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Sculpting Serendipity

As one feels when beginning any new chapter of their life, my first day working on the project of ArchivorumArk was one with mixed emotions. The excitement I felt to begin the project was equally matched by a daunting feeling. Although I have had experience in similar work before, after reading about Babs Haenen’s life and work I began to realize the scope of the task that was ahead of me. Bab’s illustrious career has spanned decades across not only different disciplines, but also different continents - so as I got the train to Amsterdam and made my way to the studio, I had no idea what to expect and my imposter syndrome began to creep its way into me. This relationship didn’t get off to the smoothest start as I rang the buzzer and tried for minutes to open the wrong door, forcing Bab’s to come down and get me. My tensions eased as I was greeted warmly and shown into the well-lit, winsome studio.

Babs was eager to show me around the different sections of the studio, such as her selection of dyes and chemical pigmentations she used in her work, the area where she rolls out the clay, the plaster where she draws the designs to hammer into the porcelain, and her modern gas kiln with automated features making it easier to work with the colours. It was obvious the processes in this studio have come from years of exploration of methods and is representative of a masters craftswoman who personifies this innate knowledge of a design process which allows her to fully realize her ideas and innovative methods.

Myself and Babs sat for hours discussing her beginnings, her journey to where she is now, her methods, and anything that the conversation flowed into. Although I took notes on many things, this did not feel like an interview, rather a discussion with someone who is clearly passionate and masterfully talented at their craft. At one point Babs showed me her notebook full of chemical combinations and methodology used to create different pigmentations, resulting in my imposter syndrome being swapped out for a fearful flashback to sitting in science class taking notes, struggling to believe that what was written on this paper could be comprehended by any human.

What resonated with me most about this experience was Bab’s radiant infectious energy. Although she raised the point that she was “killing herself for the sake of art”, the conversation we had was lively, interesting, full of passion, and sparked a natural curiosity in me, making me excited to continue to work on this project and learn from Bab’s along the way. Her reassuring knowledge, coupled with her witty sense of humour reminds me of a quote by Moby Dick author Herman Melville which I think is very appropriate to this moment of time: “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing.”

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