From the Flevopolder to Benin, the TextielMuseum in Tilburg zooms in on six natural materials in the group exhibition Makers on materials.

22 February 2024

Wool, cotton, fique, linen, rubber and silk all take centre stage in the group exhibition Makers on materials. Seven contemporary makers delve into the essence of a natural material, guided by global and increasingly relevant questions such as: Where does the material come from? How is it processed? And how can we do things differently? Discover the answers to these questions and more in Makers on materials, an exhibition that celebrates a deep passion for materials.

Makers on materials 

Spread over six rooms, the exhibition’s various spaces can be viewed like pages in a magazine, each telling the story of a different material and maker. The selected works were created by seven[CL1]  international artists and designers: Christien Meindertsma (The Netherlands, 1980), Thierry Oussou (Benin, 1988), Rosana Escobar (Colombia, 1991), Caroline Bach (France, 1995), Asli Hatipoglu (Turkey, 1991) and the duo Dasha Tsapenko (Ukraine, 1993) and Marjo van Schaik (The Netherlands, 1964). All of them have mastered a natural material from their personal environment. Various touchable samples allow visitors to explore the tactile properties of each material.

Cotton is one of Benin’s largest exports, but cotton farmers and their communities rarely benefit from this industry. In ‘Equilibrium Wind’, Beninese artist Thierry Oussou illustrates the origins of cotton and sheds light on the unequal distribution of the profits. The installation consists of a video depicting the cotton harvesting process, a pile of raw cotton from his own plantation and a woven flag. The flag symbolises unity and was specially developed for the exhibition in the TextielLab.

Cotton is followed by ‘A flax project’, in which Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma maps the cultivation of flax, the primary raw material in linen, from a six-hectare plot of land in the Dutch Flevopolder. She used all the materials from this plot – the seeds, fibres and coarser and finer yarns – to make various products ranging from linseed oil and linoleum to household textiles and chairs. The presentation includes table linen woven in the TextielLab, featuring motifs that pay homage to the flax’s origin.


The next room showcases Asli Hatipoglu’s installation ‘Bombyx Mori’, which revolves around silk. In her work, Hatipoglu explores the impact of human activities on other living organisms, such as her examination of production processes. Bombyx mori is a species of domesticated silkworm that has been selectively bred for centuries to optimise silk production for human use. One of Hatipoglu's woven works hangs in a dark space and is illuminated for short periods, causing a motif in the work to light up. This effect is achieved by incorporating glow-in-the-dark yarn in the fabric. The yarn is a reference to one of the experiments involving the silkworm, which Hatipoglu uses both to inspire awe and spark questions about silk production. ‘Bombyx Mori’ was commissioned by the TextielMuseum and created in the TextielLab.


Jewellery and textile artist Caroline Bach grew up in Clermont-Ferrand, a city in central France where the Michelin tyre factory was founded. The exhibition features four wearable pieces from her Materialisation series, in which she investigates the origins of rubber. Each piece represents a different stage in the rubber production process, from rubber tree seed to car tyre.


The next natural material is fique, a fibre derived from an agave plant native to Colombia and used to make coffee bags that are exported around the world. Artist Rosana Escobar explores the history of this material, which was once called 'oro blanco' or 'white gold'. The exhibition features an ottoman and a hanging ornament crafted from rough fique from her series Unravelling the coffee bag. Both items were made using traditional techniques that help preserve the unique qualities of the fibre, unlike low-quality coffee bags. Also on display is a felted fabric made of recycled coffee bags, which, despite the loss in quality compared to raw fique, remains a valuable material.


Wool is the focus of the final room, where three variations of a ‘gunya’ hang in the middle of the space. A gunya is a traditional Ukrainian shepherd's coat, handmade from wool using special weaving and felting techniques. Designers Dasha Tsapenko and Marjo van Schaik share a fascination for this garment and used it as a springboard to investigate different materials, including discarded Dutch wool. One of the gunyas is adorned with seed bags, a tribute to the Ukrainian seed bank that was destroyed in a bomb attack in 2022.

Collection pieces

At the heart of the exhibition are several pieces from the museum’s collection made from the same six materials. In a green passageway set up like a depot, household textiles, assemblage art from the 1960s and works by Droog Design are on display. Several sustainable projects from the TextielLab are also highlighted, while a film shows exhibition curator Danique Klijs in conversation with yarn specialist Lise Brunt about the lab’s ongoing efforts to source more sustainable materials.


Makers on materials received structural support from the Province of North Brabant, the City of Tilburg and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. ‘Bombyx Mori’ by Asli Hatipoglu was commissioned for the TextielMuseum’s collection and developed with support from the Mondriaan Fund. The exhibition will run from 20 April to 3 November 2024.

MicrosoftTeams-image (3).png