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Layers (128 x 128 cm), Materials: cotton, silks, linen, beads


India (102 x 104 cm), Materials: silks, beads, angelwire


Artist: Rita Dijkstra of Hengelo, The Netherlands.

Interview 43

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.



Rita Dijkstra was born in 1954 in the Netherlands and after a gymnasium education she studied Computer Sciences. She worked with a software company and at Twente University until her first child was born.

She is a fully autodidact quilter since 1999. The first years she made traditional quilts, but now her work consists of contemporary and art quilts. She considers herself a hobby quilter and does not sell any work. Most of her work is done by machine. Sometimes she uses the computer for her designs. For instance to find pictures on the internet, change them by use of a photo shop program or print the design in a different format. She prefers hand dyed fabrics, silks and batiks and combines these with linen, lutrador, angelwire, angelina, paint, beads, organza, liquid rubber, silk threads, cords etc. She is inspired by visiting new places during her holidays, by visiting quilt shows and by common things in her daily life.

She has been selected for the annual quilt show of the Dutch Quiltersgild eleven times. She was also selected for the European Art Quilts III and IV, which expositions travelled through Europe for almost two years. She had two solo-expositions in a quilt-gallery in Nieuw-Buinen, the Netherlands and was selected for shows in Dublin and Canada. Rita's Website


Artist Rita Dijkstra


Tell us about your work?

I am a quilter and I make contemporary/art quilts. After a short period of making traditional quilts, in which I learned a lot about the technique, I wanted more freedom. Making traditional quilts is not challenging enough for me, because you have to make many blocks that look the same. I want to change the design at any moment of the process. I have a basic design in my head, and then the fun starts: what colours, what size, which fabrics, which other materials to use. Most of the time I don't know how the piece will end. As the quilt is growing, I am constantly busy adding things, changing, thinking about how to go on. During this process the quilt is constantly in my mind. That's also the reason why I only work on one piece at a time.

I started quilting in 1999 and in my early years the accent lay in the patchwork part, now the quilting process has become much more important for me. Sometimes there is no patchwork in it anymore and it has become surface design. The colours I use are also changing; they have become brighter, more daring. I do not work in series and each piece differs very much, but for me that is just what I like, experimenting with new materials and new ways of design.

I have a mathematical background, which you can see in the geometric design of my early quilts. Nowadays I also use different shapes and patterns. I start with an initial design of basic elements and during an iterative process the piece is built up by layers. During this process I get new ideas and inspiration and very often I am surprised about what happens. One of the reasons that I work hard is that I am very curious to see the end result.


Ocean Blue (102 x 152 cm), Materials: cotton, silk, organza, angelina.

Leaves of silk and organza, with a stem of silk and organza are appliqued on a cotton surface. The leaves are drawn freehand. Angelina is being used sparingly to add some glitter. The surface is intensively quilted in order to have the leaves to come more forward. The fluid lines of the leaves have been followed. On the sides you can see parts of leaves made out of organza. By not using silk, they are less conspicuous.



From where do you get your inspiration?

I get inspiration from everything I see around me. Since I started quilting I have a very different way of looking at things. I'm always looking for good colour combinations and special shapes. I became more interested in art in general, looking for inspiration. This includes paintings, sculpture art, and architecture. Recently I made some pieces with portraits and in that period I was focused on faces, even some I saw on television. I also make pieces with a theme for contests and shows. In that case I sometimes explore the Internet searching for images that strike me, but most of the time I just know what to make.

The piece Twister was made for the theme "climate" and the piece So many Faces, So many Cultures was made for the theme "multicultural".

The inspiration can be a vase in an art gallery, a mosaic pattern on a building in Paris (Eyecatcher), a photo in a design book (Rising) or the beautiful countryside in the English Midlands (Layers). The piece Impression was made after I saw a photo from the air of a concentration camp in Dachau. I made a study of paintings from Ton Schulten, a Dutch painter, and used the concept of something very light in the middle and darker parts on the sides and on the top and the bottom in my piece Step-by-step.

