building. After the linen is printed, it goes to a sewing atelier in Germany, where it’s cut and sewn into scarves.
I’m happy with how my scarves have come out and working with the company has been a good experience. I do feel a bit further removed from my scarves, because I’m not there when they physically come to be, and so I’m debating amongst myself whether or not to take back the sewing part of manufacturing. The rest my wrist has had in the past year has done it well, and sewing up pillow covers for a little shop update recently has felt good. So, who knows…
Do you perceive working from home – and a small village – as challenging or would you not have it any other way?
I do find working from home challenging as I become restless when I don’t get out of the house all day. This is easily remedied by a walk around the neighborhood, but I have the tendency to think that I don’t have time for that; too much to do! So that’s the other part that I find hard: being a good boss for myself. On the one hand, to get myself to work and on the other hand, to get myself to stop working! But I think that would also be hard if I had a workspace somewhere outside the home.
5. Inspiration, that illusive thing. What inspires you?
I can find inspiration in pretty much anything, but what always translates back into my work is nature. I love the shapes, I love the colors, I love its perfect imperfectness. It’s interesting on a large scale, landscapes as a whole, and on a very small scale as well, zooming in to the nerves on a leaf. I think everything we humans do is translated from nature, and I like to keep that visible in my work.
Your shop is filled with beautiful linen scarves and art prints. Can we expect other products in the shop as well?
I have just added pillow covers to the shop! These are hand stamped by my boyfriend and sewn by me. I made some for our own couch and loved them so much that I couldn’t resist adding them to shop. It’s not a long-term solution as my boyfriend has a more than full-time job, but it’s a great way to see if there’s interest in these pillow covers before I make an investment in having them made. I have more products in mind I would love to add to the shop, but now that I can’t make it all myself, I have to wait until I’m able to make an investment in having a new product made.
For more, visit the website: windwardmade.com