For Cape Town-based textile artist, Gina van der Ploeg, textiles are not an end in themselves. Instead, she honours the entire process of making textiles by exploring the different parts of the textile supply chain in her art.
“It’s crazy to me that we can just go to the store and buy something like a pair of socks, so easily and readily. But the process of creating textiles is so connected to the land, and we forget that when we’re so removed from the origin of our products,” Gina says.
Gina’s textile art was showcased at Twyg’s Africa Textile Talks, held earlier this year. Africa Textile Talks is an annual event held by Twyg and Imiloa Collective to celebrate the diverse variety of textiles made on the continent. The third edition of Africa Textile Talks was hosted at Workshop 17 at the V&A Waterfront and was accompanied by an exhibition of textiles from across the African continent.
The artworks, “There’s an irony to ends”, “A Generous Yield”, and “Leg Stretches, Back Works” showcased at Africa Textile Talks. Image by The Dollie House
The pieces showcased at Africa Textile Talks follows the concept of “mottainai,” a Japanese idea that translates to “what a waste!” Made from off cuts from her weaving process and clothing waste, the work highlights the making process and exhibits textiles as art, in and of itself, and not a component of a final product.
I recently visited her studio in Cape Town, where she showed me the process of making her pieces, the small patch of flax growing outside, and her looms.
Gina weaving linen on her loom. Image by Harry Woulds
During a residency she completed in Japan where she stayed with weaver and indigo dyer, Toyomi Harada, Gina grew a deep reverence for the slow process of production. After returning from her residency, she continued to explore textiles holistically and decided to grow her own flax to create linen.
“Since I started growing flax, I have had the opportunity to connect my art to the spaces surrounding my work,” Gina says. “I’m connecting with farmers; I’m connecting with the earth; I’m connecting with an invasive species that grows all over Cape Town; I am connecting with people who are passionate about textiles, and that, for me, is where a lot of value is.”
“So, I’m quite interested at the moment in how fibre exists. How fibre can exist as thread for textiles, as pulp for paper or sculptures, but also, as an object in and of itself,” she adds.
An important part of the creation process for Gina is the community and connections she makes from her work. In growing her own flax, Gina has integrated her work to a network of people and industries, which is reflected in the pieces she makes. From the raw materials to the waste from weaving to the final woven pieces, and finally, to the waste from clothing – Gina’s work embodies the entire lifecycle of textiles.
“And so, I think this process has been twofold: wanting to do this has made me realise how much I need a community, but also building a community has enabled me to do this.”
Gina is currently working towards a solo show in January and hopes to continue experimenting with linen and grow flax in different places around the city.
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- Feature image by Nicholas van Doesburgh of Gina harvesting Hyacinth