Holidays in which we visit foreign countries are also very inspiring. For instance, our visit to Andalusia in the south of Spain, gave a lot of ideas for making quilts with Islamic patterns. The curving lines in a photo taken by my husband during a visit to a Roman theatre in Orange, France, inspired me to make a piece in orange and grey colours. People made of black fabric give depth to the piece.

And maybe most inspiration I get from the fabrics. Many pieces were made after buying a gorgeous piece of fabric. Sometimes the patterns are inspiring, sometimes the combinations of colours. My favourite fabrics are the hand-dyed fabrics from Heide Stoll-Weber.



Mumbai (90 x 132 cm), Materials: cotton, oil crayons, rubber, silk threads, organza, beads, angelwire

An experimental quilt based on a beautiful fabric from Heide Stoll. The piece is decorated with oil crayons (rubbings) and stamped with gold paint. On top of that a silken thread has been punched. On the left organza is fixed using liquid rubber. And next parts of the organza have been trimmed away. To support the silk horizontal waves are quilted. These waves are randomly accented with beads and sequins. Two stamps are copied and cut out of angel wire and then put down with some stabbing and gold rubber.



Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

After a period of knitting and embroidery, I started making clothes when my children were born. I never had any lessons, but had great fun in making a whole new wardrobe for them every season. With some basic patterns I found I could make endless variations. That process, playing with fabrics, gave me so much joy and satisfaction. But teenagers want to buy their own clothes, so the sewing for them stopped after a number of years.

In the Netherlands quilting is not commonly known, but I had seen a show of antique quilts in a museum some ten years ago and thought it might be a good new hobby for me. So I went to the library, read every book I could find about quilting and after collecting some cotton fabrics, which seemed useful, I started my first quilt. It was a struggle, but after I had finished, I knew what I had done wrong and started the second one. That first year I discovered that there was a quilter's guild and I discovered quilt shops. I made a lot of traditional quilts, learning from my mistakes, and I learned so many techniques.

I think this was a good solid base for the pieces I made after that period. The process of creating something that is very pleasant to see, gives me a lot of satisfaction. The main reason why I make quilts is the joy and the satisfaction it gives me to make the quilt. Besides that, it is also nice that other people like it as well. I have met so many other quilters in the last years and it is an extra bonus to meet them at quilt shows.

Quilting gives you an enormous freedom, you can use so many different fabrics, you can use all different colours, you can use other materials like paint, liquid rubber, beads, angel wire, paintsticks etc. You can stitch fabrics or glue them, you can punch woolen or silk yarns onto it, and you can use embroidery. I really enjoy exploring new materials and techniques.


Layers (128 x 128 cm), Materials: cotton, silks, linen, beads

Because I did not want to cut a beautiful hand dyed fabric in pieces, I put layers of silk and linen in between. The silk layers are supplemented with bias of batik fabric. The remains are appliquéd resulting in a nice light / dark contrast. On the sides the blue-green silk forms a new layer. In addition, the quilting creates final layers. These are again accented with beads and metallic thread embroidery.


Samenhang (Cohesion) (117 x 140 cm) Materials: cotton, beads, oil crayons, fusible web, organza, silk threads, silk, angelwire.

After my visit to the quilt exhibition in London and Ailsa Craig in Canada (Ontario) I have gained a lot of inspiration. I started working on a quilt in which all kind of connections are present.


Which is your favourite fibre medium?

My favourite fabrics are hand-dyed fabrics, for instance from Heide Stoll-Weber. I do not dye fabrics myself as long as I can buy such wonderful fabrics. But I also like to work with silk because of the beautiful colours and the shine on the fabric. In my work I am always looking for contrasts and silk gives a perfect contrast for instance for linen. Another favourite is batiks, again because of the colours and the nice prints. I use these fabrics in combination with linen, organza, lutrador, viscose, Angelina and angel wire.


Souvenir d'Alsace (108 x 143 cm), Materials: linen, cotton, silks, beads, organza, lutrador, angelwire, paint, oil crayons, fusible web.

