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Pictured: 'Wild Things' wearable art by Saar Snoek. Photographer: Anouk Drenth

Meet Saar Snoek.

When I first saw her design 'Wild Things' at this year's World of WearableArt Awards show in Wellington; I had to get to know more about this designer and her creations.


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Human Nature by Saar Snoek - World of Wearable Art

Pictured: 'Human Nature' Wearable art by Saar Snoek. Photographed by Maaike Engels

MODE: Your name is awesome, what does it mean and where is it from?


SAAR: Funny that you find my name awesome, to me it sounds completely normal. I am used to it obviously. My parents raised me in the seventies with a hippie parenting style, when I was born they asked my brother to name me. His favorite character in a tv show was called Aunt Saartje, fortunately they were sane enough to leave the aunt part out of my passport. Snoek is dutch for pike, the long fish with big teeth.


Whereabouts in the world are you based?


According to Dutch standards my studio is located in the middle of nowhere. I live and work in a beautiful historical landscape in the North East, with woodlands, a stream, valley and heaths. Every day I take long walks with my dogs and on many days I do not meet anyone, that is quite unusual in the densely populated Netherlands. Right now the forest floor is bursting with mushrooms in all kinds of beautiful shapes and colours.

When did you start designing your wonderful creations? Is this what you do for a living full time?


I have always been a maker, as long as I remember. For me making things is a way to approach complex thoughts and feelings.


"Speaking a visual language allows me to think organically opposed to thinking in text language, which is more structured and can be limiting, at least for me."


I studied painting at the Royal Academy The Hague. In 2015 I discovered feltmaking by coincidence and fell in love with the process and the possibilities and complexity of the medium wool. I took a couple of workshops and after that I developed my own technical approach in feltmaking. I work full time as an independent artist. My organic soft sculptures are made of felt, wearable and stand alone, I make hats and I teach feltmaking in masterclasses.

Pictured: 'Human Nature' Wearable art by Saar Snoek. Photographed by Maaike Engels

I couldn’t quite tell what textiles you use for your art and designs, may you please let me know what mediums you use to create and why you prefer these?


Felt is one of the most ancient textile techniques known to mankind. It is a non woven fabric, made of wool fibers that are consolidated in a dense structure. The only things you need to make felt are water, soap, wool and friction. One of the remarkable properties of wool is that it has a will of its own that can be hard to control, yet makes it perfect for organic sculpture. I have been making felt for quite some time now and I am still surprised by the medium.


Ofcourse I am experienced enough to predict the outcome to some degree, after a first draft I can reproduce and tweak a design, but there is always some mystery involved in the process. I start with a solid plan, I decide how thick my felt needs to be, calculate shrinkage rate, draw templates, think about the direction of layout of the wool and dye the right colours...

"Despite careful planning, making a life size felted sculpture can feel a bit like entering a battlefield."


At some point my carefully laid out thin wisps of merino are transformed into a pile of wet slippery soapy slush unclear what is top of bottom. I start very careful and gentle, each small movement has effect on the wool, during the process of rubbing and rolling and kneading the felt becomes stronger, it will take shape and in the last stages I forcefully pull it, stretch it and throw it to migrate the fibers to their final position.


Through the years the battle became more a collaboration between me and the wool. It is a slow and primal process, being together with the wool, feeling what it wants, guiding it and transferring life energy to the medium.

Pictured from the left: 'Koru Black', 'Venus Chameleon' & 'Chameleon Black' hats by Saar Snoek. 

I noticed that alongside your otherworldly creations, you also paint some ethereal landscapes too (i’m a painter too)! How do you sustain yourself to stay creative and what inspires you the most?


I am part of art collective Snoek & Hagens. In 2019 I met an old friend from arts school at the opening of one of her painting shows. I told her that I loved her paintings but that I had some critique too. She agreed bud said she didn’t know how to solve it. Although we are completely different personalities we both have a pretty formal approach to solving artistic problems. We decided to work together and see where it would lead us.


We developed a pretty crazy two captains on one ship approach: one paints, the other intervenes. Practically it works like this: Sasja (the Hagens part of the duo) paints on wood panel. A landscape, or just abstract strokes and stains and makes a rough paper cut composition. I drive to her studio (280 km away) pick up the paintings and bring them to my studio where I cut them into pieces and reassemble them.

