Interview Els Huygelen
Curator of Plain / Purl
What was your primary objective for this exhibition?
Els Huygelen: “The Textile Design department will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year. When Design Museum Gent asked me to curate an exhibition about textiles, I wanted feature work by the younger generation, not just established artists. The works that I have chosen are mostly examples of the multidisciplinary nature of textiles.”
Why is textile design so special to you?
Els Huygelen: “Most of our new graduates are creative thinkers. I see them as intermediaries who introduce creative concepts. For the most part, they don’t make finished products. Instead, they deliver ‘textile thought processes’ that could lead to fascinating applications in many different areas.”
“Textile design has a vast and unexpected range of potential applications. With this exhibition in Design Museum Gent, I hope to draw attention to the fascinating, transboundary nature of textiles”
What was your approach towards textiles as materials in the exhibition?
Els Huygelen: “The tactile nature of textiles adds an extra dimension to the sensory experience. I would have loved to allow visitors to touch and feel the pieces, but obviously, that’s not possible for everything (laughs). We also made a conscious decision not to provide visitors with technical explanations about how the pieces were made. The idea is to take your time and use your eyes and hands to take it all in, to look and feel.”
This exhibition has little to do with fashion, even though this is a sector that is often associated with textiles. Why that choice?
Els Huygelen: “In our degree programme, fashion is not the primary objective. Very few textile students make it into fashion. They are often not considered to be fully- fledged designers, despite the fact that they have an incredibly innovative outlook. Hopefully, this exhibition will make people in the fashion industry realise what a wealth of applications there are for textile design. It would make me very happy if that led to more cooperation.”
Els Huygelen (1960) studied painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. She worked as a freelance designer for the textile sector for many years before returning to her alma mater to teach textile design. In 2006, she set up the independent Textile Design programme.