Artist Profile: Andrea Vander Kooij PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Andrea Vander Kooij crafts contemporary art work using the traditional textile techniques of knitting and embroidery, amongst others. Although she suspects that both of her grandmothers took part in knitting and other textile techniques in order to clothe their families, she doesn’t remember her mother making things.  However, her older sister took up needlework as a teenager, and Andrea wanted to emulate her, so at the age of 11, she took knitting lessons from a woman in her community.  As a young teenager, she taught herself cross stitch embroidery from a book that her sister left behind as she went to university.  Since then, Andrea has continually improved her skills, and knitting and needlework remain integral in her art practice today.
 Britney (2001) Acrylic fingernails, nail polish, jump rings on cotton fabric 31.5” x 26”
Photo Credit: Leah Weisz

 As a young child, Andrea dreamt of being an artist.  However, after a fifth grade art teacher criticized her work and told her she would never be an artist, she gave up those plans, and pursued other interests instead.  During her BA in Theatre at Redeemer University, Andrea began to supplement her theatre courses with those in fine arts, using embroidery to express her creative ideas. She experienced the power of art when her thesis exhibition was censored due to racy subject matter, and she had to find an alternative venue in which to display it.  Ironically, the show was a campus sensation, with students lining up to see the work.


Favorite Underwear (2004) Appliqué and embroidery on vintage fabric 10” x 10”
Photo Credit: Kate Fellerath

 Andrea enjoys incorporating recycled or everyday materials into her work.  She divulges that “my favorite thing is scavenging second hand stores, buying old bed sheets and aprons and tablecloths ~ so it’s very, very materially based, my work, in that the inspiration for the piece often comes from the material.”  She embellishes these vintage fabrics with embroidered imagery and line drawings of human, animal and plant life.  Hummingbird (2004) shows both the inside and the outside of the bird, including its anatomically correct skeletal system. 


 Hummingbird (2004) Appliqué and embroidery on vintage fabric 11.5” x 11.5”
Photo Credit: Kate Fellerath

Following several years of working mundane day jobs and creating her art work part time, Andrea decided to pursue graduate school, and was accepted into the MFA program in Fibres at Concordia University.  Like most, she found the critical and theoretical components of graduate school to be challenging at times, yet now she is out there in the field, she has great appreciation for that knowledge and the skills that she learned there.  For her graduation solo show Efflorescence (2005), she sat in local shop windows, embroidering an intricate design onto fabric for hours at a time, engaging the public with her work.  Her entire body was covered with this same design, by way of henna tattoos, from her head to her toes.


Efflorescence (2005) Multi-site performance Embroidery on linen, henna on skin April 2005, MFA Thesis Show, Concordia University Photo Credit: Sarah Ciurysek

No stranger to hard work, Andrea has held many jobs while living in Montreal, from being a nanny to working in various retail stores.  While these jobs often provided inspiration or subject matter for her work, she eventually found a position as a textile designer in a Montreal firm.  Her dream is to be able to make her art full time, without having to depend upon these often exhausting day jobs.  Despite working full time, she has been very successful in filling every spare moment with her art practice, thanks to its portability.   

Lymphatic Finger (2006) Embroidery on vintage table napkin 15.5” x 15.5”
Photo Credit:  Kate Fellerath

In the past several years Andrea has won several prestigious artist awards, including the Lillian Elliott award from the Textile Society of America in October 2006, the Brucebo Foundation Travel Scholarship in 2005 and the Handweavers Guild of America Scholarship in 2003.  Her work has been profiled in Fibrearts Magazine and the Surface Design Journal, amongst others, and she has taken part in over 23 group shows and several solo exhibitions throughout North America since 2000, including the Toronto Outdoor Art Show from 2004 - 2007, Fiberart International in Pittsburgh in 2004, and the Hand/Face/Body show at the Gladstone Hotel in October 2006. kissing

 Balaclava for Kissing (2006) Knitted wool balaclava Framed Photo Documentation 38.5” x 48.4” Photo Credit:Kate Fellerath

 Andrea’s work was presented in three group shows this summer: Acting Between: Body Space Time at the FOFA Gallery, Concordia University, from April 30 - June 1, 2007;   Connective Tissue at Le Musée des Maîtres et Artisans du Québec, in Montreal, Québec, from June 28 – September 2, 2007; and Faux Natural, at The Foreman Art Gallery, Bishop’s University, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, from July 4 – August 25, 2007.  Upcoming shows include: BIG little Fibre at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, in October 2007, and a solo show at Galerie Diagonale in October 2008. 

All information presented in this profile (including verbatim quotes) was from an oral history interview conducted between Andrea Vander Kooij and J. Penney Burton in February 2007, and from the artist’s C.V.

 Andrea’s website is available at:  http://andreavanderkooij.com/

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