Dutch designer Jeannet Leendertse creates ammonite cowls, using local alpaca yarn from Dutch farmer Karen Borgstein
Dutch designer Jeannet Leendertse and Dutch farmer Karen Borgstein both live and work in Medfield, Massachusetts, and collaborate to make ammonite cowls, both an accessory and a sculptural object, for Jeannet’s brand ‘mooizeg‘. This December, the ammonite cowl will be on the cover of ‘Fiber Art Now’ Magazine, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about these two Dutch women and their work.
Jeannet is a graphic designer with a background in book design and the founder of mooizeg. Her accessories have been featured in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts gift collection, and can be found at the Society of Arts and Crafts, Artful Home, and a variety of small boutiques. They were also selected for the Shop at TextielMuseum in the Netherlands.
Jeannet and Karen met because their children play in the High School jazz band together. Jeannet was the designer for the band’s website and posters, but Karen only found out she was also a fiber artist , when Jeannet approached her to ask about alpaca fiber. Karen moved to the area in 2006 and started keeping animals in 2011. Since then her farm has grown to 18 alpacas, two horses, and an emu. She sells alpacas, products, yarn, and roving made from alpaca fiber in her webshop. Karen has always been an animal lover, dreaming of owning her own horse one day. This became reality in 2004, but there was still a lot of space left on their farm. She first saw alpacas in Vermont and fell in love with their curious and friendly disposition. They started with three alpacas, and through breeding, rescuing and buying, they now have 18. Alpaca farming takes a unique approach and Karen continues to learn about their care every day.
Jeannet is one of Karen’s best customers and the only artist she works with up to this moment. Karen only sells Jeannet the highest quality fiber, which is also the softest, to wear around the neck. Karen is very proud to see her fiber being used in such a high-quality product. The fact that Jeannet is also Dutch, makes it even more special. It gives them a connection in which they are aiming for the best for the two of them. In the future, Karen would like to collaborate with artists more often to create products she could sell in her farm store. “Alpaca fiber has so much to offer, it would be great to be able to show people the endless possibilities.” She is also open towards exporting her products to the Netherlands. Learn more about Karen’s farm here.
Mooi zeg! was one of the first Dutch expressions that Jeannet’s American husband, picked up. He’d laugh and say that these Dutch ‘vowel sandwiches’ as he calls them, are just impossible! As a graphic designer, Jeannet also liked the look of the word mooizeg. “There is something very satisfying about those two circular o’s, cozily between the vertical lines of the ‘m’ and the ‘i’.” After being a successful book designer for years, she returned to her passion for crafting fabric she had discovered as a child.
The first scarves she designed were printed and typographic. They each feature a word, printed on translucent silk, which is only legible when the scarf is folded. Unfolded, the word deconstructs into an abstract pattern. Several of them were chosen to be on prominent display at The Museum of Fine Arts‘ gift shop in Boston. Jeannet’s interest in repetitive lines led her to pleating. She discovered the Japanese arashi shibori pleating technique and explored this further, trying it out on felt, making pleated cowls. The Museum of Fine Arts chose several for their shop to coincide with the exhibition ‘Class Distinctions: Dutch painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer’. Looking for the perfect fabric, Jeannet discovered that alpaca fiber is incredibly soft and light. The new cowls were chosen by the Society of Arts and Crafts to be in their shop and can be found at her website, Artful Home, and at a variety of small boutiques. They were also recognized by the Excellence in Fibers competition, by Fiber Art Now, resulting in being on the cover of December’s issue. The Ammonite Cowls will be featured in the upcoming exhibition at the New Bedford Art Museum. In the Netherlands, the cowls are available in the TextielMuseum Tilburg‘s shop.
Jeannet is inspired by her Dutch heritage. She feels connected to its vibrant and experimental design culture. Jeannet likes minimalism, finding the simplest solution usually the most pleasing. Visually, her cowls are inspired by the ruff worn in the Dutch Golden Age and by the seashells of the North Atlantic Coasts that connect her New England home to her Dutch roots. Jeannet enjoys how she and Karen are both methodical in their line of work and how Karen is open to her experimental approach: “Business communication is easy in Dutch while we sit down for a cup of coffee with a ‘speculaasje’.”
Jeannet hopes over time to manage the production of her scarves through other expert crafters, in order to create more time to focus on product development. She has fallen in love with both silk and alpaca as materials to work with, and is curious to find out where further experimentation with these fibers will take her.