How to wear a chair

26th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

At memorial weekend Dutch artist Volja went to the Beurs van Berlage to view the works of (former) Rietveld 'design' students, and spoke with Belgian student Liesbet Bussche.

Liesbet Bussche wearing
part of the chair.
Photo by Volja

Belgian student, Liesbet Bussche, who used to work for TV, was showing two old chairs, which were partially deconstructed. I decided to talk to her about living and studying abroad, and of course about those wooden chairs.
What made you decide to quit your job at the commercial TV station VTM and do something completely different like creating jewellery?

When I was eighteen I had to decide what I wanted to study after high school. I hesitated between jewellery and film & television. They both held my interest. But than I saw the application form for the jewellery department, and it was really heavy. Maybe it was too early for me, I think. So I decided to study cinematography, which I liked very much. After graduation, I worked as a journalist for three years at VTM. Television was a hard job, and my love for jewellery was always there. I was not fed up with my job, but I had the feeling that it was now or never. So I started to study jewellery at Sint-Lucas in Antwerp, and put my job on hold. It means within a period of five years, I can go back to work for TV, but for the moment I'm into jewellery. I'm now in my third year.

Why did you leave St. Lucas to go and study at the Rietveld?

I was looking for other views on my work. I chose Amsterdam because of the school. In the jewellery world they have a good name. And I really loved the city. So at least I will stay from February till June. My work fits really well at Sint-Lucas, because of the conceptual slant. At Rietveld, it’s also conceptual, but it starts more from the material. They also look at your personality and your personal development. That makes it very interesting.  It’s not that I missed something at Sint-Lucas. It’s just different. And Rietveld is a very international school. All these different cultures influence each other.

Is there a difference between the Belgians and the Dutch and how would you describe it?

For sure, there is a difference between Belgian or Flemish and Dutch people. In Holland, they’re always going to give their opinion. In Belgium, people have an opinion, but they're not always going tell you that. For example, when they don’t like something, Belgian people won’t mention it. In Holland if people think that you’re wearing an ugly dress, they’ll tell you straight. But in Belgium, they will say it is nice, but not their style. Maybe the best thing is somewhere in the middle? It’s a little bit a cliché, but you know what they say: every cliché contains a truth.

What would be the Belgian touch in your work?

Once I had a conversation with someone here in Holland, who said: ‘When I go to Belgium, I feel the surrealism; in life, and in the art field.’ I never thought about that until he mentioned it. But when you see my work, it is also there. You can’t leave your cultural background behind. I also notice that in a foreign county, you appreciate more what you have at home. It seems that you rediscover your own country and culture. When you are in your own country, you take it for granted.

Liesbet was inspired
by her grandmother's ring

You showed me some work in your catalogue; a ring based on a ring you got from your grandmother. Can you tell me about this?

My grandmother was very ill at the time, and she gave me this ring. A typical ‘grandmother’ ring, with gold and diamonds. It was a very important gesture for me, but the ring itself didn’t fit with my personality. At school, we got an assignment to make eleven rings, and I started working with my grandmother’s ring. I searched for different ways of using it. The end result was that the ring was still there, but the look was completely changed. I developed different techniques, and used different materials to cover the ring and to create ‘new’ rings.

I met you at the Beurs van Berlage were you presented two old chairs. You used parts of them as jewellery.  How did you make that connection between jewellery and chairs?

My starting point was to make jewellery out of ordinary things. Everyday things that we use that everyone knows but no one notices anymore. To take out ‘the’ ideal piece and turn it into a piece of jewellery. I chose a chair because it has a strong connection with a human being.
Of course, you can sit on it. But how many people don’t have their ‘own place’ or favourite chair to sit on. Normally people sit on the chair and now the chair is on the human being and it’s connected to the body, just like jewellery. I also play with the functionality. If you place the pieces of wooden jewellery back in the chair, the chair is useable again. And you’re able to sit on it.

So you took a whole bunch of chairs and just tried?

Wooden chairs especially are made in a fantastic way. I also started with wood because you can feel that the chairs already have a life. You see all the scratches and on some places the paint is off. That makes a chair beautiful. When the pieces are taken out of the chair, you know there is something wrong, but it’s hard to put a finger on it.

So what’s next?

I really like this project, and I’m planning to go further with it.
Different ways, different solutions, and maybe I have to try it with a metal chair.

26 June 2007

This year marked the tenth anniversary from ‘Rietveld naar de Beurs’

Article by Volja, an artist based in amsterdam

[Copyright Expatica 2007]

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