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Saar Snoek: Felted Fantasies pushing the boundaries of Wearable Art

Saar Snoek is a sculptor and painter hailing from the Netherlands. Fascinated by science, biology and patterns in the natural world, Saar infuses her experimental wearable sculptures with these multiple influences. A self-confessed thinker, her processes curiously shift when she is designing: “I am a thinker, but when I work, I trust on primal instincts and I think with my hands. In my felted works I aim to transfer life energy into my pieces.”

No stranger to the annual World of Wearable Art (WOW) competition, Saar has enjoyed seeing many of her pieces spotlight on the stage in Wellington, New Zealand. World of WearableArt interviewed Saar to learn more about her practice – read more below.

Interview with Saar Snoek

Saar-Snoek-Human-Nature
Human Nature (2017 World of Wearableart Show)

What drew you to first enter a garment into World of WearableArt competition?

In 2015 I discovered felt making and did a workshop with Marjolein Dallinga, a brilliant felt maker. She made felt garments for Cirque du Soleil and multiple WOW entries and said: “You should enter, it’s fun!” Funny advice to someone with hardly any felting experience, but at the same time, very good advice. She told me I looked happy while working with wool – and I was.

That workshop was a creative jump-starter in felt making for me. I always associated felt with ugly shapeless flappy hippie dresses and crafty egg cosies and never realized wool is a rich medium with unique possibilities.

Felt is perfect for organic sculpture. I made a lot of small samples that I stitched together, that was my first and award-winning 2017 entry in WOW, Human Nature, a felted wearable coral reef.

What was it like seeing your garment on the WOW stage?

Weird and wonderful. Having a cool idea is one thing, but executing a life-size garment in wet felting technique is another. My garments for WOW are one off prototypes, during execution there is always an inevitable low point – this was a bad idea, it is impossible to make, let’s burn the thing – that I have to get past. Through experience I recognize this low point and bite the bullet.

After the “Eureka!” epiphany that solves all problems, I completely forget the struggle and indulge in the fun taking the garment out of the studio, finding the right model, shooting pics, boxing it up and shipping it. It is a miracle that it is suddenly on the other side of the globe doing its own thing.

Saar-Snoek-Wild-Things
Wild Things (2022 World of Wearableart Show). Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

My 2022 entry Wild Things worked so well on stage, shaking the spikes, and following the movement of the body. It is exciting to transform a bag of white wool into a stage piece that will be seen live by over 60,000 people who are out of their minds with enthusiasm for the show. Personally, I would love to see more diversity in the selection of models. A perfect match between model and garment can make a big difference in visual impact.

As a sculptor, painter and felt maker – how do these disciplines inspire your wearable art creations?

I do not really see a point in distinguishing the disciplines, I use what I need in my process. Felt is perfect for wearable sculpture, it is soft, relatively light compared to other sculpting media, it moves with the body and can be sculpted a bit similar like clay.  I dye my own materials because I live in the middle of nowhere. I buy bulk white wool and dye it in the colors I need, otherwise I would not get anything done waiting for each different color to arrive by mail. Another benefit of dyeing is that I am not dependent on the commercial palette.

Being educated and still working as a painter influences my use of colour. I can build up layers of wool in color, similar to underpainting. I use the same formal trouble shooting strategies with wearables as in painting: I tweak shape, texture, colour, and composition until I am where I want to be. Felt is a medium in which I can both paint and sculpt at the same time.

Saar-Snoek-Werewere-Kokako-AotearoBra
Werewere Kokako AotearoBra. (2023 World of Wearableart Show). Photo credit: Andi Crown.
Saar-Snoek-Werewere-Kokako-AotearoBra
Werewere Kokako AotearoBra (2023 World of Wearableart Show). Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

Where did your passion for science and the natural world come from?

My parents met in the faculty of architecture, so there is probably some Beta Science hardwiring in my brain. My grandmother, a weird and wonderful herb lady, taught me the names of plants and about the beauty of noticing. She made me part of her love of the magic of the natural world and all living things. She taught me that there is a big difference between a salad with or without edible flowers in it.

The result of all this is that I turned into a person who is mesmerized by the Fibonacci sequence in flowers and pine cones. I am inspired by different manifestations of the same mathematical patterns that appear everywhere in nature. Maybe that is why felt is an attractive medium for me: it is the only material that I know that combines linear, spherical, and hyperbolic math in one process.

I start with a flat template, lay the wool around it, felt it together with water, soap, and friction to form a hollow shape. When it starts to shrink, I can pleat it and stretch it. My felt shrinks at least 60% while taking its final shape. My design process is a chaotic mix between mind bending rationality and intuitive calculation.

What is your ‘secret weapon’ when it comes to your design process?

The whole process is a mix of practice, skill, discipline, analysis, curiosity, intuition, trial, and error and so on, all equally important but if I should choose the one ‘secret weapon’: my dogs. When working in my studio I start really early and, in the afternoon, we take long walks in the forest. My dogs are very talented in just being in the moment, enjoying their senses, they show very little signs of artistic self-doubt. On these walks I become a sort of a dog myself, in a positive way. I need walks to distance myself from my work, walking itself clears my mind and sharpens my senses and while I am not thinking at all I get the brightest ideas. The “Eureka!” epiphany moments always pop up while walking with my dogs.

What are you working on now?

Exclusive couture hats are currently my main focus. Two years ago, I took lessons in Couture Millinery and got completely addicted to the process. The combination of traditional millinery techniques with my own innovative felting is sensational. There is a whole new world to discover. My felting skills are at the level that I can make what I want. Hats are a perfect three-dimensional space to push the boundaries of the medium. A good hat has to fit, it should be light on the head and is well balanced; it is like architecture.

Saar-Snoek-hatty-headshot

This spring, I won the prestigious Prix de Savoir Faire of Atelier Musee de Chapeau in France with a simple, yet rich textured felted faux dinosaur leather bucket hat. I am so happy with this award, the competition theme was Renewal, that is exactly what I am doing right now, innovating within tradition. Savoir Faire is French for knowing what you are doing! In the fall I won second in the British Hatalk competition. This hat thing got off to a flying start so far, with recognition from the professional field and making wonderful perfectly finished crazy hats on commission.

What is your advice for anyone thinking of entering WOW for the first time?

The same as I got: “You should enter, it is fun!”

Being more comprehensive: the arena is huge, think about stage presence. There will be lighting, think about the visual impact of light on a moving garment. There will be a choreography, think about the moving body in your garment. The technical skill level of selected entries is overall very high, inside, and out, the garment needs to be well made and comfortable, as in not hurting and safe for the model. Go all the way. Make a mind-blowing piece and show it in this world-class theatrical extravaganza. Good luck!

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Common Ground. (World of WearableArt 2018 show). Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

World of WearableArt Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

Saar Snoek Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram

About Author

Based in the UK, Natalia Joruk enjoys a life surrounded by art, nature, and curious trinkets. As Deputy Editor, she's worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief for over a decade, supporting with the design and growth of Beautiful Bizarre and the maintenance of the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Natalia also oversees sponsor partnerships for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and distribution of the magazine, so drop her an email if you know someone who would like to sponsor or stock! She also writes for both the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine website and print publication. One of her favourite perks is getting to know artists, gallery owners and their teams personally, so feel free to email her if there is anything she can help you with – or just to connect.

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