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Ferdi 1967,  photo: © Frans Zwartjes




Ferdina Jansen was born on 10 October 1927 in Arnhem, the Netherlands.

Through Simon Vinkenoog she was introduced to Shinkichi Tajiri, a Japanese-American sculptor, who later became her life partner. At Tajiri’s studio, in 1952, Ferdi learned metal-working and welding techniques using an acetylene torch; it was the welding technique she further perfected to create her welded jewelry.
As a young Dutch woman of only twenty-three years old, Ferdi left for Paris in 1950 to develop her interest in fine art. She was one of the many young artists that migrated and were attracted to the idiosyncratic energy and the seemingly endless possibilities of the French capital. She started off by taking part in the sculpture workshops run by sculptor, Ossip Zadkine, who taught at the Académie Colarossi in de Rue de la Grande Chaumière in the artists’ quarter Montparnasse.

jewellery. Of her first meeting with Japanese-American sculptor, she said: “I always watch how others work if I’m interested in learning the technique (..) He was welding and I asked if I could have a go. He agreed and showed me where everything was. Go ahead, he said, then disappeared to a café leaving me to work out what to do.”

In 1953, Ferdi and Shinkichi set up home together in Paris and a year later they toured Italy, Spain and North Africa on a Triumph 650 cc motorbike. Ferdi continued to make her iron jewelry pieces that were powerful and symmetrical in appearance, something she found mesmerizing studying the body of insects. The 16 mm film, Ferdi (1955), made by Shinkichi, shows Ferdi welding and fashioning her jewelry as they were eagerly bought up by American and Japanese tourists. The images of the insect-like jewels fade into footage of real insects. This short documentary was broadcast by the Dutch TV channel, AVRO, on national television a year later.

In 1956, they moved to Amsterdam to explore new opportunities as the cultural revolution evolved to make the city the magisch centrum (magical centre) of Europe. They found a studio flat in the Red Light District on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, one of the oldest canals. Ferdi enthusiastically demonstrated her work in public at the RAI Household Fair and Shinkichi continued to build an artistic career on a national and international level. Some time later, their two daughters, Giotta Fuyo (1957) and Ryu Vinci (1959), were born.
In 1962 the Tajiri family moved to Castle Scheres because they were in need of a bigger working space. Castle Scheres dates back to the 18th century and is located in the middle of Baarlo, a small village in the southern part of the Netherlands. The castle has a tower, four wings, and a large courtyard surrounded by a parkland filled with trees. Ferdi was the key figure in the household organisation. Not only was she responsible for caring for her two young daughters, she was also hostess to the numerous national and international guests.

The family left for the United States in 1964 until 1965 as Tajiri was invited as a guest professor at the Minneapolis School of Art. That same year, Ferdi exhibited with Gallery Dayton 12 in Minneapolis. A three-month road trip for the entire family followed in a VW van through America and Mexico. During the trip in Mexico, Ferdi found inspiration that took her work in a new direction.
Once home, Ferdi began experimenting with sculptural forms based on impressions from Mexico. This was the beginning of her Hortisculptures that she developed in a brief span of three years from 1966-1969. Ferdi lived for her art, with her art and in her art. Her fantasy world was as rich as her studio and the castle garden she created. Ferdi passed away on February 2nd 1969.

After Tajiri passed away the renewed Rijksmuseum (2013), Amsterdam acquired the sculpture Made in USA as well as Ferdi’s Wombtomb, which are on permanent display in the 20th-century collection of the museum.


text: Ferdi Hortisculpture, 2008


1927    Born in Arnhem

1950    Leaves for Paris

1951    Studies with Zadkine

1952    Takes welding lessons from Shinkichi Tajiri

1954    Travels together with Tajiri through Spain and North Africa

1955    Participates in the movie The Vipers by Tajiri and Baird Bryant
              Ferdi, Tajiri makes
16mm film about Ferdi welding

1956    Moves to Amsterdam

               Welding workshop at the Household Fair in the RAI, Amsterdam

1957    Birth of daughter Giotta Fuyo

1959    Birth of daughter Ryu Vinci

1962    Moves to Castle Scheres in Baarlo Limburg

1964    Travels to the United States and Mexico

1965    5 month journey through the United States and Mexico

1966    Starts making her hortisculptures

1969    Dies on February 2

2013    Wombtomb from Ferdi is aquired by and on permanent display in the

              20th Century collection of the Rijksmuseum. Opening on April 15

              of the renewed Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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