a/Artist event on Neurodivergence in the Arts

Monsters under the Bed and Cocoon

On celebrating otherness with designer Clemens Tomlow and performer Leyla de Muynck

15 Apr 2024

All over the world stories of scary monsters are used as precautionary tales for children. And yet many fairytales teach us that what society deems monstrous is often more misunderstood than evil. Stories like Beauty and the Beast and the Hunchback of Notre Dame show that our personal journey starts when we step beyond our fear of being misunderstood.


Clemens Tomlow: Monsters under the Bed 

Clemens Tomlow is an alumni from Design Academy Eindhoven. Interested in the world of textiles and storytelling, he mainly works as an artist / costume designer but sees himself as an interdisciplinary maker. His costumes draw inspiration from childhood monsters that embrace different stages of the weird and odd: from anxiously hiding for bullies to a proud and happy beast. The collection seeks to bring out the inner child in all of us, to open our minds and question our fears.


Clemens Tomlow -

Sports or arts? 

Clemens began his presentation by walking us through the story of his artistic career so far, beginning with the decision to pursue either sports or creative work after high school. “What I really had to decide at that point was okay, what do I want my future to hold.“, he remembered. “Do I want to surround myself with people who care about performance and physique, or do I want to work with this creative side and surround myself with people who value the idea of craziness, of colour and texture and just being. And I went with that.“ 

He was accepted at the Design Academy in Eindhoven — “That changed my life a lot. Finally this  creativity and this sense of “you don’t have to fit a box“ was — I wouldn’t say accepted, it was much more than that, it was stimulated.“ In his fourth year at the design academy, Clemens came into contact with the textile museum. “And I found this material you also see in front of you, feel free to touch it and look at it!“, he invited the audience. “It’s actually waste material, the textile museum creates beautiful weaves and knits and this is what gets thrown out. I found it such an intriguing piece — the colours, the textures, the possibilities are endless, and the feeling of it resonated so strongly with me.“ The textile was happy to donate the material to Clemens — “and that’s what also started my process with the monsters project.“ 

What does it mean to be a monster? 

Next, Clemens reflected on how to best use the material. “It reminded me of monsters, this interest I had as a child. And I realised that it’s all about this oddness, this weirdness, this craziness I’ve always been drawn to.“

'What does it mean to be a monster?' became the inciting question behind the project. To Clemens, monsters were not only animalistic creatures from cautionary fairytales, but also misunderstood entities who become scary only because they are unfamiliar. 


Clemens Tomlow Sharing his Story During the a/Artist Meeting - Jada Maij

“For me that was really interesting, because I often felt like a monster in my own life. I was misunderstood and freaky to a lot of people, wearing different coloured clothing, weird hair…so that’s where the seed got planted for me.“ In his final year, Clemens asked friends to draw him monsters — “what was a monster for them, what it looked like, what it felt like, what it encapsulated.“  

Morphing the body

The next step was to experiment with the shapes of the monsters. “My monsters for me were always about morphing the body into a new being. They never just have the same proportions as us.“, Clemens explained. “I would take clothing and morph it into new silhouettes and from there I would start cutting and drawing on to it. It was also such a fun process of taking these clothes that you wear in your normal daily life and turning them into a costume. Where does style end and costume start? I wanted to morph these categories.“ 


Clemens Tomlow Sharing his Story During the a/Artist Meeting - Jada Maij

Shapes and colours

Clemens showed us the three shapes he chose. The next step was to create a narrative around them. The first shape represented a monster both scary and scared, trying to hide and be bigger than it should be at the same time. The second monster is in a state of metamorphosis, breaking out of a sort of cocoon, while the third one’s shape appear almost like armour. 

Out of a collection of materials he received from the textile museum, Clemens created colour samples to embody each of the monsters. “What I do in my in my daily practices is working with materials, trying to find out what works together and what doesn’t“, he explained.