A bit like remixing. I replace pieces of her painting with pieces of mirror, rock, dyed silk and other materials. I use a CNC milling robot and CAD/CAM software to cut the paintings and materials, after that I reassemble them. This process leads to an unpredictable and surprising outcome.


"We paint landscapes, there is always recognition, yet it is never a real existing place. It is comprised of two visions that is why it becomes archetypical in a strange way." 


With two captains on a ship you can go anywhere. Sometimes we get fed up with each other and we return to our own practice, but after a while we get back together to make new work. Working together questions the importance of individual authenticity and the ego that goes with that and brings new energy into our individual artistic practices.

Interference - Sublime on Steroids no. 8 � 100 x 100 cm � Acrylic paint, hand dyed silk, s
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Interference - Sublime on Steroids no. 20 � 51 x 51 cm � Acrylic paint, hand dyed silk, vi

Pictured clockwise from the left: 'Interference - Sublime on Steroids no. 8, no. 27 & no. 20'. Paintings by Saar Snoek & Sasja Hagens.

This second issue of our magazine is “The Colour Issue”. What is the importance of colour in the designs and paintings you create?


The wonderful thing with felt is that I can use it for sculpture in a painterly way. I dye most of my wool.

"My dye technique is intentionally sloppy, that way I get great variety in hue and saturation in one dye bath."

I build up colours in thin layers of wool and use classic underpainting techniques to get intense and natural colours. Often I am inspired by existing colour combinations of birds, plants or other wildlife. The colour scheme of Wild Things, 22 WOW entry was loosely based on the Takahē.

When was the first time you entered the World of WearableArts Awards Show here in Aotearoa and how was this experience for you?


I entered the WOW competition in 2017 for the first time. I'd never heard of it, my friend and gifted feltmaker Marjolein Dallinga who made a couple of brilliant entries for WOW said that it was fun and probably something for me.

I was discovering feltmaking at that time and made a lot of samples. I was making simulacra in felt, studies, in this case of coral. Because it is wet, soft, moving and underwater it is a technical challenge to translate it into felt.


A great way to learn how to make sculptural felt. I stitched all my samples together put it in a large box and and won the Aotearoa award. It is a strange experience that my ‘study project’ has a sort of a life of its own now on the other side of the world. Supercool that so many people have seen it and enjoyed it.


I have an ambivalent relation with wearable art. On the one hand it adds something extra, a sculpture worn on the body. My felted works often say something about our complex relationship with the ecosystem and living things. In that way it makes sense to wear it. On the other hand, when a sculpture is worn in the wrong context by the wrong model it can be banal.

Pictured: 'Wild Things' wearable art by Saar Snoek. Photographer: Anouk Drenth

What inspired your design ‘Wild Things’ for the 2022 World of WearableArts Awards Show?


The biological world is always a big inspiration for me, especially skin. Everything that lives has a skin and each skin has a different functionality. Wild Things is a mash-up of biological attributes and ornaments commonly seen in the natural world in -predominantly male- courtship display and battle behaviours.


We have always worn animal skins for empowerment. People have a long history abusing, killing and skinning animals to wear them to appropriate their beauty. In this garment I used soft merino wool to design a new skin.

In my more recent millinery work I explore this skin theme further, transforming merino wool into lizard and dinosaur skin (super exclusive because completely extinct :)

How long does it take to create an outfit of this nature?


One of the main reasons for me to enter WOW is fun. There are some limitations: there are certain requirements in size.

The total volume must not exceed 1 cubic meter to be eligible for sponsored transport, pretty important if the garment needs to travel 28000 km and back and some size requirements to make sure it can be worn by the available models. There is a deadline. For the rest: complete freedom.


"I like to make something that is technically challenging, experimental and go for it, with the risk of complete failure."


With Human Nature, the coral reef people asked me all the time: how long did it take? Well, faster than a real coral reef probably was my standard answer. I find it a question that is hard to answer and not really relevant in this case. If you meet the deadline, perfect, if not, next year.

Do you have any words of advice for any up and coming designers/artists who wish to enter this show as a fellow contestant?


Yes, go for it!

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Pictured: 'Wild Things' wearable art by Saar Snoek. Photograph courtesy of Getty Images



PAINTINGS: @snoekenhagens

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