Abandoned Houses Come Alive Through Embroidery

A Dutch artist explores the secret relationships between objects in abandoned homes using a needle and thread.

Is there a hidden geometry that explains the way in which an abandoned house relates to itself? Artist and designer Hagar Vardimon-van Heummen thinks so, and her ‘Lonely Houses’ series traces it, line by line, stitch by stitch.


The Lonely Houses series started with Vardimon-van Heummen’s slight obsession with abandoned houses. She is a mother of two with a house located between the three most famous museums in the Netherlands — the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Stedelijk museum — in the busy heart of Amsterdam.

“I am fascinated with lives that are lived in total solitude,” she says. “It is the complete opposite of my very busy city life. My work is an attempt to understand the feeling of belonging and connection to the place I live in, the place I’m in right now.”

To create her works, Vardimon-van Heummen hunts through Amsterdam’s assembly of used bookstores, thrift stores and antique bookshop, snatching up lost photo albums, old magazines, tattered picture books and more. What she is looking for are pictures of lonely and deserted houses, barns, and caravans, mainly from the 1950s and 1960s.

“I love photos of this period. It’s not my childhood time and the photos are taken in places I have never been,” Vardimon-van Heummen explains. “What intrigues me are the faded colors, the light of the day, the landscape and above all keep the lost memories and make them mine. “

Once she has a picture of a house she wants to work with, Vardimon-van Heummen puts the needle to it. What she is doing has a specific meaning to her: the stitches she makes geometrically trace her own associations and symbolic links between different elements of the picture. “I put lots of thought in understanding the relations between the objects in the photo,” she explains. “I try to find the story inside the photo itself and then tell it with threads, creating different layers of time and place.”

But why thread instead of, say, ink? “I look at threading a work as a way to express my ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Working on a paper gives a completely different tension to the thread than working on textile,” she explains. “The straight lines create a movement and dynamic of their own, lending the work another dimension.”


You can see more of Vardimon-van Heummen’s work at her official site Happy Red Fish.