Meet the DORSET ART WEEKS artists: Antje Rook

It’s hard to believe that Antje Rook did not study textiles formally, and equally unfathomable is that she only started creating them just six or so years ago – such is the fluency and eloquence of her designs. The birth of her first grandson prompted her to make baby clothes for him, but she was soon making for a wider audience – through her market stall and online sales. However, as Antje says, she needed to find a new creative challenge after making hundreds of romper suits, and was encouraged by an artist friend to enter items worked in appliqué to Open for Art – the biennial event which takes place across South Dorset. The festival was a great success for her and she sold all her pieces, and, today, she is still captivated by the creative possibilities presented through working in fabric and threads. Before discovering textiles she ‘had always made things’, she painted and for ten years worked in stone – frequently exhibiting – however, she has found her perfect media and notes that ‘this won’t change’.

Lobster Girl, textile, signed with label lower right, 74 x 52cm, est. £360 (+fees) 

Antje is based on Portland – the tied island 4 miles long and just under 2 miles wide, located 5 miles from Weymouth – and she can see the remarkable Chesil Beach from her home. Antje and her husband had previously explored Portland on a day trip made during a family holiday and when in 2006 they decided to re-locate to the UK, from just outside Cologne, Antje recalled how taken she had been with the special atmosphere and unique character of Portland, and so they chose to start their new life here. She is drawn by the drama of Dorset’s rocky coastlines and the contrasting softness of its interiors. Antje admits that there are elements of life in Germany which ‘work better’, but she likes the slightly more laid back English attitude, and in particular the resilience and strong identity to be found in the people of Portland.

Dance of the mackerel, textile, signed with label lower right, 48 x 57cm, est. £350 (+fees)

Fish are ‘all around’ her, and two of Antje’s works in the Dorset Art Weeks auction feature marine life – Dance of the mackerel and Lobster Girl; these motifs were amongst her first, and initially she depicted women working in the seafood industry, adorned with whole fishes and crustacea – their wonderfully bright colours and exotic forms deployed as outlandish accessories.  Antje’s university degree in Women’s Studies naturally drew her to the lives and roles of women, and she went on to develop a series of textiles featuring women in their various occupations – her portraits were based on women she knew and herself too. Her third textile, I love you more than the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, introduces one of her own collie dogs, caught with a comical, exuberant expression alongside Antje, the title of the textile is a charming reminder of the phrase she would use in talking with her children when they were young.

I love you more than the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, textile, signed with label lower right, 53 x 65cm, est. £380 (+fees)

Our lockdown times has seen Antje occupied with her ‘Virus Project’ – she has been making a textile Covid on every day of the curfew. However, after only a few days Antje decided to turn it into a fund raising exercise and for every £20 donated to the NHS she crafts a virus for the donor. Through the power and reach of social media she received many poignant stories chronicling loss and bereavement through Covid and so she now produces viruses embroidered with the names of its victims. In the face of tremendous sadness she describes the feedback to her initiative as ‘amazing and positive’. Her virus textiles also feature in online exhibitions run by the Counterweave Gallery, Rome, and the B-side Festival, Portland. Ultimately her own collection of textile viruses will go to the Dorchester County Museum, to join their collection of objects and images relating to Dorset’s experiences of the pandemic.

The Virus Project: a virus for every day of the lockdown combined with fund raising for the NHS

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