The scared monster’s colour palette consists of blues, whites and greys — “those are exactly the colours where for me that emotion comes through the most“. The second monster, caught in a state of transformation, received an explosion of different colours. “And then the last one I really wanted to almost become dark in a sense.“, Clemens shared - “More pure, more intense, perhaps even more scary.“


After shapes and colours were decided, Clemens began constructing the monsters. “I looked into different materials for building up the body, sketching it out — how can I work with foam, how can I work with this material, because for me it was also a very new thing I was just trying to figure out.“ He added: “I tend to just take the materials and start to build. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is exactly, but I have a certain idea in mind from where on I want to continue my work.“ 

Monster stories — the monster of sadness 

Clemens showed us the final results: “These are the monsters that finally came to life, through my stories and through myself.“ He then told us each monster’s story. 

“Here we have my first monster — this is the monster of sadness. A scared being that doesn’t fit the mood and every time it tries to escape it gets pushed back in. This is really that 12 year old kid who doesn’t know his way in the world. And it’s a really personal story, this was me in high school trying to figure out who I wanted to be.“ Without space to grow, this monster is physically and emotionally confined inside a too-small box. 


Maya - Clemens Tomlow - Clemens Tomlow

“What I really wanted to show is that in highschool there are a lot of people who can’t find their place, and every time they try to fight for it they get ridiculed or pushed back, so it’s easier to just hide and kind of dissolve into that space.“

Monster stories — the monster of celebration

The colourful second monster, on the other hand, is all about celebration, Clemens explained. It’s situated in the joyful moment of breaking out of the box and not being pushed back. “For me this was when I went to design academy. It was the first moment I felt like I found my people. They are not necessarily the same as you, but they leave you in your value. And it’s such a beautiful feeling, this barrier you kept closed for all these years and now finally someone was able to take a sledgehammer to it and crack the wall. This outburst of emotion, it’s almost like you’re being birthed anew.“


Franka - Clemens Tomlow - Clemens Tomlow


Monster stories — the monster of pride

“My last monster is about pride.“, Clemens continued. Armoured with self-confidence, this monster is no longer concerned with boxes: “It’s knowing who you are, all your flaws and imperfections, being able to take them and saying you can’t hurt me anymore with this.“

Clemens shared that many people have told him that they find this third monster the scariest and most intimidating of the three. “And my answer is always: yes, it is. Because the moment you take all those imperfections that are deemed weird or bad is when you step into your real power and become almost intimidating, because it’s intimidating to be completely and unequivocally yourself.“


Ever - Clemens Tomlow - Clemens Tomlow

Symbols: From the toilet cubicle to the streets 

Finally, Clemens illuminated some of the symbolism behind the material details of the three monsters. “There’s so much world building, it all tells something“, he said. For the monster of sadness, “it’s about the hiding of the face, this huge monster that is not able to hide and still tries.“ In the photoshoot Clemens shows us, this monster is hiding inside a toilet cubicle, a boxed-in space both safe and constraining. The monster’s feet are made of foam, so that every step would feel both heavy and insecure.

The monster of celebration — “I wanted to say this is my favourite monster but I can’t pick favourites“ — is no longer hiding their face. “It’s peeking through, the first moment this monster can sort of arise from itself.“ The set for this monster had to encapsulate a feeling of festivity. Clemens connected this to the festivities of Halloween: “For me, Halloween was one of the first times I realised I could look crazy and everyone would say I look great. I could wear really crazy makeup and people would throw candy at me!“ The monster of celebration is captured on camera during a burst of movement — “It all shows this feeling of happiness and freedom.“ 

Lastly, the monster of pride is beyond hiding — “It has a hood, a layer of protection, but it’s fully out there, not hiding anymore or trying to come out, it’s fully free.“ This monster, with its confident presence bordering on the intimidating, is meant to take up any and all of the space it likes. “Often people who feel unaccepted stay in safe spaces, because it’s easier that way and also safer, of course. But what I wanted to show is that this monster takes to the street because the streets are theirs.“ 


After applauding Clemens, we moved on to questions and answers. One guest inquired: “You said it was intimidating to be radically yourself. Is it intimidating to you or to the ones witnessing it?“ 

“I think it’s often intimidating to others.“, Clemens replied. “And what I meant with intimidating is that you take away the power from people — they can’t offend you anymore. People get power from criticising little things about how you look or how you talk, to belittle you — we’re gonna make you a little bit smaller so you know where you stand and you know where I stand. And this monster is where you can say I’m not going to take that. You take away their power to belittle you or to hold things over your head.“ 

Someone else asked whether Clemens is planning to extend his collection of monsters. 

