Handiedan is the artistic moniker of Hanneke Treffers. Born, bred and currently based in The Netherlands, she works with mixed media, creating startlingly intricate collages from materials as diverse as old coins, classic-era pin ups, playing cards, sheet music and vintage stamps. Her art has been exhibited all over the world, including the Musée La Halle Saint Pierre in Paris and Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, and of course is exhibited throughout this issue of Now Then. A pleasure indeed.

What got you started as an artist?

My grandfather worked as a shoe designer in The Netherlands and Paris. At the age of five till eight I spent a lot of time in his workshop – he behind his desk making handmade wooden model ships and me sitting on the ground painting, drawing and wondering about the finest details and the patience my grandpa works with. I liked this so much and felt I wanted to do it too. In the meantime my older cousin went to art school, so he was also a big inspiration for me.

At the age of 17 I went to the St Joost Academy of Art and Design in Breda and developed my skills and passion for drawing, photography and creating with the computer. After art school I started working as a designer for different companies, but after a couple of years I wanted to start something for myself. I started creating freehand work in the afterhours and after a couple of years it developed into the collage pin-art I became known for.

What is your working process when creating a new collage?

Before I start designing I usually only know the atmosphere the artwork must have. It’s a process that builds up to the point where I can sketch the positions of my characters. I also sometimes pick a fictive subject as a starting point, but I don’t know exactly how it will look.

I create the pin-ups by mixing and matching the different anatomical features from other vintage pin-ups to create a unique character. The characters vary from real life to fantasy when it comes to their anatomical features or bodily positions. I then use the computer, which gives me the opportunity to experiment with all the different features and ornaments I have collected. Once all the collected stuff is placed together for the basic design, I then start cutting and layering the collage.

Where do you get your source materials from?

I always keep my eyes and ears open for new materials for my collage work. I also gather the vintage stuff on the street, in old buildings and old boxes in the attic, at flea markets, browsing the internet and while travelling. People even send me old money to use in my pieces, which is great. In my art you also find Chinese post papers or papers from cook books, all kind of stamps, old fabrics from old chests, rusty nails, cigar bands, my grandma’s old bridge book, playing cards, dried flowers, Spanish fans and of course the vintage pin-up ladies and old movie posters. The most unusual elements I have used are my visa from my old passport and a cigarillo bands collection.

What tool do you use regularly and which could you not live without?

My film negative Fiskars scissors from Finland. They’ve been travelling with me since art school. I do everything concerning collage with my beloved red scissors. I once lost them and almost had several bodily failures.

How much of your work is enhanced digitally? Do you use a computer just to ‘touch up’ images, or do you add or combine elements digitally as well?

The computer gives me the opportunity to play around and experiment with all the different ornaments before I put them in place. I first set out the texture I am going to work on. By playing around with different body parts I create the main character or centre piece. Generally, once I get done with the main piece I start putting things around it to see what elements work well with each other. When they find their place I leave them there and start adding new ornaments and finish it with digital doodling. When the digital design is done I have the basis for my originals. I rip the design apart, delete a lot of elements but keep the main parts to use them as the basis for printing on wood, zinc and collages on paper. I then add small differences and extras with the gathered old materials, and start on the original collage.

Much of your work is quite sexual in a classic, burlesque way. Are you trying to make a statement or are these purely aesthetic choices? Some of it could be described as ‘erotic’ but I wouldn’t call it ‘erotica’.

When people interview me, one of the most frequent questions is, ‘What does your work mean?’ I find that a hard question to answer for multiple reasons. I try to create pieces which allow the viewer to interact with their own thoughts, interpretations and imagination. I would love for the viewer to search within themselves for their own message of what my work means to them. Some people get highly emotional about my work because of what they see in it. Who am I to deny them that very feeling or experience by telling them what I think it should mean? Some people say it is feminist or gay art, some call it retro erotica, but in the end everyone makes up their own mind and that is the way I intend it. For me, my work is purely aesthetic.

How has your art developed over the years?

I can truly say that since 2007 my work has become more complex. It has evolved in image, depth and layering. I’m constantly seeking more definition, literally and figuratively. I use more historical, current and future elements, all entwined in my work. You could almost call it time travelling through my own developments and interests.

What do you dislike in art?

Art sparks a lot of interaction and interpretations. To truly understand and feel the art I believe that one must open up to the possibilities of what art can bring – whether you understand it or not, positive or negative. When I look at art I don’t have to like it. It doesn’t have to be what I find beautiful or inspiring. Why should I then have an opinion about it? I wish everyone could enjoy art with all it has to bring without wanting to have an opinion.

What are you working on at the moment? Any upcoming exhibitions?

A large museum group show called Hey Modern Art & Pop Culture at Musée La Halle Saint Pierre in Paris. It opened January 24th and will be running till August 23rd. I am very pleased and excited to be showing here with four new pieces. This is the first time showing my collages in Paris.

Right at this very moment I’m letting the creative juices flow while making some collage art pieces for my solo show Elegant Universe at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, which opens on 6th April 2013. I’m hopeful there might also be a new mural project during my stay in LA. More details to follow on my website.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

Stay true to yourself. Stay original and keep listening. Listen to advice asked and given, but don’t lose track of your own goals and aspirations.

handiedan.com

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Interview by Sam Walby.