Craft Heroes: Comic Artist Jeroen Funke

jeroen_bed_monster.jpg Above: Jeroen Funke in bed with his good pal Monster Schmonster, part of an installation created for the Extrema Outdoor and Solar Weekend festivals with Saskia Haex and Marianne Lock.

I love discovering craft while travelling - and I like to think I'm generally pretty intrepid in terms of seeking it out. But I would have completely missed cunning crafter Jeroen Funke's last show if a friend hadn't led me down the dark Amsterdam alleyway where it was installed (see image below).

Stof is Tof (Cloth is Cool) turned out to be the highlight of my visit to the Netherlands, full of cloth sculptures reminiscent of a visual mashup between Pop artist Claes Oldenburg and puppeteer Jim Henson.

stof_is_tof.jpg Above: A shot of Jeroen Funke's Stof is Tof (Cloth is Cool) show in Amsterdam this autumn. (Photos of Stof is Tof by Stephen Betts).

There were also some stunning fabric illustrations, and pretty amazing monster costumes (including a human-sized lobster!) And indeed, the offbeat location - where Jeroen's work was likely to be discovered by accident - was quintessentially apropos for this artist who is so skilful at producing surprising results with such a wide range of materials.

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I love the wit and energy in Jeroen's work, and couldn't have been more pleased when he agreed to answer some Crafty Crafty questions about his multimedia craft adventures.

Hi Jeroen! How did you get started sewing?

I started sewing after our first intern taught me how to use a sewing machine. From then on I felt invincible and unstoppable!

Right: Jeroen's terrifying nesting Muppet-inspired creatures, from Stof is Tof.

When did it become clear that it was something you could integrate into your comics work?

I'm not sure if I really incorporate it in my comics work rather then that I draw from the same sources of inspiration for both my comics and my sewing.

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Left: The appliqué and embroidery based cover of Kaasheld en Poephoofd by the Lamelos collective.

I just love to create stuff. And sometimes it becomes a comic, sometimes a 3D monster made from cloth.

I did however do two front and back covers for our latest Lamelos comic books, Kaasheld en Poephoofd 4: Help! (Cheesehero and Poophead 4: Help!)

Who are the people who influence you as a crafter?

I'm not sure. I don't know that many crafts people. I am very much influenced by (French director) Michel Gondry, though. I love the way he uses all sorts of crafts and handiwork for analogue special affects in his movies - they're really far out!

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Left: Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg ride a crafty horse in Michel Gondry's 2006 film, The Science of Sleep.

You do a lot of work with your pals in the Lamelos collective, all of you having studied together at the Kampen art academy. Do the rest of the Lamelos gents also get involved with craft?

I'm the only Lamelos member that enjoys crafting. It seems strange to me as well that they don't also love it. I mean, you can basically do and make ANYTHING you want! But I guess they don't have the patience.

(Lamelos member) Aleks' wife Sigrid Spier is in a collective called STIK (meaning stitch).

They do a quarterly on art and they started out with a lot of sewing and stitching, but Sigrid has since evolved into paper cutting and she's incredible. Her partner in crime Almas Pieters uses everything from clay to sewing thread and is equally if not more fantastic.

paper_cutting.jpg Above: One of Jeroen's forays into yet another craft, paper-cutting, for a 2009 collection of Dutch 24 hour comics.

If you could make anything on earth, what would it be?

Well, I've often fantasized about a rich American art collector commissioning me to make a giant life-size tank out of cloth. You should also be able to go inside and there would be all the actual buttons and levers and stuff, all from cloth - ha ha!

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Left: Jeroen works on a different kind of installation - a childen's puppet theater.

 The fantasy includes me living in America for a year with a giant studio and an assistant. But in real life I have the intention to do a series of supermarket groceries made of cloth, and maybe a one page comic.

What are you making at the moment?  

I was recently commissioned to sew an object from a colleague's comic book for his coming exhibition. I hope it works out! I haven't started yet, still waiting for the green light.







And, perhaps the most important craft question of them all - in case of a zombie uprising, which of your craft tools would you use to dispatch the undead?

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Above: Jeroen (inside robot suit) and the Lamelos boys suit up to defend the Netherlands from encroaching zombie hordes.

Well, if it means that in addition to dead people also other lifeless human-shaped things could come to life then I would have a complete army of monster suits and monster puppets at my disposal.

No zombie could touch me. And then there is the giant nine-foot revolver of course. That could also work, especially since I also made a couple of cloth bullets to go with that.

zombie_pistol.jpg Above: Jeroen's zombie-fighting pistol, also from Stof is Tof.

Thanks a lot for speaking with me, Jeroen!

You can check out Jeroen and his friends at Lamelos.nl, or check out his Flickr for a wealth of images of projects new and old.

[All images © Jeroen Funke]

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