“I was thinking about it this morning“, Clemens reflected — “And I think I do want to expand, but not just to have more monsters, I really want to tell a story. I want to move on to emotions, because emotions can be so intense and overwhelming that they become your own monsters. So I was thinking of making that the next series.“ 

Another guest complemented the strong images created through the photoshoot, asking whether he always wears the monsters himself, and what effect this has on him. 

After crediting his photographer, Clemens went on to explain: “Well, the monsters have always been me. Every time I finished a piece I would put it on, see if it felt right, if it really gave me the vibe and energy I was going for.“ For the photoshoot however, he preferred to take on the role of director and curator rather than actor. “I wanted it to be my vision, and also models that fit that very well. And what you see, I’ve thought about everything about every image, including the model.“ 

“Do you ask the model what they feel or how they should behave?“, someone wanted to know. 

Clemens outlined the process: “I started by asking three people per monster, I would tell them what the monster was about and I would ask them to move, to sort of become the monster. And that’s how I came to these three people, I was like: you are the exact person for it. You have become this monster to an extent where you can be photographed in it. Because for me, they’re my darlings, I really wanted it to come to life, and I think the models have done that exquisitely.“ 

After this, he left us with a two-part question to reflect on and discuss during the break: “Have you ever felt like a monster to someone else, and what does it mean to you to be a monster?“, and led the audience on a tour to the outside of the Mediamatic greenhouse, where two of the monsters are currently on display in the window. 


Close up of One of the Monsters - Monsters Under The Bed By Clemens Tomlow "Monsters Under the Bed" is a personal journey that celebrates all that is different and misunderstood. Clemens invites us to consider what we find frightening or risky and to embrace the notion that what we fear may not be thoroughly understood. Vu Ha


Leyla de Muyck: Cocoon


Leyla de Muynck - portrait - Still from drama girl

Leyla creates visual work using her body as an instrument. This can take many different forms, such as film, sculptures, and performance, with the use of herself being central. Leyla plays with authenticity in her performances,. She creates a new world but will never pretend within that world. Dreams and the subconscious are a big inspiration and driving force.

A cocoon, a delicate lattice of thin threads that slowly comes to life. From within, the lattice transforms into a shape that slowly metamorphoses into…? Yes, into what? COCOON is an artwork, a performance, a work in transformation and as a theme part of a larger work. The caterpillar dies and becomes a butterfly. In COCOON, Leyla explores her fascination and relationship with death.


Leyla de Muynck -

Leyla de Muynck is a performance artist that combines fabrics and crochet with her background in contemporary dance. Her work COCOON is a poetic approach to a reoccurring theme within her work, death. The cocoon she crochetted stands for transformation. The catapillar dies and disintegrates to make room for something else, for something new. 


Leyla de Muynck Performing her Piece Cocoon - Jada Maij

Dreams and the subconscious are significant in Leyla's work.  "It is the closest thing we experience, as the living, to the dark void of endless possibities that is death.  When I am dreaming, I feel I can connect to dead people I care about because we are both in a bodyless state. Losing someone close to you can make you grow up quickly and have to transform yourself."


Leyla de Muynck Performing her Piece Cocoon - Jada Maij


Leyla de Muynck Performing her Piece Cocoon - Jada Maij


Leyla & Clemens Answering Questions from the Audience - Jada Maij

Old Event Information

a/Artist Meeting: Monsters Under the Bed and Cocoon
Monday 15th of April 
17:30 - 20:30 
Tickets (with vegan meal)