Growing a personal approach one stitch at a time

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Entering the lush world of Shezad Dawood on a muggy, overcast afternoon offered a sigh of relief. Night in the Garden of Love is the result of a dialogue between the multidisciplinary artist and pioneering musician and composer Yusef Lateef. The multi-sensory exhibition led the way for a conversation of our own with textile artist and designer Margot Van den Berghe.

The first room of the exhibition had the most impact on me, because it immediately conveys Shezad Dawood’s range, starting with patchworked textiles and then transporting us to a complete virtual environment.

It’s very cool how the same artist presents both analogue and digital works, and it’s exciting to see unexpected media paired or together. I think the scenography of the first room works especially well. It’s very simple but allows the viewer to get really close to the hanging textiles and see them from different angles. Even though the game-like visual language used in VR technology often ends up looking the same, I still quite enjoyed entering the garden of love. I also really like how music accompanies us throughout the exhibition.

I see these drawings as very rhythmic. Only a musician could be behind them

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Agreed, the soundscape really added a new dimension. And Yusef Lateef’s incredible drawing style is so clearly linked to his musical scores.

Yes, definitely, I see these drawings as very rhythmic. Only a musician could be behind them! At first glance they seem abstract and chaotic, forming shapes that I didn’t recognise. But when looking closer, I could start to see recurring elements, grouped together to create patterns. The drawings appear like moving worlds, or like ‘moving stains’ of inks and colour. I’m always drawn to very geometrical forms and details of textures, where depth emerges from the process of layering and repetition. That’s why I always look at things by zooming in and looking up close before stepping back and observing again from afar. I like to see the ‘skin’ of the colours; I can imagine the paper absorbing them through the artist’s touch. That’s something that really speaks to my imagination.

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What is evident from the show is also how much research and collaboration are focal to Shezad’s practice. Does this resonate with you?

I experiment a lot with materials and processes, mixing techniques and seeing what happens when elements such as specific threads or machines are paired together and produce unexpected results. The human touch is also very important to me: I manipulate machine-made pieces especially to enhance or change certain textures. This also ensures each piece is unique. I like involving people in my work for the whole duration of a project. For example, I’m currently exploring the use of flax with two other designers. But I particularly like sharing knowledge between different fields, and that’s why I love having a studio at MAD Home of Creators alongside other more fashion and design-focused residents. 

I always look at things by zooming in and looking up close before stepping back and observing again from afar

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/64872f0cd90fb858e0235fff_Margot%20Vandenberghe%20(c)%20Pauline%20Colleu000006-paulinecolleu.webp "/>

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How did this residency come about and what’s your experience been so far?

Last year I was given the opportunity to showcase a selection of works in their vitrine, after connecting with the organisation through my Barak Lili M residency at Pilar. When the open call for new MAD residents opened I was invited to apply and have been there for a year now, with another one starting in September. I’m the youngest of ten designers in residence, so I feel lucky to be surrounded by professionals I can learn a lot from. We all have access to workshops and tools, and we also get time with specialised coaches which is really nice. They even organised a week at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in France, which was amazing!

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The residency programme seems to champion innovative designers that are driven by sustainable approaches. How would you say your work fits into that framework?

Yes, that's something they are invested in supporting. On my part, I only use second-hand materials and it’s never been otherwise, it’s not something I had to ever adapt to. I like working with both materials and machines that had a prior life.

There’s something so special about feeling thread run through your fingers and watching the textile grow into a surface that could continue endlessly

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What drove your desire to become involved with textiles?

Textile design is versatile: it can be motivated by a desire to express oneself artistically, serve as autonomous work, or find purpose in other fields like fashion. There’s something so special about feeling thread run through your fingers and watching the textile grow into a surface that could continue endlessly. Besides developing my own practice, I also make a living through my part-time job working as a creative therapist at Huis Perrekes, a visionary non-profit organisation that cares for people with dementia. This means I can split my time between a more solitary studio space, and somewhere I can connect and engage with others in a meaningful way whilst still doing what I’m passionate about.  

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @margotvandenberghe / @wiels_brussels </div></div>

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