Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Women of Clay - Hilda van Popta

Flying through the streets on my Vespa, destination Paddepoel, for my next artist interview in Northwest Groningen. I arrive outside an ex-office building from the 1970’s, which whilst waiting for new tenants and in the care of anti-squat company named AdHoc (, it is filled with a number of small businesses. Number eight on the eighth floor are my directions, as I gingerly step into a rather antiquated and scary looking lift, which reluctantly shudders and shakes me up to the eighth floor.

Each level of the building is built around a central lift house, the rooms of which are large and spacious. Hilde van Popta, favourite colour pink, greets me; she loves bright colours, and has a smile to match. She shows me around the different rooms: one where she conducts regular workshops, (filled with partially finished female figures on tables and ledges), another that exhibits examples of her finished works, followed by a large room, which is the photographic studio of her sister, (a photographer and visagist). The rooms are filled with images and trinkets, masks, beads, clothes and scarves; a feast for the eyes, but what makes me smile is a bright pink, feather-covered Barbie-esque 1960’s telephone, pontifically placed on what must have been the reception desk in days gone by, and, it actually works!

Over a cup of coffee, I find out that Hilde is a trained nurse and presently still works in the health sector (in an administrative capacity). With no formal art training she dabbled in acrylic painting as a hobby, but it was a six month clay-modeling course that became the turning point, and her women in clay figures emerged. Her figures then developed further as although she found them interesting in shape they lacked something. Out came the acrylic paints, and she proceeded to paint them in bright colours to “pimp up the images” as well as decorating them with fabrics and other miscellaneous objects.


I ask her about her colour use, to which she says that she loves bright colours; the colours pink, red, black and white feature regularly in her work. Also, she uses acrylics because one knows what the outcome will be, unlike glazes, which are generally a surprise until they leave the kiln. However, she would be interested in experimenting with the latter in the future, as she believes that it is important to continue to develop oneself as an artist.

Subject-wise she chooses women, due to the fact that women in their diversity are a great source of inspiration, and also her clientele often recognize themselves in her work. There is no deep and meaningful message behind her figures, with a lot of them coming into existence quite intuitively, often making her laugh.

I ask her if finance was no object, whether there is an artistic project she would like to realize in the future. Quick as a flash she tells me of an old empty factory she drives past everyday, by the side of the motorway. She would like to buy something similar, do it up, and convert it into an enormous artists’ market. With her as the owner, it would be a hive of artistic creation: with artists at work, little individual shops, workshops and music would pervade the air. 

If you would like to become the proud owner of one of Hilde’s ‘Women of Clay,’ why not take this opportunity and use the 10% discount voucher on this page? The offer runs from 01 January 2011–30 June 2011.

Alternatively, if you would like to take part in one of Hilde’s workshops you can contact her via: / 06-21955117

To view her work: Vrouwen van Klei

© Alison Day
First published in the 
Connections magazine #30 Winter 2011
Read & download issue here

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