Work and play

July 6, 2012

I’m preparing a book on the most heavy material imaginable: iron. And ever since I’ve begun this project, wherever I have gone I’ve always come home with some feathers. It often makes me wonder what will follow later on, as I’ve never consciously ‘chosen’ a book subject; they have more ‘happened’ to me.


Seagull feather in iron ore pellets, Rotterdam harbour


But I believe we do carry themes within us as a part of what I would call our personal language. It is fun to recognise these themes, the things that make us ‘tick’. It is a form of play to see our leading threads emerge with time.

It was only on hindsight that I saw how I got involved in my previous books: some would say by chance and it certainly was by happening to be somewhere… Rajasthan because of an unexpected invitation, the Dutch coast for it was a convenient place to write my text for Rajasthan, and Living Iron? Well, I’ve loved iron, especially rusted, for a long time.

There is a lot of freedom involved when one can work that way. Nobody ordered me to make my books. And this freedom also means the opportunity to play, to discover, to move from one aspect to the next as they present themselves, and to accept when a steel mill does not open its doors. Because two others will – as I recently experienced in Germany.

There are feathers everywhere in my studio. On a lamp which has become a trophy carrier…



… in a perspex box I made long ago at art school, the third of a series shown in this journal earlier on



… in ‘totems’ I have made on the beach…



… and in several ‘thought catchers’.





Would ‘lightness’ be the answer to my question about the essential presence of feathers in my life? Obviously, though it doesn’t sound too original an explanation. Birds and their plumage. Weightlessness, flexibility, speed, grace, colour, shine, patterns, contrasts, diaphanous, exotic origins, long distances, …

The tiny blue feathers, amazingly bright, as well as the dull larger ones in the picture above are all from peacocks in India. Will they see my South India take shape once Living Iron is ready? I do not imagine myself writing a book on feathers, but then one never knows.