She was 18 years old when she decided to exchange her hometown Geraardsbergen for the big city life of Antwerp. “To find out what I was good at”. And she stayed. NATHALIE VAN DER MASSEN (1988°) could call herself a Graphic and Textile designer, but she doesn’t. These ‘titles’ would only limit her multidisciplinary view on her personal and future work and approach. Fascinated by textile as a medium, Nathalie explores both functional and spatial aspects of the relationship between image, surface and matter. Always driven by a strong affinity with materials and colors. When our talk isn’t interrupted by a laughter, it’s because of Nathalie’s witty comments (and the way she expresses them) that reveal a philosophical mind…
- Fascinated by textile as a medium, nathalie van der massen explores the functional and spatial aspects of textile as a medium. According to van der massen textile as a medium can be considered between two extremes. On the one hand there is this functional aspect because of the strong relationship with the body and the imaginable possiblities of the fabric. On the other hand it can be considered as medium, just like painting, glass- and ceramic art, where the tension between image, plane and matter are being explored. The ‘pardes’ scarf – that also can be used as a wall hanging – demonstrates how this symbioses between the manual and digital results in a versatile print design could work autonomously or how it could be applied in different contexts like public spaces, interior or fashion. -
Different flowers from the same garden
Nathalie is the ‘creative’ sister out of 3. She loved drawing and was always busy doing something. “When I turned 18, I chose to move to Antwerp. I wanted to go to a place, preferably as far away as possible from my hometown, where no one knew me and where I could start creating my own life to find out what I was good at. I was a bit of a loner back then”, she laughs. “I think my sisters sometimes think that I am very weird. They’re not surprised when I come up with a new ‘crazy’ project. They don’t ask questions. Nevertheless, I always felt very supported by my family in all of my initiatives and projects.”
Distance leads to creativity
“I don’t see myself as a graphic or textile designer. I’m like a sponge, I’m eager to learn. That’s also why my approach is broad and does not only apply to textile or graphic design.” It’s true. When you look at Nathalie’s work, her strength lies in the creation process, in the ability to combine different disciplines, materials, colors and techniques. She looks for boundaries and at the same time opportunities to transcend disciplines. It used to be very frustrating for Nathalie not knowing ‘everything’, but nowadays it stimulates and triggers her to take on challenges and to combine graphic and artistic work with technique. It’s this unfulfilled desire to know ‘everything’ that also explains Nathalie’s open mindset and attitude to meet new places, people, and to learn more about new techniques. “Your own view is often too narrow. It can be very enriching, almost liberating, to talk to others to see things from another angle. It creates distance, and therefore more space for creativity again.”
I don’t see myself as a graphic or textile designer. I’m like a sponge, I’m eager to learn. That’s also why my approach is broad and does not only apply to textile or graphic design.
Both her analogue and digital archives on the computer are of great value to Nathalie. All the prints, designs, paintings, notes, etc. she created and collected over the years are saved there. When she needs inspiration for a new assignment, she starts digging in her personal treasures that contain history and present, designs of the old and new Nathalie and everything in between. Besides her own archives, Nathalie is always looking for new inspiration in fashion, arts and design. She is fascinated by Japanese culture: the traditional clothing, craft techniques and the way modularity and esthetic is part of everyday life. She is also triggered by the work of artists / designers like Gustav Klimt, Maison Martin Margiela, Issey Miyake and Dries Van Noten.
Selfie with no filter?
Acting like a sponge to collect impressions, situations, people, feelings, … is a good thing. But if you don’t put a filter on to keep some impressions out, being a sponge can be tough. “I see a lot. And sometimes, all these impressions block my own creativity. Then I know it’s time to switch on my filter again”, Nathalie explains. “I know that I – only I – am responsible for letting these things to come in and that I am in full control of managing the ins and outs. If you are aware of this process, it’s easier to deal with it.”
Nathalie used to be a control freak (“I couldn’t start working before the dishes were done”), always pushing herself to the highest level, with an intensity level of 300%. After 10 years, the control freak is still in her and she still pushes herself to the highest level with an intensity of 300%, but she learnt ‘to let go’, to prioritize and to dose everything a little more. And she’s still learning. The visible quote ‘STOP TRYING’ in the cozy apartment describes what she means: “if you dare to let go, something beautiful will eventually come out of it. After all those years, I know now that this is true. If you’re only focused on the outcome and if you try too hard, you risk to miss out a lot.”
Living your life in a bigger city, finding answers to (some) questions, setting limits, and keeping distance when needed, sounds like ‘growing up’. Nathalie admits that it feels good to look back and observe that she evolved in many ways. “I always strive to act in a way as I would like to be approached by others. I also look for a certain lightness in everything I do to lift the other side of adulthood. Sometimes I catch myself being too serious, but then I manage to put it all in perspective and to carry on more easily.”
Oh happy day
When there’s coffee, no dishes, light and music around, then all elements are in place for Nathalie to create the right setting for a productive day. Her definition of a successful day however isn’t related to external elements. “My definition of a successful day is when I manage to do what I planned to do. Or when I follow my ‘needs’.” She explains : “If you’re waiting to ‘become’ productive, you get upset about your non-active-modus, or at least I do!”, she laughs. “If you let go and see what happens, it works. If I can do that, it was a successful day.” And that’s how we come back to the previous house quote that says ‘stop trying’ “And be kind for yourself” she says.
Sometimes I catch myself being too serious, but then I manage to put it all in perspective and to carry on more easily.
Currently Nathalie is combining her personal projects as a freelance designer with a design job for an international company. She calls herself ambitious in a way that she would love to continue to develop her own label in the future and doing projects, alone or in collaboration with other designers. Especially the fact that she would be in total control of the selection and the creation of the assignments is a very appealing thought. Of course Nathalie likes having a ‘sounding board’ for her ideas, impressions and creations, but she is not afraid of working alone. “I don’t need people to do my job”, she explains. “When I need feedback, I can always count on my friends or I could get input from my contacts with other designers who are also passionate about what they’re doing.”
3 more hours a day
“I would mostly use this time to do ‘relaxing’ things like reading a book or wandering or refresh my French. Maybe I should really schedule this in my agenda. But that wouldn’t make sense. It would be like stressing out to go to the meditation lesson… And I need to stop trying !”…
– good thoughts,
– a lot of laughter,
– stop trying,
– be kind
Noted with thanks. I’ll collect them all in my personal archives.