Judith de Vries is known for her designs of dried flowers and plants, a rare craft that present nature’s beauty at it’s finest. When we enter her home, we immediately get the feeling of a creative family household. Paintings of her children (made by her husband who is a fine art painter) and several photographs of sunny holidays in the past, give the space a very comfortable vibe. The several African statues and a Buddhist image that fill the lively living room, only add to that sense of “being at home”.
After a cup of coffee, we’re directed upwards. With the smell of fresh laundry hanging out to dry, we climb up the stairs. Here we enter Judith’s workspace, by her affectionately called her “lab”. In here all her collages, plants and garlands hang out to dry. A special place, where Judith arranges her “mini-gardens” and uses big telephone books to dry her collected flowers.
Judith, how does one become an artist in plants?
When you walk past a wasteland, you probably see nothing. Maybe some dead plants and mud, but that’s it. When I walk past, I see beauty. I sometimes see myself as a beachcomber in the woods, because there’s so much to see when you look closer. That’s why I’ve always loved to work with plants, from beautiful roses to ordinary onion flowers.
Has this passion been there since an early age?
Definitely. We’ve always had a family house in Garderen at de Veluwe. A lovely little cottage surrounded by nature. As a teenager I found it very boring of course, but it has become my second home now. My children love it, and it’s the place where my passion grew for flora and fauna.
In the first class of high school I was already working on making my own herbarium. Sticking plants in notebooks and letting them dry, just to see what would happen. Later on this passion has grown out to be much more. I see artists working with dried flowers more and more now, it’s becoming quite the trend.
Could you explain a bit more about your workspace, your “lab”?
Haha, yes, my lab. Here you can see all the plants laying and hanging out to dry. At the moment you can find peonies, hydrangeas, ferns, hogweed and cones; every season has it’s own beautiful plants. The winters are mainly used for drying the plants that I find in the summer, because it’s hard to find useable plants in the cold. It would be very strange to sell fresh tulips in December; I want to stay true to the season that we live in.
Some plants need a short period of drying, about two weeks, others need more than 1,5 month. You have to be very careful when it comes to the drying process, because plants that are still a bit moist will definitely grow mouldy. Logistically, it would be nice to have a bit more workspace than I have at the moment. Especially my flower garlands need quite some room. It would be a nice next step to find a larger workspace.
What is the general reaction to your craft?
It’s quite a special trade to be in. You must remember that drying the flowers is not the only aspect of the job. I work in various gardens as a gardener, construct them and do their maintenance. I take care of plants from spring to autumn. So drying and arranging is really the final step in the process.
I do get some strange looks, when people see me getting of my bike to gather a certain wild plant at the side of De Piet Heintunnel, haha. But I never feel any sense of embarrassment when it comes to that. I do what I love and I do it with pride.
Isn’t it difficult for people to order your “product”?
All the products are different. You can give certain preferences. Not too white, a little bit of this, not too much of that. In the end people think it’s not that hard to do. You get some dead plants and hang them out to dry right? But it takes a lot of patience, care and love to get the desired result. When I see someone selling a similar product as I do, I sometimes think: “Why didn’t you put a nice little frame around your work? Or let your plants dry a bit longer”. It takes more technique than you would think at first glance.
You are responsible for the flower decoration at Hutspot. How did that develop itself?
My son David (van der Leeuw, one half of Beesmunt Soundsystem, red.) is the boyfriend of Sarah, who works at Hutspot. When she saw my work, she immediately loved it and one thing led to another. I am very proud to be responsible for the flower decorations for both Hutspot stores, and that at the recent Kinfolk dinner at Hutspot, my garlands gave the whole scene a very “fairy-tale” vibe.
At my blog I get very enthusiastic reactions to my work. I can’t wait for spring to come, and work with the flowers and plants that 2015 has to offer. But first, let’s get through the cold and misty winter with a smile.
You can find Judith’s beautiful work at both our stores, and from the 15th of December untill the end of january we will host her second exhibition at Hutspot Van Woustraat.
Published: Dec. ’14 on Hutspot.com
Text: Samuel Taselaar
Photography: Sarah van Rij