Wandering through Brussels, the heart of Europe, the art, design and visual culture flourishing all over the map does not go unnoticed. From the past to the present, the city has proven to be a major hub for artists to achieve global success. It’s a work of art itself and has often been cited as the new Berlin: the place to be for eccentric art, exhibitions and art explorers.
But who are the uncovered local creatives in Brussels? While hunting on social media, a variety of independent art businesses who create remarkable art pieces, involving different artistic styles and techniques were stumbled upon. These artists have one thing in common: a great love for Brussels and a talent for unique craftwork with attention to detail and design.
Paulien De Clercq – Glass art
Starting a nine-to-five job in advertising, artist Paulien De Clercq had a change of heart and discovered her calling to pursue a creative path in glass art. The artist started a course in stained glass and launched her own independent glass art business at the same time.
“I break glass and put it back together”
Interviewing Paulien in a cozy coffee bar in Brussels, straight off revealed her poppy personality that characterizes her stunning and colorful artwork. “I am the same vibe as my windows”, she says while explaining the feeling of empowerment in her artwork. “I can cut and control the glass, I can decide how glass breaks, and then I put it back together how I want to put it back together.”
Paulien’s one-of-a-kind designs stay away from the things that have been done before. “When I thought about stained glass, I was thinking about churches or super fancy art nouveau houses. But because I make it so poppy and modern, I want other people to really consider it in their houses as an art piece.”
Paulien’s number one rule is not to be influenced by other glass artists. Her inspirations rather come from designers with a poppy vibe and who cherish nature like herself. The painter Camilla Engstrom for instance: “Her paintings are so lively, she’s really connected to nature and that is something that I want to have more of in my work.” Paulien’s adoration and connection with nature truly stood out: “I get a lot of energy from being out in nature, that’s why I love Brussels so much too because of all the parks and big forests.”
“Brussels breathes art.
There’s enough room and
everybody lifts each other up”
Moving to Brussels before the pandemic was one of the best decisions in regards to her artwork, Paulien further explains. “The anonymity and collective togetherness feeling: I feel so anonymous, but at the same time I don’t feel alone, I feel surrounded by everybody doing their own thing.” The fact that it’s a big city with a lot of artists does not frighten her as there are so many places where artists can display their art. “A few months ago I wanted to be in galleries, but now I want to be in coffee shops and stores. That’s what Brussels made me realize: it can be so much more because it’s so big”
The values Paulien wishes people to perceive from her artwork are love, positivity and self-awareness. “When I look at my art, I always think: how does this make me feel, and how can I switch it into something positive. If you can switch your mind to a positive, loving, kind way, the world gets so much more wonderful.”
SOLIDO – Slow knitwear
Brussels’ based fashion brand, Solido Roma, founded in 2019 by designers Matteo and Regina, brings forward an enlighted and powerful approach to the fashion industry. This duo took one of the oldest forms of making clothing, handmade knitwear, to the next level by making it slow and sustainable. By going against fast fashion and overconsumption, these designers use cruelty-free, undyed, natural yarns and create eccentric designs. Inspired by “the conjectures of popular theatre and sci-fi, the defiance of sport and ballet, we love to play with you the humble and simple poetry of knitwear and embroidery.”
“Shop (less), dress up more, choose well, make it last”
Self-taught designer Matteo, together with his mentor and soulmate Regina, who has an education in fine arts, design their collections in Belgium and produce them slowly in Italy through local workshops. What Matteo values are that “you should care about how your clothes were designed and produced.” He further explains the two components of forward thinking in the fashion industry: creativity of design and the reality of production and the market. The brand keeps these two elements very clean and transparent with each other by using sustainable materials and supporting local manufacturers.
“In Brussels, everybody
has an opportunity”
For Matteo Brussels is: “a place where you find a lot of creative people and designers that are inspiring and encouraging, the institutional framework also is quite conducive and it really allows designers to establish.” When Regina visits Brussels, she appreciates the fact that as a creative person you're easily acknowledged.
The brand wants people that wear their unique pieces to be a protagonist in their story: “you dress up to perform your life.” It’s also about warm clothes, functionality and to have something which is eccentric, something that's really different.
Pouvoir Faire – tufting & workshops
Artists Camille and Margaux gladly met each other during their master's in tapestry and textile arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels. That’s when they both discovered the art of tufting to create beautiful carpets. But it doesn’t stop there: from textile designing, and weaving to painting or pottery, their exceptional talent, skills, and techniques are endless.
After graduating, the artists launched their own Brussels-based workshop business Pouvoir Faire for weaving and tufting. The one-day workshops are organized in small groups in their cozy studio as Margaux and Camille value private teaching to pass on their techniques.
The idea behind the name Pouvoir Faire is: “When you learn to do something crafty and know how to, you have this kind of superpower. It's not only about: you can do it, but you have the power of doing it. So instead of savoir or knowing we used pouvoir: it’s more about doing it.”
What’s very inspiring about Camille and Margaux is that they aim to share their knowledge and what they learned in their education with others with all sorts of backgrounds, including the people who can't afford to assist the classes due to the prices.
“In the craftsmanship, you have to be patient.”
With the workshops, the artists aim to make people conscious of how the objects surrounding them are made. “When you know how it's made and how long it takes, you will better understand why it's so cheap to buy your carpets from Amazon or IKEA instead of handmade pieces.” The artists’ purpose is not to stop you from buying from places like that, but it’s all about awareness. After the workshop, the tufter goes home with a unique, handmade carpet and the realization of the importance of patience, focus and a renewed sense of appreciation.
Contact details: @paulien.glass, @solidoroma, @pouvoir.faire