Image: Heidi Drahota, Strand Gut?!. Felt collage, 150 x 97cm.
In a quiet studio, adjoining an inner courtyard in a residential neighbourhood in Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany, textile artist Heidi Drahota immerses herself in handcrafting wall art, collages and installations with poignant, powerful messages.
The studio is a picture of peace and art with materials, a mannequin, plants, pottery, lamps, sewing machine, ironing board and more around the artist in easy company. Yet, from this gentle space emerge works that silently speak of issues, hardships and tragedies across the world.
Heidi loved tactile materials from childhood, and learnt to paint, work with yarn, crochet, stitch and knit at an early age. As she learnt of tragic events, past and present, in different countries, she wished to create works that would be artistic yet convey harsh, hard realities that people have lived and continue to live through.
In 2002, she started felting, using neatly cut, colourful pieces of felt to create compositions, creating layers and texture with felt. Over the past twenty years, she has brought in different textile techniques, fabrics and materials in her work like a web of threads across a work to indicate net (thrown over people to tie them down) to felted camouflage (to indicate the military/military conflicts); fabric arpilleras (as a tribute to women in Chile who crafted them during the dictatorship of Pinochet); stitches to create patterns and figures; wool to indicate warmth and silk for prosperity; red felt and threads to indicate a blood and death; and hand printing using natural dyes and natural elements like life leaves to convey renewal and life.
As the eye takes in details of each composition, the works steadily speak of loss and pain faced by humanity. These span hunger and famine situations to the devastation of the Second World War, bombed homes, climate change, her personal loss of family members, the hold of military regimens on the destiny of citizens, the hardships faced by women in Chile under the regime of Pinochet, strife in the Gaza Strip, the dangers of landmines and the dilemma of a refugee mother having to choose which child to take while fleeing the family home and country.
Among the works is Nie wieder! portraying a long low structure set in a bleak winter landscape, people facing it, and thin red bands of fabric, slipping out of the portico and beyond the edges of the work, alluding to a bloody death within the building walls. The work has the first names of people from Nuremberg, who died in concentration camps, stitched on its reverse. Heidi says the work pledges that such a tragedy will never occur again.
Image: What child am I leaving behind? People fleeing hunger, war and persecution have to make inhuman decisions.
Heidi believes textile has the potential to address issues while it helps her to deal with the pain of people worldwide, even of those she has never met or known. And she hopes to continue creating these works so we many never forget the injustice and trauma people have been through and we consciously work at not repeating past mistakes.
Written by Brinda Gill
Find out more about Heidi's work here: www.heidi-drahota.de