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Katrien Perquy’s studio, Atelier Ailim, on the outskirts of Bruges is the perfect place to spend a few hours getting creative and practicing mindfulness. Follow one of her workshops, or commission a piece of art.

Who is Katrien?

Katrien Perquy is a textile artist from Bruges who studied art and textile design. She went on to teach at her former university in Ghent and make costumes for the theatre. Following a life-changing event, she slowed down her life and concentrated on her art. A common thread throughout her work is her connection with nature which she channels into the materials she chooses, the way she works, and the pieces she produces.

What materials does she work with?

Katrien works with natural materials: wool, silk, linen, and colours them using natural plant-based dyes.

Her main medium is wool which she works into felt. In the 90s, Katrien had her own sheep but the whole process, from breeding the sheep to getting wool for her own usage, was expensive and it was very difficult to get the impurities out of the wool. She decided to focus solely on her art by buying pre-washed wool. She does all of the next steps herself in the artisanal process.

Katrien’s plant-based dyes are generally from plants she grows in her own garden, or plants she finds on walks. Her garden is a fascinating crash-course into the diverse range of natural dyes and colours you can get from the leaves, roots and seeds of plants. Katrien opts to work with natural dyes that are lightfast (i.e. resistant to sunlight) so the bright colours won’t fade over time. For example, turmeric and dyer’s chamomile can both be used to dye fabrics yellow BUT the turmeric dyed fabric will fade whereas the dyer’s chamomile fabric will endure. Find out loads of other fun facts at one of her workshops!

How does she create?

Katrien is an independent craftswoman, awarded the Handmade in Bruges label, and is a true expert in the art of felting. Felting is one of the oldest techniques used for wool - all you need is water, soap, wool, and the warmth from your hands. The wool has to be combed first and then Katrien uses a mat gifted to her in Kyrgyzstan to turn the wool into felt: the wool fibres are laid out across the mat, the warm water serves to open up the fibres, and then the mat is rolled up to crush the fibres together.

Katrien is a highly skilled modern lace maker which she combines with her felt in some of her artworks such as “from red to blue”. She also practices the art of eco printing which involves placing leaves on a garment then rolling the garment up and steaming it for a couple of hours. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with plants!

How is her work sustainable?

Katrien feels deeply connected to nature and does not wish to harm it through her practices. This is one of the big reasons she opts for plant-based dyes instead of synthetic ones. Synthetic dyes (yup, the ones that are used to mass-produce our clothes...) pollute water and are also extremely toxic and harmful to those working with the dyes.

Katrien’s model of work is also circular as she only works with natural textiles that are animal- or plant-based but never synthetic like polyester. This means all of her work is biodegradable and recyclable.

How can I get involved?

The best part is you can easily get involved! Katrien runs all kinds of plant-based colouring and felting workshops from her studio. Whether you’re looking for something fun to do with friends, for an office team-building event, or for a children’s birthday party, make sure you get in touch with Katrien and she’ll be able to tailor a package to your needs. Or you can join a pre-existing workshop which you can find here.

It really is the perfect place to create and learn. It’s hugely important to Katrien, as a former teacher, to teach her craft and artistry and pass on her knowledge of traditional artisanal techniques to the younger generations.

Where to buy Katrien Perquy?