The artist of re-rooting

Bianca Severijns crafts amazing art works from small shreds of paper.

Bianca Severijns Nesting Vessel (photo credit: SIGAL KOLTON)
Bianca Severijns Nesting Vessel
(photo credit: SIGAL KOLTON)
When a plant is repotted, one of two things will happen; it will flourish or it will die. Being transferred to a new environment, while often inevitable, bears risk. Every plant owner can attest to having witnessed both the successful and the failed scenarios.
On the way to Bianca Severijns’s home studio in Ramot Hashavim, one is met with rows of potted plants just outside the floor-to-ceiling windows. This extended family of flora sit proudly – if not a bit wildly – a natural preview to what lies a few steps below the house’s main level. On the stairs, visitors are already met with three large, striking portraits of young women decked out in headdresses exquisitely crafted from small shreds of paper, Severijns’s chosen medium.
“Those are my three girls,” she says of the photos. “When we moved here, it was a big transition for them. I wanted to make something for them that would give them a new identity, so I made these hat vessels.” In fact, the so-called vessels, as photographed by Sigal Kolton, are reminiscent of the plants in her garden, quite different from the Dutch flora which were familiar from her childhood.
Severijns, 55, was born and raised in the Netherlands. At nineteen, hungry for adventure, she took a job as an au pair in Israel, a few houses away from where she now lives. “I spent a year here, during which time I met my husband. When my job was finished, we moved back to Holland,” she explains. Back home, she and her future husband partook in several creative projects, among them designing a line of modular wooden toy trucks. “It was a really cool idea, kids could collect all different part of the trucks and assemble them,” she says as she picks up a prototype, “but production was stopped because the mechanism used magnets and they weren’t deemed safe for children.” Other projects included designing props for fashion label Esprit. Then, twelve years ago, with three young daughters, Severijns and her husband decided to return to Israel.
She smiles widely as she reminisces about her journey back and forth to Israel. She is immediately open and warm, sharing freely her impressions as a foreigner in the country. “I felt very vulnerable when I first arrived. I uprooted myself by choice and I felt isolated. I’m not Jewish so it took five years just to receive citizenship. I’m still very Dutch, even though I am here and have an Israeli passport.”
Part of her acclimatization was expressed through experimenting with different materials. She played around with sketching and sculpture before alighting upon paper. “It’s a very young medium in the art world and is often not accepted and pushed into the craft arena. But, when I started to work with it, I fell in love. I feel it conveys my artistic vision,” she says.
Severijns begins her process by tearing large pieces of paper into small scraps. She then arranges the paper into intricate mosaics in various forms, vessels, weaves, tapestries or blankets, which are then secured by a special glue made from a Japanese root. “I cook the powder,” Severijns says as she holds up a repurposed Nutella jar half-filled with a substance resembling polenta. “I like this glue because it doesn’t affect the integrity of the paper.”
Japan has been a source not just of adhesives but also inspiration for Severijns, particularly in her most recent project, which has kept Severijns very busy for the past two years.
Severijns untacks a photo of her husband wearing a grass blanket from her inspiration board. “He picked up this piece of grass from the garden and it was so wonderful. You can’t beat nature; the patterns are incredible. At the same time, I became aware of this Japanese artist who photographed homeless Japanese and Chinese men,” she says as she points to several black-and-white images on the wall. “Their clothing becomes their protection and I thought that every person should have that protection. That I would like to make a protective blanket for everyone. We, as human beings, need to be protected. Sixty-five million people around the world are displaced and the number is growing.”
The Humanitarian Protective Blanket project spurred itself forward, propelling Severijns into a fantasy of a more balanced world. Each piece is endowed with a message such as gender equality, security or social justice. Together, they create an awe-inspiring whole. “Instead of pointing out the negative, I wanted to focus on what the blanket could give to a person, what positive notions I would wish for them to bestow.”
Currently, two of Severijns’s blankets are on display as part of the Venice Biennale. Next month, she will present her first solo show at the Periscope Gallery in Tel Aviv. The exhibition will include Protective Blanket 11, the largest-yet blanket as well as several vessels, sixteen small pieces and photographs.
Severijns’s solo show opened last night and will run through November 15 at the Periscope Gallery in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit