Nadine Goepfert's flexible and interdisciplinary approach to textile design has substance – a substance that stems from her inquisitive nature and continuous theoretical research. Encouraged to create from a young age – by the time she went to the renowned school of art and design Gerrit Rietfeld Academie in Amsterdam, she had already spent years making things at home. Today, Nadine works with a wide range of materials and methods from coloured ice cubes for dying, or wire to use as fabric to wax for printing.
Her openness to experimentation allows her to use both traditional and contemporary techniques in design. Her work is always conceptual and in some cases arguably a work of art. Originally from Würzburg, a well-known research hub in southern Germany, Nadine now lives and works in Berlin, its cultural capital.
Can you remember when you started making things?
My mother encouraged creativity a lot when I was a kid. We would draw, paint, knit and do lots of pottery together. My father runs a varnishing business. By the time I moved to Berlin and Amsterdam, I had already collaborated with both my mum and dad on various material explorations.
So you tried lots of different creative things growing up - what do you believe inspired you to become a textile designer?
I’m fascinated by any kind of material and tactility from nicely woven fabrics to any kind of synthetic and plastic. Textiles are multifaceted materials. I like the idea that I have the possibility to start at the absolute beginning of a product. When working on a textile, the only thing you have at the start might be a plain yarn which offers an opportunity to develop it in a number of different ways. I, or whoever works on it next, can elaborate on the surface. Sometimes you don’t even know what the end product is going to be at the start. That’s what I love about textile design.
Can you describe your working method in a few words?
I enjoy exploring loose concepts that lend to the possibility of a wide range of outputs in my work. These concepts and ideas often form a basis for my textile design and art installations. I’m interested in traditional textile techniques and craftsmanship so I’m always experimenting and exploring different aspects such as materiality and structure. Over the last few years I’ve been focusing on researching garments and fashion that reveal our unconscious and unapparent daily habits in relation to clothing. I apply this research both theoretically and as a basis for further material explorations.
What’s the most complex material you’ve worked with to date?
There are two – memory foam (The Garments May Vary, 2013) and latex (Matters of Habit, 2014).
You’re based in Berlin at the moment. How would you say the city informs your work, if at all? What informs it most?
I’m surrounded by wonderful and inspiring people that support each other, which I find to be the most important thing, and not necessarily related to the city I live in. Also, I would say that the intention of my work is not about creating something new, but more about sharing and creating a "vision" about clothing and fashion with others. It focuses on daily habits in life and social aspects, not on creating new trends.
You studied at the Gerrit Rietfeld Academie in Amsterdam and the School of Art Weißensee in Berlin. How does your experience in both cities compare in relation to your work?
The schools are similar in their approach to design. They’re both quite free and don't force you to work purely on design which was important for me. While I was studying, I didn’t start working immediately on a final product. Thinking about the design of a product at the beginning of the working process can be quite obstructive. I believe that starting with some random thought or interest that’s not at all design related can open up new possibilities within my work.
"I focus on researching garments and fashion that reveal our unconscious and unapparent daily habits"
The most recent project you have on your website is ‘Matters of Habit’ which you’ve mentioned briefly. So it’s about the interaction we have with our clothes. The aspects you explore are daily moments we all experience but don’t necessarily dwell on, such as the imprint of a hanger or hook on a piece of clothing. You come up with practical solutions for these small occurrences in our relationship with clothes. Did you feel that there wasn’t anything on the market that acknowledged these things? Was it purely conceptual? A bit of both? Tell me the story behind ‘Matters of Habit’.
Yes, I would say it’s a bit of both. Matters of habit is a collection of garments that looks to investigate the close relationship between people and clothing. It’s a development of one of my other projects;The Garments May Vary (2013) where I started to look at the interplay of body movement. Each piece is devoted to a different aspect of our daily interaction and handling of garments: habits, gestures, movements, as well as storage and care. All of these things are manifested in shapes and textures. My research is primarily theoretical which works as a basis for textural explorations. I see myself in the position of the observer. Roland Barthes is one of my favorite writers – he studied fashion magazines and the impact of the presentation of garments. I investigate all kind of habits and unconscious moments in daily life. I actually view the garments in my collection as more of a reflection of my (theoretical) research in the form of textiles. I would be happy if Matters of Habit could also be an inspiration for textile engineers. Perhaps they’ll look at it and consider creating garments that are more comfortable for everyday life.
I’m fascinated by collections and intrigued by your ‘Collect(ing)’ project which is so beautifully displayed and documented on your website. Was your collection of stones gathered specifically, or was ‘Collect(ing)’ inspired out of stones you already owned?
I collected them in 2010 on a visit to a beach by the North Sea. I thought they were so beautiful, some more than others. They inspired a textile collection (Collect(ion)) but I also wanted to show my findings which explore the habit of collecting, particularly souvenirs. Stones are one of the most commonly collected souvenirs – they can be found almost anywhere on earth.
What else do you collect?
I’m really into pottery and ceramics – preferably laymen – I often find pieces at flea markets and charity shops. I also have a huge collection of vases from the nineties. Sometimes I can see them in the garments I create but they’re never a conscious source of inspiration.
I guess we’ve already established this but I’d be interested in knowing how you view your work. Would you agree in saying that you’re a multi-discipline creative? I wouldn’t solely class you as being a fabric designer. You have such an incredible eye and an extremely artistic and free approach to your work using a wide range of materials and points of reference often backed up by literary theory.
This is what I love about textile design. It has so many facets. My approach and working process might be more artistic, yes. I have a huge interest in literature and philosophy too. So most of the time I start reading and researching to create some kind of working concept which doesn’t necessarily have to be followed through rigidly. I try to leave room for unexpected developments, imperfections or mistakes during the working process that eventually lead my work in different and often more interesting directions. Sometimes I’ll just get fascinated by certain materials in different forms such as melted wax, or techniques which are not necessarily related to textiles like conservation. I always try to find a way to translate these phenomena into tangible textile materials. These methods involve lots of research and experimentation which I love. I do prefer to call myself a designer because the title immediately creates a connection to the everyday and everyday objects.
"Stones are one of the most commonly collected souvenirs – they can be found almost anywhere on earth"
What’s the last book you read?
Near to the Wild Heart, Clarice Lispector’s first novel.
And the most interesting research topic you got super involved in?
I would say the one I’ve been investigating over the last few years – clothing habits and any kind of daily routine – to me it’s inexhaustible.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
Some fabric designs for fashion designers – I can’t reveal who they are just yet. I’m also working on some paper collages.
I’ll be bringing out some new work over the next few months which deals with clothing in structural forms. There will be lots of exciting collaborations and I’ll carry on with some personal projects too.