“After many years spent in writing, painting and etching , using reams of paper, I ended up working with porcelain. Although I like making “normal” cups and plates, tiles with fishes, birds and fountains, I like to experiment constantly and than, somehow, I find myself using the material like paper or trying to make it look like paper; printed on, incised and folded. I am fascinated by the fragility but also the strength of this ceramic material and, perhaps due to the history of my journey through the world of art, I love to transfer the qualities of paper to this material to resemble paper, crumpled. covered with writing and folded, exploiting its transparency, its different surface qualities, its capacity to catch and preserve colors on the inside as well as on the outside , underneath and over its glossy, satin or mat skin. I stretch it, paint it, fold it, going to the limits of its strength, fragility and transparency. And it often leaves me in desperation because of its fragility. It leaves me breathless with the feeling of happiness to see its fragile intensity.
For years I worked as an artist in the BKR, the Dutch Government Work agreement for artists before going abroad with my husband and three boys. At the same time I studied biology and philosophy at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands and followed etching courses in Amsterdam, bronze casting (lost wax) in Wageningen [with Ben Joosten] drawing from models at the Art Academy Minerva in Groningen.
My work (ceramics, etchings, paintings, art books, photographs) is displayed in various public places in Netherland, Spain, Chile, Korea, Australia, Portugal and Italy. I published poetry, short stories and translations on the literary review “Hollands Maandblad“ Poetry was published by Cadans as ‘Carthago in het Middaglicht’.
I currently live and work near Milan (Italy).” Margrieta Jeltema
Margrieta Jeltema: Some years ago, when I had finished some jewelry pieces using porcelain together with paper, a friend suggested to translate the paper part in porcelain as well. I tried and failed but my mistakes turned out rather nice in their own way. They encouraged me to explore this path… Now observing earlier pieces it seems the idea of folding was already there.
I think any research in art is not just a technical one. Yes I wanted my porcelain to resemble paper but most of all I wanted it to have a life of its own. My porcelain objects have grown to be flowers, they are wishes or a song. They belong to a different world, follow different rules, not those accepted by the pragmatic world of utility, they truly belong to the “world of beauty and imagination*”.
The technical skills with paper-thin ceramics have their origin in beliefs about the nature of art. Objects made by human beings belong to the realm of art when seen as aesthetically pleasing. Seeing something as a work of art or looking at it are not the same. Looking has a beginning and end. Seeing however is an achievement – it has no beginning, no stretch of time, it is the realization that we are confronted with something different. The work of art is not confined in a cave of individuality. It participates in an essential way in our everyday communication. From the act of seeing emerges our ability to understand a message. The beautiful object has an intention; the intention of sharing, of telling a story and exploring our world of imagination.
Message, story, communication, these are the words which describe my previous occupation with writing, using paper, making books with etchings. I was held captured by these sheets of paper on which I could try to communicate with others. My Loveletters and my Ode to Monet go back to my obsession with paper carrying stories to those prepared to look, to understand and hopefully, to enjoy them.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Do you find working with porcelain hard, especially if you try to make it look like paper?
Margrieta Jeltema: Working with porcelain is really easy if you get a bit used to its terrible shrinking, its proneness to distortion, it’s tendency to collapse and its ability to ‘remember’!… But there are also many advantages over other clays. It is easy to join dried pieces together or repair a piece before baking, it is easy to glaze using a brush (saving on amounts of glaze) as most unevenness will disappear in the high temperatures and of course usually colors look nice and bright on the white body. What I find really difficult is the handling of the folded Loveletters when they are only bisque fired and still extremely fragile. Because I want to glaze them only on the backside I have to turn them someway. Eventually I solved this using a piece of light foam polystyrene with which I can turn the letter like a omelet on a lid (some cooking experience helps a lot in ceramics).