Hurtling through the Dutch countryside on a particularly grey Monday morning and travelling in a north-easterly direction away from Groningen, Kim and I headed for the little village of Ee (pronounced ae) to interview our next artist, Leona Leppers.
Both not having an awfully good sense of direction, even with the electronic route finder chatting merrily away on the dash board to itself, we wondered if this time we hadn’t gone a little far in pursuit of an article. But perseverance pays off and as we rounded the corner we were pleasantly surprised when we saw the house. A jewel on the landscape, this little house could almost come out of a fairy tale book with its garden filled with colourful objects, candles, mosaic slabs and streamers fluttering in the wind.
Leona opened the door with a welcoming smile, clothed and be-jewelled from head to toe in her amazing Technicolor creations and invited us in for coffee. Inside, the house comprises of two main rooms with an adjoining kitchen and Leona’s work can be seen from floor to ceiling in every nook and cranny. Just when you think you have seen it all, you discover another creation.
Creative from an early age and having previously worked as a drama therapist the dramatic change in her life came when her contract wasn’t renewed and she decided to look for something else. She was asked to take part in a fashion show entitled ‘Regal & Kitsch’ where for the finale she created a queen’s costume using the materials, which have now become her trademark style. Later she continued by making bags on request, which in turn has led to soft jewellery, interior objects and workshops for women interested in learning how to make her colourful designs.
The colours she uses are bright and the materials sumptuous, fluffy and velvety making you want to touch them and pick them up. Her designs are decorated with beads, unusual bits and bobs, shells, felt, in fact anything she can lay her hands on to decorate. All this she finds at markets and in curiosa shops, saying she has a nose for finding what she wants. This makes her work always refreshingly original. Influences in her designs come from music, and from travel books on India and Africa as well as religious icons taken from Christianity and Buddhism.
Leona doesn't live in the house any more; she lives a stones throw away over a little bridge in a larger house. There just isn’t enough room for her family any more, comprising of two sons (aged 9 and 12) and her partner. The little house is used as a gallery and studio for her work. She also has the intention of starting up a Bed & Breakfast in it for those wishing to escape the pressures of city life.
The house is also very symbolic of her life and personal growth over the years. Having first found the house when it was more or less condemned, with a mud floor, straw walls and no electricity or running water, Leona has breathed life into it and lovingly restored it to its present state. She has made it hers and filled it with a riot of colour and life, it is a haven where she can be herself without the need to explain herself in any way.
Should you be interested to see more of in Leona’s work or contact her, see her colourful website at: Leona Design