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Tricks of the creativity trade

May 9th, 2011

Filed under: FASHION


Sitting in Myrte‘s (Myrte de Zeeuw of Mirthquake) backyard, I admire the potted plants and enjoy the sun on my cheeks and the hot blush of Moroccon mint tea on my tongue. She’s served me a slice of “the best Easter stollen in the shops” (from the Lidl, you read it here – thanks for the tip Myrte!) with lashings of butter. Yum. With my senses on alert, I am ready to settle into a discussion with Myrte about the translation of her pictures onto products – namely, skirts and dresses. Maybe she can let me in on a few tricks?

You can see the range of her pieces on her facebook page (I am coveting the silk singlet that was posted last week, but am saving my pennies for it, and might see whether I will hold out for the handbag!). Here are a few shots of her works in progress:

A close up of Myrte's murder of crows

Gingko chickadee dress - fresh and summery

The drawing board

“I had the idea to make clothes before the pillowcases,” she starts off. I push her a little more – why didn’t you do fashion design with your illustrations before? The clothes are stunning. “Um, it’s easier to sew pillowcases!” That’s what I like about Myrte. She’s honest and you can really relate to her.

While I have a love love relationship with Myrte, she has a love hate relationship with fashion. She is a fashion designer by profession and has had her share of the whims and moods of the industry. She also never really found her work on the payroll of a company that mass produced clothes very fulfilling. “I was briefed to make say, a spaghetti-strap dress. I got to choose a material, and then after a great deal of alterations and changes, the dress went into production and … finally it was gone, thank goodness! Within weeks after that, I would see people wearing my clothes in the street.” How did that make you feel? “Well, it’s was never really ‘me’. I have designed thousands of garments I suppose. But what I do now – illustrate and design my own clothes – helps me feel confident. I think it’s so important to express yourself.”

Myrte visualises her new creations. “I think of a flock of crows around the edge of a dress or a flamingo running the length of a maxi-dress. It’ll be elegant and in the latest color – the coral colour of the bird.” So rather than applying existing birds onto her garments, she is custom illustrating to shape.

Sewing station

I'm like a kid in a candy shop, but candy is this time a personal stash of material

At work in the studio with Myrte of Mirthquake

Myrte happily calls herself an illustrative designer and believes in her product – not just what is printed on it. She selects her materials and manufacturing techniques with great care – products are made from organic materials and she’s looking at bags using leather which are by-products of the bio-industry. “The subject is always close to me, and what I want to express. The product has my ideals. The properties are ‘me’ – close to nature, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and slow (as in, the illustration process).

There’s a big but, though.

“It’s a trick. I’m making a product with my technique. I have a trick with my computer ‘painted’ birds (painstakingly made feather by feather with up to 7000 brustrokes per bird!), just like Rembrandt or Piet Mondriaan had their ‘trick’, their technique. All artists have sketched, drawn and painted until she or he found his ‘thing’. My way of coming up with the bird concept (or piece of clothing adorned with a bird, then drawing the bird, and assembling all of it) doesn’t surprise me like the first time I uncovered my technique. Good artists don’t mind not being surprised, because they know that the act of creativity is a process – not a product.”

Wise words, Myrte. My senses started off tingling when we began our interview, but after my visit my entire core is alive with a renewed insight into creativity. So there’s no trick, except that your technique becomes the trick. And that fulfillment only comes via the process and not the product. Suddenly the sun and the birds, and the lasting fragrant taste of Easter stollen fade into the background. I’m in the mood to go home and create. I love paradoxes.

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