Human Limits, the making

Human Limits, Mique Menheere, Photo Carlotte Cruijsen

My early questions

Since I was a teenager I have always asked myself why borders exist. Why do countries exist..? why do we build walls…?

When I started travelling in my twenties, I experienced at different continents and countries, that in essence we are alle the same. Due to lots of violent happenings in the world during the last decade, this question popped up again. As a result, when I was selected for the Masterclass of the Volkenkundig Museum Leiden related to the Textile Festival Leiden, I made a work about this theme, shown on top of this page. In this article I tell you all about the making of it.

poster of the Textile festival Leiden, photo Gary Mulder

My Masterclass

So I participated in the Masterclass of the Museum Volkenkunde Leiden, together with 13 other women. We got a year to make a piece of art inspired by the Museum Volkenkunde. Our results would be exposed at the museum for three months in 2020. Unfortunatly Corona got in the way, the exposition was cancelled. Instead of that an online Festival was organized, which you can find here: And, I am so happy with it, a film showing our works was made. Here you can see that video: (at 1.48min. you can see my work).

My inspiration

Four times we came together over a year time. Guided by artist Hetty Arens,, we developed our works, gave and got feedback and simply had fun! As a start we got a tour in de archives of the museum, to get inpired by pieces of the collection. It was almost too much to handle… so much beauty around us… so much history to take in…

After a while I realised I felt inspired by the way the Museum was orginazed… not by a specific piece of art… I noticed that the museum rooms all referred to geographic parts of the world, to specific countries and continents. Thus following existing borders … emphasizing differences instead of similarities… I asked myself what this would do with the visitor… Would it create borders in our heads? Would it generate (more) limits in our thinking?

My investigation

Meanwhile I discovered in the media that at this present time more then ever walls between countries are being build. The image below shows that clearly and opened my eyes a bit more.

both images: Blocked Borders, University of California, Berkley & University of Quebec, Montreal

So the theme borders/limits triggered me… Spontanuesly I made a mind map about walls, using the Israeli/Palestine border as an example. Words like “Me, the Other, Poverty, Fear, Not wanting to share, Survival” popped up.

I also made a collage about walls. With the Mexican -US border as an example.

collage about walls, photo Mique Menheere

My design

I decided to continue with this topic. And started thinking about my art work. Because I have a background in jewellry making, quite soon I decided I wanted to make an unorthodox piece of jewelry. I thought about making a collar of fabric, with embroidery on it. Here you see my first design.

design collar Human Limits, photo Mique Menheere

On one side of the collar I would show walls being built right now. On the other side I would embroider texts, emphasizing the fact that we are all the same. Where ever we live or are born… namely human. Here you see the design I made. I started sewing, but the collar didn’t got the precesion I strived for. I decided to leave the idea of a collar and make a necklace instead. Here you see that design.

design for necklace Human Limits, photo Mique Menheere

My labour

This design met my standards, I was satisfied now, and I started to draw the design on the fabric. Which had been an old linen nightgown from 1910 (!).

drawn “walls” on linen fabric, photo Mique Menheere

Now I was finally ready for the real work, I could start embroidering! I used 2 threads of dark green DMC yarn. For the “walls” I used a blanked stitch, for the letters I used a backstitch. Here you see my work in progress.

work in progress, photo Mique Menheere

And here below my work is almost ready. I decided to not perfectly finish the outlines of the necklace. Just like in real life, borders have some tough edges…

Almost ready… unfinished borders….photo Mique Menheere

You know already how my finished work turned out … see the photo at the beginning of this article.

Our exposition

In the meantime, nearly one year later, we got great news. Museum the Kantfabriek in Horst (Brabant), invited us to expose our Masterclass results at their Museum. So our work can be seen in real time in the end! The exposition started at January 16 and can be seen till March 13. For more information take a look at In the meantime we also made and published a small catalogue about this Masterclass. It’s sold at the Museum.

Catalogue exposition Heden en Verleden (the now and the past), photo Museum Masterclass Volkenkunde 2022

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Enjoy creativity!

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