Martine van ’t Hul & Daniël Maarleveld
NEW CRAFTS by Crafts Council Nederland
Does a computer have its own handwriting? What does that look like? Can it learn a new one? These were questions which embroidery expert Martine van ‘t Hul and graphic designer posed in regards to the computer-controlled embroidery machine. Similar to a sewing machine, the embroidery machine uses a needle and thread to stitch motifs and lettering onto textiles.
The concept of handwriting is central to the daily practice of both Van ‘t Hul and Maarleveld. For several years now, Van ‘t Hul has been working on the translation of her handcrafted embroidery to machine technology, which enables her to work quicker and realise larger projects. Conversely, Maarleveld explores the conversion from digital graphic design to analogue product, studying the ‘hand’ of the computer. Do computers always work correctly and consistently, as we are tend to think, or do they also make mistakes – and if so, what do these tell us?
In their collaborative project, Van ‘t Hul and Maarleveld departed from the so-called alphabet sampler: a sampler embroidered with alphabets, usually in cross-stitch. Maarleveld and Van ‘t Hul took these alphabets as a starting point to digitally design a new font, an alternative to the flawless lettering that is usually preprogrammed into the embroidery machine. However, the machine could not just execute any design. Cross-stitching, for example, turned out to be too intensive for the machine, which is used to embroidering in longer lines.
On that account, Maarleveld and Van ‘t Hul developed a font that suits the machine’s own logic. The final result, displayed here, contains an interesting tension. The letters look too orderly to have been embroidered by hand. At the same time, small imperfections betray the computer’s struggle, giving the letters a handcraft feel.
Text: Nora Veerman
Photography: Fan Liao