Designer Jolanda van den Broek with a collection of her latest eco printed clothing. / SUR

Combining art with nature to protect the planet

A Dutch former art teacher who arrived in Malaga in 1989 uses leaves, flowers and bark to create her textile designs

Tony Bryant
TONY BRYANT

Many of today's artists and designers are using recycled materials and methods like eco printing to create their works because, apart from helping the environment, it connects art with nature and creates unique clothing and art work.

One such artist is Alhaurín el Grande-based textile artist Jolanda van den Broek, who claims that using plants and natural products to dye and print her work gives her "more respect and curiosity for the materials and process used".

Born in the Netherlands in 1958, the former art teacher and designer of bridal fashion and lingerie is very "conscious" about the planet and has been "anti-plastic" since the 1970s. She also believes that the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and she feels it is our duty to be far more conscious about what we are wearing, and about how and where it is made.

"I am very pleased that I can use my consciousness in my art work. Eco printing is one of the most environmentally friendly means of colouring cloth, and the beauty is that each piece is unique. I am a nature loving artist, so it wasn't a big step to find myself fascinated by the process of eco printing. There is already enough of everything, so why not use what is already here," Jolanda explains to SUR in English.

The environmentally conscious designer was raised among an artistic family, and for the first ten years of her life, she lived in the country and was surrounded by nature, which, she says, has inspired her entire career.

"My mother was always very creative and she used to make our clothes, which greatly inspired me as a youngster. I would make Barbie doll outfits on her sewing machine and, for as long as I can remember, I always loved making things," she says.

Jolanda studied fashion design, drawing and art at the Academy of Art in Arnhem, Holland, after which she enjoyed a career as an art teacher. She also worked as a fashion designer in the Netherlands, a profession she continued when arriving in Malaga in 1989, although she admits it took a while for her to settle in Spain.

"I always wanted to live abroad and when I got offered a job as a designer with a lingerie manufacturer in Malaga the decision was quickly made. I first lived in Benalmádena but it felt as though I had stepped back in time. I also missed my friends and family very much during the first five years. It took me a while to feel completely at home here, but now, without a doubt, it has absolutely become my home," the bubbly artist explains.

Inspired by nature

Jolanda soon found the colours and light, the rich culture and the way of life in Andalucía inspired her work, which she describes as "natural, honest, pure and real".

"Living in the countryside, nature itself gives me the inspiration. Everything I see, hear, feel, smell and sense around me inspires me from the inside out," she declares.

Jolanda embarked on her journey of eco botanical printing ten years ago, using only plant materials sourced from her own garden and the surrounding environment.

Eco printing is a technique where plants, leaves and flowers leave their shape and color on the fabric or paper. Jolanda says she enjoys the whole process, from foraging leaves, preparing and printing fabric and the final creative decisions about how to turn that fabric into clothing or art work.

"Every time I am amazed and surprised about the wonderful colours and images it is possible to obtain from leaves, flowers and bark. Wearing eco dyed and printed clothing is so much better for the planet and for yourself. Imagine all the chemical dyes used in the textile fast-fashion industry, not to mention the pollution by the process, the slave labour and the waste when it ends up in landfill," the designer says.

The independent textile artist has had several exhibitions in the province of Malaga and she is currently participating in a collaborative exhibition at the Artsenal Inoxis gallery in Alhaurín el Grande, an art space she describes as a "truly inspiring place".

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