Olivia Shih: Hello Anke! Before we launch into talking about your work, could you tell me about your background? I know you trained as a goldsmith entrepreneur and attended art school, but what is a goldsmith entrepreneur?

Anke Huyben: As a goldsmith entrepreneur, you learn to work with precious metals, to set stones, and to start your own business. But that traditional way of doing things always bugged me. When we had to make a set of jewellery, I came up with a ring and crown that you attached a candle to. When wearing this jewelry, you had to think about the way you walk, so I guess gestures in jewelry has always appealed to me.

OS: And how did art school influence you?

AH: Art school made me think differently about jewellery. I'm not the best goldsmith, and that way of making wasn’t enough for me. I dropped out early. Two of my brothers were into sculpture at the time, and I became interested, too.

When I visited Art Academy Maastricht, it was clear that this was my next step. During my time there, it made so much sense for me to look at the body. The shapes and forms, different on everyone. The way the body moves and what it already has of lines could be a piece of jewellery by itself. I thought about what jewellery is and when it is jewellery. A brooch is a brooch when placed on the body. Why not look at the body as a giant brooch then?

Anke Huyben, Multiple Pink, Lycra, yarn, sand,
brass plated copper, pictures by Laura Mauritz

OS: How did gender find its way into your work?

AH: To be honest, it just happened. The gender comes in because I use my own body and my own personal objects. The colour pink is also very feminine of course. That colour got to me after my internship with Iris Eichenberg. There is so much in that colour that doesn't need to be said because of all its baggage.

OS: Have you ever experience any pushback to introducing gender in your jewelry work? Has anyone found your work to be too… explicit?

AH: I've never noticed something or somebody reacting like that, but people often feel awkward around my work. The first reaction is to giggle or do something to hide the awkwardness. Most of the time, people are impressed by how honest and open it is. At the opening in Cologne, people said I was “brave."

Anke Huyben, Multiple Pink, Lycra, yarn, sand,

brass plated copper, pictures by Laura Mauritz

OS: I love the reaction you received. Your collection, “Multiple Pink,” is composed of flesh-like forms that evoke the curves of flesh, breasts, and testicles. What inspired you to tackle these body parts?

AH: I was looking at my own body, which is very fleshy, very pink, and very much there. I wanted to make work that strongly resembled the body, but in a fun way. By enlarging these “body parts,” each piece became a caricature. I also chose the body parts you usually don't show or talk about very much in open air. Through filling forms with very find sand, I created a sculpture, fleshy feeling.

OS: Why is “fun” such an important factor?

AH: I take on my own body-related obsessions and interests, and they are now pretty much what I work with the "sculpture-ness." The fun comes in because I don't want the work to be negative, as if I'm complaining. What I am doing is looking and searching. 

Anke Huyben, Multiple Pink, Lycra, yarn, sand,

brass plated copper, pictures by Laura Mauritz

OS: Each form is larger than their real-life counterparts and capped off with shiny jewelry findings in a humorous twist. Why integrate flesh with jewelry?

AH: For this I really wanted to bring back elements of humor. Like you said, it's a humorous project. I was struggling at the time and wanted it to be jewellery so bad. The collection is in a grey area between jewelry and sculpture, but this is what makes people think.  

It's also very fun for me to think about how people will react to my work. Even though Dutch people are very open minded, some still asked me if I made a warm water jar. I found that hilarious!

OS: I have to tell you, I love the staged poses and elaborate backgrounds in the photos of “Multiple Pink.” In each photo, a woman’s arms and hands present each object as if it were a product for purchase. What was your thought process behind photographing this collection?

AH: I wanted these photos to be very fun, light, visually catchy, and easy on the eye. But most importantly, I thought it would be very strange to photograph a body part on a body. By displaying the collection with hands, the pieces are shown as real human “acts.”

Anke Huyben, “lekker Indrukbaar”, bronze,

pictures bij Anjes Gesink (photoprint on dibond)

OS: Your other collection, “Lekker indrukbaar,” simultaneously hides and highlights the the folds and crevices of a female body by filling in the voids with solid bronze. What does “Lekker indrukbaar” mean?

AH: “lekker Indrukbaar” is a hard one to explain in English, but I'll try. A couple of years ago, I was dating this guy who said to me, with good intentions, that I was “lekker indrukbaar.” Loosely translated, it means something like “nicely squeezy.” Or that I was simply very soft. In my head, I went crazy! The question “Am I fat?” was stuck in my mind.

OS: Gosh, how did you respond to him?

AH: Haha! I tried to take it as a compliment. Just a little later we broke up because I was too slim for him. Go figure.

So that's one way of explaining it, but interestingly enough “lekker indrukbaar” can also mean “nice impression.” This second translation, to me, means that I have been here, and I’ve left an impression on the minds of people. So they have something to remember my by.

Also, my weight has always been a thing for me. Not that I have any complaints, but we all are so infected by the way women are portrayed on television and in magazines.  

Anke Huyben, “lekker Indrukbaar”, bronze,

pictures bij Anjes Gesink (photoprint on dibond)

OS: It’s incredible how inundated we are by specific body types. Why did you decide to approach the female body in such an upfront manner?

AH: As I’ve mentioned, my weight really influenced me. Things were worse as an adolescent, and now I find that this is my “issue.” It is the issue that addresses what I was and what I am still. It's a really honest project. And it felt honest to show it in this way. Upclose, naked, and there.

OS: Thank you for such a frank interview!

Find out more about Anke at her website

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