Meet Monique van Nieuwland in our Artist Showcase

Meet Monique van Nieuwland in our Artist Showcase

Know the Weaver # 17

Monique van Nieuwland (Netherlands, Australia since 1982) is an artist-weaver-designer. She teaches weaving at a tertiary and at community level. She uses a countermarch treadle loom, a computer dobby loom and a computer-operated TC2 Jacquard loom.
Monique describes herself as a ‘weaving omnivore’. She weaves to create conceptual work for exhibition, but also loves the challenge of answering commission briefs and creating practical items. Her conceptual work focuses on the environment and our human existence within it.


  1. What got you hooked onto weaving? How far are you both as a person and as an artist – if at all – from where your journey as a weaver began a few decades ago?

In the second world war my grandmother had a spinning wheel made because there was no knitting wool available. The wheel moved into our family and when I left home I had it repaired and learned to spin. Not long after I progressed to weaving. I found out my mother learned to weave when she was pregnant with her 8th child, which was me! Where did she find the time…!? Committed, I bought a floor loom with borrowed money and I still use it. In 1982, I moved to Australia where I graduated with a BA (Vis) Textiles in 1988, and in 2004, I completed an M(Phil) with research into “Shrouds as a Contemporary Textile Art Phenomenon” at the Australian National University. I have been weaving for more than 40 years but feel there is so much I wish to learn!

2. Are there any themes or techniques that seem to characterise your works? What kind of an experience do you want a viewer to walk away with?

I describe myself as a ‘weaving omnivore’. I’m curious to find out how something works. I like to try all kinds of weaving techniques and will use them if they fit the bill. Besides exhibition work I have woven floor rugs, upholstery, blankets, shawls, table runners, clothing fabric, curtains and scarves. I see the scarves as weaving exercises in colour/structure. I sell them through galleries.

My conceptual work focusses on the environment and our human existence within it. I hope my conceptual works make the viewers think about the issues they raise while, at the same time, being enjoyable and beautiful in their own way.

3. Your work has included community art – what led you into getting involved in it? Could you tell us a bit about your creations as a part of community art?

In the 70s, in the Netherlands, I trained as a community development worker with a focus on creativity. After I finished my art training at the Australian National University, I worked as an artist in the community. I facilitated projects which enabled people to express themselves. Sometimes projects were initiated to bring diverse people together, other times to make an art work for a community facility such as a hospital, a library or a hostel. Sometimes art works were of a temporary nature – for instance as part of a community festival. Some projects required working with individuals, such as children with cancer in hospital or people who received palliative care at home or hospice. In those cases the art works remained in the personal sphere and were not exhibited.

4. Which have been two of your most fulfilling and two of your most challenging works so far? Do you have any reflections from your experiences?

Most fulfilling has been to exhibit my work in several Australian textile art overview exhibitions (Tamworth Contemporary Textiles Biennial 1988/2004 – Triennial 2014), and to represent Australia in 2016 at Lodz International Contemporary Textiles Triennial. Exhibitions enabling me to show a body of work, have been very important to me.

Picture titles in order of appearance: Time and Eternity from Tamworth Contemporary Textiles Biennial, Ocean Scape, Fabric Detail of  Ocean Scape, Contra Naturam, Fabric Detail of Contra Naturam

Solo exhibition: “simply cloth” 2007

The work in this exhibition seeks to celebrate simple cloths, their relationship to the human body, their use and the meaning in the stories they tell. Ordinary woven cloth is disappearing and being replaced by non-woven alternatives, often thrown out after a single use. Many of the works were created by unraveling the original cloth and re-weaving the threads in a new format. Viewers responded with memories and stories the work evoked.

Picture titles in order of appearance: Simply Cloth exhibition, Gather Around, Fabric Detail of Comfort.

Solo exhibition: “Ocean Forest” 2015

The work in this exhibition looks at the beauty of ocean flora, and deals with environmental concerns for the health of our oceans. Many of the world’s oceans are suffering deforestation of the sea floor. Drag net fishing, shore developments, plastic waste (‘ocean monsters’), as well as chemical pollution, threaten our majestic ocean forests. The exhibition included a collaborative project with composer Madeleine Cocolas. She created sound vignettes, evoking ocean waves, composed from sound snippets of weaving and plastic materials.

Picture titles in order of appearance: Ocean Forest Exhibition overview, Flora Folio-Plates

The most challenging so far has been to weave cloth for several costumes and the filming set in the movie “Gods of Egypt” (2014). I had quite a bit of input but also had to interpret the costume and set designers’ concepts and make them happen. They provided me with drawings/designs that I needed to turn into weaving.  The different types and volume of cloth needed, as well as meeting colour/design/costume fit requirements and the very tight deadlines, were scary! Unfortunately I don’t have any documentation of the resulting garments/set apart from them appearing in the film. Once you send the work off, it is in the costume designers hands and no longer yours…!

Picture titles in order of appearance: Ra Cloak (Jeffrey Rush) screenshot in Gods of Egypt 2014, Fabric Detail Ra Cloak, Design for RA golden tunic Gods of Egypt 2014, Fabric Detail Ra golden tunic, Fabric Detail Bek Shawl.

Another very challenging commission (2013), was to create a small weaving (20x4cm) using Bee Silk monofilament for researchers at the Australian national research institute: CSIRO. The ‘yarn’ they provided was hardly visible and had very little stretch. It had taken 4 years of research to create just 2 grams of yarn. The responsibility was nerve wracking and it seemed like I was weaving the emperor’s clothes in the fairy tale. My heart stood still when warp threads started to break just before I reached the 20cm… But the researchers were really pleased. Since then the samples have been kept and shown at conferences.

5. As a teacher of weaving, where do you aspire for your students to be at the end of their academic term?

Semester courses seem to get shorter every year which makes it hard to teach as complex a skill as weaving. I like students to come away with an understanding of the amazing 3D qualities and the many possibilities and applications of woven cloth/structures. I encourage experimentation with texture and non-textile materials of all sorts and like to emphasise how these can convey meaning. I hope to instill in students the freedom to trial things, and the realisation that there are many approaches to weaving. Each course I teach includes a design/concept challenge which can be widely interpreted. Often students come from other art disciplines and I encourage them to consider incorporating some notion of ‘weaving’ in their art or craft.

6. How has the TC2 loom affected the manner in which you create art?

I have always had an urge to include imagery in my work. This meant that for a time I focused a little more on printing and combining print with weaving, and later I used a Draw Loom to create woven ‘drawings’. From 2000 I attended several Jacquard design classes with Louise Lemieux-Berube and did a residency in Montreal to produce work for my M(Phil) studies. The Jacquard loom has made it possible for me to indulge in imagery and weave at the same time, allowing materials to speak! The TC2 loom gives me a lot of freedom. Using Photoshop to translate designs into weaves works a treat, and I love the ability to change warps and the sett according to what I need. But there is so much more to understand and learn, I look forward to that!

Picture titles in order of appearance: Skin Cloth- Tree of Life, Henriettas cupboard Cato’s linen, Everyone Everywhere