A while ago I came across the work of Samiye van Rossum, also known as Bereklauw (Dutch for hogweed and bear’s claw). Samiye creates felted pillows, wool collars, sheep fleece rugs and handspun wool inspired by mythology, nature, the occult, folktales and all things magical. Samiye’s work has a beautiful, primal vibe, and I love how she photographs and presents her wares surrounded by the nature of the Northern Netherlands. I was eager to learn more about what inspires Samiye, and how she turned to the old crafts such as weaving and spinning. Since we’re both from the Netherlands I was also curious to find out how our her Dutch roots inspire her work, we might be a small country but we have quite an impressive history! I asked Samiye if she’d like to share some thoughts on her work and inspiration, and am happy to share this with you today. Enjoy!
Bleaq: Hi! Could you introduce yourself and your work shortly?
SvR: My name is Samiye van Rossum and I have been working under the name of ‘Bereklauw’ since 2014. Bereklauw is a one-woman company based in the north of the Netherlands. I have a deep love for wool and old crafts such as spinning, weaving and felting. I make felted wool collars and pillows, sheep fleece rugs, handspun wool and more. All products are handmade with love, mostly made from local sheep fleece and as environment and animal friendly as possible. I do not see myself as a photographer but I do use photography to visualise the character of a work by creating a scenery or setting.
If you had to tell somebody about your work and are only allowed to show one piece or series what would you show and why?
SvR: That would be the pictures from the ‘Coven’ felted wool collar. Not because I think it’s my best work but for me this represents the moment Bereklauw really came to life. I had worked with felt and wool for some years but was rather discouraged to share this with others. It was really a no-go to mention the word ‘craft’ in art school and it took me a while to let go of the idea of what art should and shouldn’t be and just make what comes from within.
The photos of the ‘Coven’ felted wool collar
You have a deep love for wool and old crafts like weaving and spinning. Where did this interest come from, and when did you discover you like those crafts so much?
SvR: My first encounter with wool was during a handcrafts workshop for kids when I was young. I first learned felting. Years later I started to explore the other possibilities of wool and natural fibers which lead me to spinning, weaving, knitting, eco dyeing and so on.
Wool and other natural materials allow me to create without adding more ‘stuff’ to the world or harm nature and my environment. For me, the urge to make something and the awareness of our polluted earth give me the responsibility to create in a conscious way. Natural materials have so much soul and depth, they are very much alive. When I make wool yarn with my spindle I feel the wool. I feel connected to the sheep, to the land, to the earth. Working with my hands and getting dirty is a way of connecting to life and nature.
Your work are inspired by all things magical: mythology, nature, the occult and folktales. What is it about these topics that pique your interest?
SvR: The love of and worship of nature, the fascination with the past and myths have had my interest ever since I was a child. I guess I am what you could call a ‘romantic soul’. For me the old gods are very much alive, that’s why I would never call it ‘fantasy’. I think fairytales, mythology and rituals are the traces of the past our ancestors left us, and allow us to stay connected to our roots.
Korenmoeder. Photos by Jasper van Gheluwe
Over the years I featured several artist that get their inspiration from mythology and folktales. What stands out is that they mostly use Scandinavian folklore. Since we’re both from The Netherlands I wonder how you incorporate Dutch folklore and your Dutch roots into your work. Do you have any favorite Dutch folktales?
SvR: Scandinavian and Celtic (inspired) theme’s have been very popular for the last years and I think it have made people forget the beauty of the stories and traditions from their own heritage. There are lots of similarities and crossovers to find in European mythology but I think it’s the particular character of a landscape and the inhabitants that make a local story or tradition valuable. I try to visualize the inspiration and character of a felted wool collar by placing it in a landscape. For me that’s a way of exploring existing local folklore and creating new stories as well.
I love the Dutch folktales about the ‘witte wieven’, female spirits that inhabit the fog on the heather-fields and life inside swamps and burial-mounds. If you have ever been to a foggy heather-field in Drenthe you know they are real! And Holda – also known as Frau Holle – has been an inspiration. She is a goddess of the underworld, protector of woman and crafts such as spinning.
Bleaq: More information on the ‘witte wieven’ here, more information on Holda here.
You recently teamed up with fellow artist Ines Kuipers (Maanzaad) and Charlotte Boer (Solawende) to form the Alruna Art Collective. Can you share a bit more about the collaboration and what you are working on?
SvR: We are three befriended artists who share the same interests and inspirations but all use different media. For me Alruna is a way to help and motivate each other as ‘colleagues’. As a group we will present our art and crafts, both online and on markets and festivals, and join forces in developing new art together. But for now, I will be silent as a grave about the plans for upcoming exhibitions and new products!
If, next to the ladies mentioned in the previous questions, you could choose one artist for a collaboration (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
SvR: That’s a hard question! It would be a dream-come-true to collaborate with the Australian artist India Flint, but most of all I would just really like to meet her and learn from her some day! She is a botanical dyer and textile artist who works with all kinds of organic and plant material. The way she collaborates with her natural environment is truly inspiring.
What’s the best museum or gallery exhibition you ever been to, and why did you pick this one?
SvR: That is most definitely the ‘Fatale vrouwen, 1860 – 1910’ exhibition in the Groninger Museum in 2003. Although not a painter myself, I was completely awestruck; goosebumps and all. I have always been a big fan of Waterhouse, and to see his paintings in real life and up close was amazing. For me it’s not the medium of paint I can relate to, but more the theme and inspiration. Hecate, Circe and Medea; this exhibition was a collection about the great woman and goddesses of myth and legend. Since I was a child I wanted to go to art school but I think this really convinced me. And at the same time made me aware I would never be able to make such great art!
With social communities like Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest around it’s almost impossible to not have an internet presence. How important is the internet for you as an artist?
SvR: Very important! I really think I underestimated it at first… Since I became (more) active online I have reached a much bigger audience and also discovered a lot of inspiring artists myself. I have shipped a lot of parcels to the U.S. this year, and am sure these people would never have found me if I wasn’t using Facebook or Etsy.
The downside is I sometimes find it hard to keep up. I don’t have a smartphone and don’t really like the “you have to be online 24/7”-idea. I prefer personal contact with people on markets and festivals and it sometimes feels strange to ship one of your ‘children’ to a person you have never met. I like to see the internet as a place to socialize and inspire or be inspired. Alas, there are also people misusing this to ‘steal’ from others instead of connecting and sharing.
Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?
SvR: The books of the German writer Walter Moers, especially ‘The city of dreaming books’, are my favorite winter time books. Both his stories and illustrations are a pleasure for lovers of fairytales, in a freaky Hieronymus Bosch kind of way. Some of them have been translated into English or Dutch but I’m afraid a lot is lost in translation; Moers is an absolute language wizard.
And if you have not seen the KIN Fables Trilogy make sure you do! This is the most touching and stunning film project I have seen in years.
Photos by Nona Limmen
That’s all for today, thanks for reading! I want to send a warm thank you to Samiye for talking so open about her work, passion and inspiration: it’s much appreciated! If you like to purchase one of her wares keep an eye on Samiye’s website and Etsy shop, she will be back from a maternity break this spring. Have a nice weekend!