Rains of creativity - Anouk Pantovola

If you take a look across your room, what can you notice about the decoration? In the majority of homes, we encounter commercialized, regular items. Although they might come from your favorite thrift store or Ikea, one thing is for sure - they are welcomed by the masses.
And as easy as it might be to neglect the effort of your amazing thrift store owner or designers in Ikea, we need to go to the stream of their work.
How they develop their design? Where do they start? Where does the inspiration come from? Surprisingly or not, most of them have deep knowledge of the History of Art and design itself. One of their major advice is to visit the museums. Go through the old photos, search for young inspiring people. In the journey of "developing the skill", we encounter Anouk Pantovola. A girl with a wild imagination and great skills that bring her thoughts to life.

Where are you from? Where does the art journey start for you?

I originally hail from The Netherlands, but I have lived in London, Scotland and Spain for most of my adult years
My art journey began from the day I could hold a pencil in my hands. I began to draw and paint and never stopped.
As a child I made cloth dolls with my mother at home and I have very fond memories of that.
We would use an old sock for example which we filled with cotton and dried lavender, and decorated it like primitive small dolls.

Later on we used paper mache for doll making.
I always knew I wanted to be an artist and never had any other career ideas, except for a little while when I wanted to be an archeologist..
I studied Fine Arts in Arnhem where I learned about puppet stop-motion animation. This rekindled my love for puppets and miniature worlds.
But Pantovola was born some ten years after graduating art school, in 2015, when I lived on a narrow canal boat in London and I did not have much space for art making. I remembered the small cloth dolls I made at home with my mother for which not much else was needed than some fabrics, needle and thread. The first Pantovola dolls were born there, and it was the beginning of this journey.

What is the first emotion that drives you towards creating an art piece? Do you recognize the connection immediately and let yourself flow on the creative process? Or do you "bake" the inspiration for some time?

Stories are always developing in my head, at all times, and my work directly derives from these stories.
But the story can be seen as a whole, a world or kind of universe, where all these ideas and creatures meet and live, they are all connected somehow.
When I create, I do not plan ahead too much, I let the work create itself, I let it use my hands and yes, in that sense I go with the flow.
But the heart and soul of everything I make has its roots in these worlds I have been creating in my mind since I can remember.

What is the backstory of your design? Because every one of us sees the world through separate lenses. How hard it must be to transfer it to other people?

I believe that there are things we all, as humans, recognize, some kind of archetypes that we have a deep understanding of. I have always had a great love and fascination for fairytales and folklore, and a lot of the themes, objects and subjects in these tales are, I believe, universally understood. We all understand at some level what they mean and what they are telling us.
I hope that my work has a similar effect in the sense that I do not wish to explain too much, but I hope that the work speaks for itself.
Perhaps it says different things to different people, that is okay, as long as it speaks of something and that a glimpse of the Pantovola world can be discovered through the eyes of the dolls.

When it comes to making a living from your art, what are the main struggles? And what would be your advice for starting artists?

For me the main struggle is money itself, I don't like money, but we all need it to live.
To connect something so magical to me as my work to something so mundane and sinister as money, is the difficult bit. However, it is a truth of the world and there is just no escaping from that. So I see it as wearing different 'hats' for different occasions. When it comes to selling my work, I have to be practical and I put my 'real world hat' on.

But when I create, I leave that hat somewhere far out of sight in the shadows.
My advice for starting artists would be to always look within, to what is unique about you. And to not let social media and all the images that are thrown your way distract you from what YOUR unique vision is. To try not to compare yourself to others too much. There is only one you who can create what you create, and that should be your focus, in my opinion.

And keep at it even though everyone around you may be telling you that your dreams of being an artist are silly. They are not silly, they are magical, and also achievable.
I very much like reading about the lives of artists from the past, and it mesmerizes me to find out about all their struggles and tribulations. Yet despite all these horrid things these people endured, they managed to leave a legacy of beautiful works of art.
This not only helps me put my own struggles into perspective, it also gives me hope that beauty is the thing that prevails in the end.

What do you prefer, single pieces or storytelling through a whole project? And what approach do you use in each case?

I like to work on bigger projects sometimes because there is a great focus within that. But I am often also a little impatient and I like to see results quickly, so this is what I love about making my Pantovola Petit figurines;
they come to life from idea to finished doll in a fairly short amount of time, and that can be really satisfying.
But as I mentioned earlier, the larger story is always at the root of everything I make, so not one piece really stands alone, if that makes sense.

Why do you use certain materials? What connects you with them, and makes you feel they are perfect for your art piece?

My favorite materials are old textiles, with worn threads and perhaps a coffee stain spill that escaped a dainty porcelain cup in 1892.
So I collect and am sometimes gifted, antique textiles and lace.
The history in the threads, the secrets, the stories, the hands that held these fibers, is what makes working with these materials so special to me,
It feels like a connection to a larger story.
But I also absolutely love painting on fabric, and for these purposes I use unbleached cotton which I firmly stuff with recycled cotton fluff filling, to create the doll or sculpture.
This then makes for a great surface to paint my creature's faces on, and adorn them with what I like to call '3-D paintings"

What does ART, in general, mean to you?

Art is life. It is the blood that makes us human because in it we reflect who we are and how we perceive the world around us.
Art gives meaning to our lives. I believe it is as vital as food, water, and oxygen.

The FOURLINEdesign team would like to thank Anouk Pantovola for sharing inspiring thoughts with our community.