With great pride I can say I was part of Gallery Help U Zelven. Fifteen years ago Carla Aalberts consulted me on opening a gallery. She was close to 60 and I was the first exhibitor she contacted. In the years to come it was the place to go to for leading contemporary design and art, mixed media and textiles, ceramics, glass and jewelry. This story is a tribute to Carla and gives you a peek into her life and her last jubilee exhibition. It also shows you the way she integrated my work in both.
Here a picture of the dining table where we had many a meal. One of my first designs was LIFE IS PERFECT, a linen tablecloth with integrated potholders in three varieties. The TextielMuseum acquired one for their collection at the same time Carla bought two different ones for personal use. The aardappels-vlees-en-groente version for a typical Dutch meal with potatoes, meat and veggies and one for the burgundian life. It brought us together in many ways… After I created LIFE IS NICE for everyday use Carla added two pink potholder placemats to her collection.
Carla and Helène’s house is a wonderful mix of past and present and the kitchen combines all of it. You hardly see the transition from old to new, from art to article of everyday use. See how a piece of my BE BRILLIANT Collection blends in.
The living room is also the domain of the dogs. They try to occupy the two custom made LIFE IS A RIVER pillows that provide extra sitting space for the grandchildren but they have to settle for the chairs instead…
The livingroom is filled with a variety of art and design objects and it would take too much to mention the names of all the makers. I do like to point out the enchanting work of Pauline Wiertz, one of Hollands leading ceramists, that is hanging above the fireplace.
Before LIFE IS GREAT there was LIFE IS GOOD, a fire-and-grill table with a colored frame and Dutch concrete pavement tiles. Carla was one of the first to own one and I coated the frame in the color of the house, a classic blue. It might look a bit grim on this image, but it is the middle of Dutch winter. Also she finds pleasure in the table top having turned into a living landscape.
Carla was the one who put me on the track of using the fire element for cooking. Many a soup was served by simply placing a pan on top of the grill until it was ready. The garden has developed since and many custom made art objects were added like the beautiful bronze statues of Babette Degraeve and a wall fountain by Bastiaan Meijer.
A special gallery requires a special entrance. Go up the stairs and you will find two exhibition floors. As you can see the opening attracted quite a crowd. Many of the artists were present and most of them have become friends over the years. In this area there is glass jewelry by Marga Staartjes on display in the big cupboard and if you look closely you can see a beautiful piece of glass work by Carina Riezebos on the right. The chimney is adorned with delicate work by Rietje Zuijderwijk, a combination of pictures and crocheted metal thread. The little boxes made by Ria Penthum are next to ceramic hanging objects by Joke Scholte and fascinating animal shapes created with string by Christl Rijkeboer.
There is much more to see like the touching little big pig by Marco Overkamp, ceramic jewelry by Judith Bloedjes and intricate objects made of raw goatskin by Auk Rushen, but there is nothing like the ‘aflaatmachine’ by Rietje Zuijderwijk. Carla spoke fondly of the find of this ex stocking selling machine and how it was turned into a redemption instrument with 200 handmade art objects in it. If you put a coin in it it will give you something in return. As you can see the first one made Carla very happy!
Carla symbolically selected work of 15 artists she has a special attachment to and instead of a more a colorful mix she went for a subdued one this last time. The result is like something you won’t ever see anywhere else. See the humoristic hare made of bronze by Babette Degraeve and the necklace made by Martje Verhoeven. She also created the objects on the floor made of wax. And imagine all the work Cecile Kemperink put into her woven ceramic objects. Together with the stitched images by Pauline Nijenhuis and the mixed media objects of Astrid Polman it is an impressive arrangement alltogether.
An absolute extra is the Treasure Chamber with all the work Carla has collected over the years. Here you will find work of new talent she scouted at the graduation shows of every art and design academy, some emerging quickly like Klaas Kuiken. One of my favorites are the organic looking silicone lamps by Jürgen Reichert. The gallery has represented 319 artists and Carla has worked closely with many renowned colleagues. There are multiples, one-offs and special editions only to be found here. A true treasure chamber indeed!
In the back room of the middle floor is a secluded space with a selection of my collections that represent our connection over the years. And after this exhibition the little LIFE IS LOVELY table will also wind up in the garden of Carla and Helène and turn into a private table for two.
A lot of credit goes to Helène too who suported the gallery in so many ways, together with many a friend and family. And to photographer Keri Stoelinga for taking the pictures at home. And if you want to follow what Carla is still stirring up in the art world go visit her on Facebook!