Interview By Sarah Mills

Born in 1984 in Antwerp, Stéphanie Poppe is a paper & embroidery artist, influenced by her family’s history. Occasionally, she likes to implement techniques from her profession (writer & paper conservator/restorer) into her artwork.


Since 2013, she started developing her own artistic style, calculated yet intuitive, always remaining curious about the synergistic relationship between art and architecture, nature and culture, history and the present. The harmonious state of coexistence between a more permanent condition and the ephemeral. Like a spider, she creates intricate yet minimalistic structures that reflect this fragile equilibrium.

A recurring theme is the synergy between urban and rural life – how both are interdependent and can be complementary. Patience, balance, and harmony are key concepts in her art. Larger works can take up to 3 months.


How did you develop the style you work in today? Can you share with us more about how your family history has influenced your work?

My style has evolved and was influenced by my family history and my profession. My family was active in the textile industry (20th century), and both my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents were and are still great amateurs of modern art. My grandmother regularly made 'works of art' based on excess fabric. My mother is also very talented with a needle and thread. As my grandmother knew that I had a creative talent since I was a little girl, she often gave me excess fabric and yarn. I had more fun using the yarn and embroidered on cardboard or thick paper on which I had first made an illustration.

It all started rather simply. Later the style evolved, also through my profession. I started to specialize in paper and book restoration. With bookbinding, you are also often using a needle and thread. At one point, I also used and applied metal wire in my work, but that gave a very different and less fluid result.

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What sparked your interest in the synergy between urban and rural life?

I am very interested in the synergy between the urban and the rural, how both influence each other and depend on each other. How they contrast and yet resemble each other in some way. Perhaps also because of my passion for architecture. You can find so many influences of nature in the history of architecture. Cities such as Tokyo or New York are my biggest sources of inspiration. The big Japanese cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo – actually have the biggest impact, also because of the culture. Japanese culture intertwines the urban and the rural, the past, and the present so well. You won't find that anywhere else. I find it very interesting. From the age of 18 to 32, I also lived in an urban environment – I love the tension that a city can give, but I also like to relax. I think you can do that better in a rural environment.

In 'Les lucioles,' for example, you can find the inspiration of urban and rural synergy really well. The work can be a representation of both fireflies on a warm summer evening but also of urban illumination.

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What is your process like when you start a new piece?

Often a workpiece is first established as a concept in my head. It only exists in my imagination and is formed on the basis of various influences that I find around me, natural and cultural influences. That image must then "mature" for some time (this can take up to a year or two). Once it is clear and I decide to make the workpiece, I first design a number of sketches – see what is possible, how it can be elaborated technically – there is also some measuring work involved – the link with architecture – and then the actual elaboration begins.

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Who is currently inspiring you?

My biggest sources of inspiration are Claude Monet, Takahiko Hayashi, and Chun Kwang Young. Whose works are most strongly inspiring to me are those of the Japanese artist Takahiko Hayashi. I think his engravings and mixed media works especially are very refined and poetic. He also tries to interweave past and present in his art. Another artist I look up to and who I am fascinated by, particularly by his technique, is South Korean Chun Kwang Young, how he incorporates a traditional material such as hanji (paper made from the inner bark of the mulberry tree, used in Korea since the ninth century) into contemporary abstract works. The detailing of his work, the meticulous work that it puts into it, and the scale of it. I really admire it.

Claude Monet's work should certainly not be forgotten. His work has inspired me since I was a child. My parents once gave me the book 'Le Jardin de Monet' by Christina Björk and Lena Anderson. It still takes pride of place in my bookcase after all these years — very beautiful images. Since then, my love for art has only increased.