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Profile: Natasja Alers

Natasja Alers is a Dutch artist and co-organizer of the Grauzone festival.

Natasja holds music as huge part of her professional and personal life. At the age of 5 years old, she worshipped Michael Jackson. However as she discovered punk rock (when she became 10 years old)  — she felt like a new beginning, it opened her eyes.

As a result, Natasja organizes concerts in Amsterdam and The Hague for more than ten years.

To bring us the Grauzone festival she partnered up with Mark Emmerik since 2012. An international multidisciplinary festival that started in the Melkweg (Amsterdam).

‘I think that art & music are connected to each other, it’s also an important drive for me, and I can’t and don’t without both components.’

‘My mom brought me in touch with ceramics. She is an artist herself and she always stimulated me to experiment with different materials. Since I got in touch with clay, it felt so natural, that I had to do something with it. But I didn’t realize that I still would work with it now, only that I wanted to work as an artist.’

Natasja made her very first sculpture when she was 10 years old. Right from the start, she learned that it wasn’t an easy task to work with ceramics. For example, she made a portrait of her cat, but as Natasja laughs and explains the glaze turned out ‘horribly sad’.

Natasja’s career in ceramics started quite early and she got confronted with herself. Certainly, it helped to define her artistic choices later on:

‘I got confronted with my body a lot. I had x legs (still have) and other kids confronted me with it constantly. So I became since that moment really aware of my body and later on of a human body in general. The mind and body are in direct connection, and I always found it intriguing how this works together in a positive and negative way. Sometimes you see weird and odd shapes of the body. Same with trees, I do see here amazing shapes in nature which really inspires me.’

Not only she continues chasing her dreams in ceramics but she also follows her instincts. She was studying at The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam for this reason. And soon enough she felt that it became her home:

‘I felt free to do what I needed to do. Also, some conversations with teachers triggered me in personal ways. This freedom and possibilities helped me to grow way more. It helped me to explore what was important to me. The confrontation with yourself is an important lesson, even though at that moment it seems that it is not.’

Natasja graduated from Rietveld in 2012 and she immediately became a freelancer. She dreamt of becoming an artist and be independent since she was a kid. Consequently, she couldn’t wait to work in her own studio and work for herself.

For her, this choice became more and more concrete throughout life.  She was involved in organizing shows, DJ-ing, making sculptures, etc. and in a meanwhile, she would get fired from every ‘normal’ job she ever had in a week or two. Also, she worked for years in her uncle’s motorbike shop as well: ‘It was a really nice atmosphere. We listened to Motorhead and the Ramones, while I was putting together motorbike parts.’

Natasja easily made the decision to become a freelancer: ‘It’s something you need to do, and don’t have to think about it’. Some of us are not build to work for other companies or a boss, it is much easier to work on your own rhythm and stay happy. This way Natasja makes things happen in her studio out of instincts and passion.

Every sculpture, vase, an object Natasja makes by hand. She produces each piece with different feelings and techniques — which makes it unique. Natasja makes works with a strong character and a strong physical presence. She aims to make sculptures and applied arts with a feeling that can speak for itself. She communicates through her sculptures. 

‘I like to make works that I don’t need to explain, but that you see what I felt when I made it.’

Natasja enjoys working the most when objects give a bit strange and uncomfortable feelings. In like manner, she experiments with casts of nipples. She makes vases, pots and weird undetermined ambiguous shapes out of them.

‘For me an interesting part of the body, if you look into the history of sexuality, taboos, religion etc. If you only take out the nipple and repeat it, it becomes something totally different.’

Natasja communicates new feelings through her sculptures. In order to find that feeling, she uses press molds. She combines these molds into a new sculptural collage, in other words, a new shape that triggers her.

Most of the time she builds up her made by hand sculptures massive. She leaves 1,5 cm layer of clay when the shape is right and afterward recycles the unfired clay. So that she could achieve a more sustainable process of making.

At this moment Natasja works on big 2D sculptural wall-pieces and prepares some new collaborations with other artists for more conceptual art.