The fabrics for this quilt were purchased in the Alsace at St-Marie-aux-Mines (FR) during the quilting event of 2009. The V-shape is derived from a piece of jewelry that our son has made for his girlfriend.


Spring (114 x 126 cm), Materials: cotton, linen, silks, fusible web

After a visit to the quilt days in the Alsace at St-Marie-aux-Mines (FR), I came back full of ideas and of course plenty of purchases. This quilt I thought of already after the first day at the exhibition and I especially went back on the second day to buy matching linen fabrics with the piece I already bought from Heide Stoll-Weber the other day. I was inspired by Ute Baunach to use oblique lines. The squares are of silk and are fixed with fusible web through intensive quilting.



What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Because I have no art background I don't think there is much influence of historic artists, not even from ancient quilters. I do like the paintings of van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Manet, Monet, so maybe there has been some influence in use of colour. I admire the design in the paintings of Mondrian.


Alhambra (155 x 160 cm), Materials: batiks, cord from recycled sari's, rubber

When visiting the Alhambra at Granada (Spain) I bought a book explaining how you can draw Moorish motifs. This is the first result. I wanted a cheerful quilt and have only used batik fabrics. The seams are finished with liquid rubber and cords made from recycled saris from Nepal.


Impressies (Impressions) (140 x 84 cm), Materials: silks, cottons

Basis for the design is an aerial photograph of an avenue in Dachau. The pattern of small triangles and rectangles was derived from the Korak technique. In order to interrupt the pattern I repeatedly left a row of white triangles, so they clearly stand out and ultimately to the top row I did the same with a brown triangle in the opposite direction (contrast, direction and color). The quilt was shown during an international exhibition of the Irish Quilters Guild in July and August 2005 at Dublin.



What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work? 

I think my work is mostly influenced by contemporary quilters. And besides that I am interested in contemporary architecture. Santiago Calatrava, from Spain is the one that I admire most. I made a piece based on a picture of a station in Belgium, which was designed by Calatrava. What I admire in Calatrava are his flowing and curving lines, for instance in Valencia (Ciudad de las artes de las ciencias) and in many bridges he designed. Another piece of mine (Rising) is also based on a picture of a building; the lines formed by horizontal blinds struck me.


India (102 x 104 cm), Materials: silks, beads, angelwire

My husband made a business trip to India and brought along 6 large silk fabrics. The colours were difficult to combine, but according to my husband they are typical colours of India. Therefore, I wanted to create a real India-quilt with Indian motifs like the paisley patterns which are often used on scarves. I have used the motifs in different ways, with silk, angel wire, beads and sequins and simple quilting. To avoid the quilt becoming too busy, I also added some blocks with waves in it.


Eyecatcher (165 x 100 cm), Materials: cottons, batiks, silks

This quilt was selected for European Art Quilt III and was exhibited in Rijswijk, Munich (D), Vicenza (I), Birmingham (UK), Scotland, Herning (DK), Narbonne (F) and Mulhouse (F). The idea originated during a vacation in Paris, where I saw a mosaic on a wall. The design was first drawn on an A4 with lots of notes about the design centers, etc. then transferred to large sheets of drawing paper. The mosaic has brought me the idea, but it eventually became a unique design. The inspiration came from a fabric dyed by Heide Stoll-Weber. There were many shades of blue, green and yellow, and with the cloth at hand I have searched for many pieces of silk and batik at a fair to get a perfect combination. The quilt was selected for the cover of the magazine of the Danish Quilters Guild.


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

There is not one particular artist that influenced my work, but I suppose all the work of the following artists who I admire have influenced my work in a way.

Bonny Buchnam is an American quilter whose quilts have striking colour compositions. Very special are her Tangle and Geology series.

Dianne Firth is an Australian quilter and I like the round lines and combination of lighter and darker fabrics giving depth to the quilt. Another Australian quilter is, Lisa Walton and I like her combination of curving lines and beading.

Susan Brubaker-Knapp made lovely quilts painting flowers, feathers, pumpkins etc. and quilting them intensively. From Linda and Laura Kemshall, I learned techniques using paintsticks, paint, quilting patterns. Christine Restall (U.K.), Ute Baunach (Germany) and Maryline Collioud-Robert (Switzerland) whose work was shown in expositions from the European Art Quilt Foundation when my work was selected too. She was also an inspiration to me. Christine Restall's quilting lines pushed me in experimenting with quilting.

The quilts of Ute Baunach have a wonderful simply design and I like her colour scheme.

Some Dutch artists I admire are Anco Brouwers, Marion Hoftijzer and Wietske Kluck. Their work has been selected for expositions of the European Art Quilt Foundation. And of course there are many others whose work you see at expositions who have influenced me in some way. Not always do you remember the name of the artists or are even aware of the influence.


Rita Dijkstra's studio.

Rita Dijkstra's studio.

Rita Dijkstra's studio.


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

I have a room in the attic with a lot of daylight. My desk with my sewing machine is beneath the window in the roof, so I can see even the tiniest stitches. In another corner I have my computer and printer. I start each day by reading mail and blogs. I make my designs sometimes with the help of my computer using Photoshop programs and I use the web for finding images or visiting websites of other quilters.

I have a removable design board. This gives me the opportunity to look at the piece I'm working on from a distance and to change the design easily. This board is also very useful when layering a quilt. I have two extra tables that can be brought in as needed. I have all my fabrics sorted into silks, batiks, hand dyed, etc. and they are all in see-through plastic boxes. Then of course, there are all the other things nearby that one needs when creating and working on a piece.


Gulden Snede (Golden Ratio) (131 x 100 cm), Materials: silks, cotton, organza, beads

Side curls, drawn by the method of the Golden Ratio are appliqued on a cotton cloth, dyed by Heide Stoll-Weber. Larger curls are stitched in order to minimize the rounding. Smaller squares are decorated with beads and as a variant some are tied with embroidery thread. There are horizontal and vertical lines of text, consisting of letters of organza.



What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

The role fibre art plays is growing but it does not yet get the appreciation it deserves. The European Art Quilt Foundation is promoting art quilts in Europe by organizing expositions every two or three years.


Modern Damast (Modern Damask) (165 x 165 cm), Materials: damask

A collection of damask fabrics purchased from a booth at a quilt exhibition at the castle Cannenburgh at Vaassen (NL) was the basis for this quilt. For the woven patterns to become really visible, the patches are quite large. The design is created and made by EQ5, the blocks are further sorted on the basis of a satisfactory outcome. There are now rectangles, triangles, diagonal stripes and a light beam to distinguish. The waves are based on appliqued silk.



Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

I expect my work will differ from what I make today, because I learn new techniques, discover other artists that will influence me. Maybe I will dye my fabric, who knows. As long as I have fun in quilting and experimenting I will go on this way.


Op z'n Japans (In Japanese Style) (155 x 144 cm), Materials: silk, cotton

An exposition of the Japanese Yoshiko Jinzenji in Birmingham in 2009 offered me the opportunity to buy a book from her and a fabric with her typical design. She works with traditional patterns, consisting of minimalistic decorated fabrics. I myself have added six colours of silk to my quilt. Also in the quilting I did not entirely follow her, because she does work primarily with horizontal stripes and I did feel the need to more accentuate the blocks.


Rising (145 x 98 cm), Materials: silks

This quilt was accepted for the European Art Quilt IV exhibition and is especially made for it. The quilt has been shown in Lyon (F) during the Expo in June 2006, then in Mulhouse (F), Tilburg and Herning (DK). The starting point was a photograph of a building with awnings. I have copied the photo and the dimensions listed on a large sheet and then enlarged and copied. All slats needed to be separately calculated and drawn. Of course, I changed some things, like the vertical bar and the red squares. Because there are 4 parts in red this will draw your eye to the complete quilt.



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Calatrava - Station Luik (73 x 112 cm), Materials: batiks, silks, cords

The design is based on a photograph of the station of Liège-Guillemins, which was designed by architect Calatrava.