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We’ve forgotten what a hobby was.  It was sewing, crafting, drawing, for the pleasure of it alone.

Maybe once in awhile a friend or neighbour offered to buy our latest crochet project for a little money.  We made things in our spare time at our own tempo. We kept making stuff which got given away or sold for a charity or sold so we could buy more supplies. It was a natural cycle of enjoyment, energy invested and a kind of gentle return on that. Sometimes it involved money, but it was about appreciation as well, and exchanging new techniques or materials with others.

Now every human with two hands and a knitting needle has dollar signs in her eyes it seems. Our society’s obsession with business has invaded even this homely domain. Now our knitter makes a ‘product’. In order to sell, she needs a logo, a label, a website, an Etsy store. She needs to be a good photographer to take images of her work to promote it. She must work the social sites, keep up with her Etsy contacts to make sure her work gets featured on others’ blogs, keep up with her networking. She needs to fill orders, set up an online payment system. She needs to become a good postal worker and get her products in the mail on time. The administration has to be done well and regularly. And soon she has to face it- she isn’t a knitter anymore, she is a retailer or depending on the product, a wholesaler. Her arm is hurting from staying up doing all that knitting to fill orders. Should she hire someone to do the drudge work?

Good grief, people. Keep your hobbies hobbies!  Keep part of yourself off line and out of the marketplace.

Here is my latest creation from my hobby of crocheting- fully copied from delightful Lucie’s generously shared instructions.

And it is so not for sale.

Decorative birdie

Decorative birdie

Oh,  but if you are interested, let’s see, it took around 5 hours, at 35 euros an hour- that will be 175 euros, thanks.

And, no, I can’t make 12 more.

Ex-shop and oil painting studio ready for harpsichord

In December 2010, Johan Hofmann a respected Dutch harpsichordist and teacher, contacted me about an exciting project. He was having a new instrument made by Matthias Griewisch. Griewisch is considered by some to be one of the best period instrument builders working today.  My part in this would be to paint the songboard full of flowers as is traditionally done with Flemish keyboard instruments from around the mid-1600’s. The image below is of an instrument made by Herwil van Gelder for Jan Dirk Immelman. I painted it in 2007.

harpsichord decoration

I am deeply honoured to be involved in this project. In August last year I went to Edinburgh’s Museum of old instruments, St Cecilia’s and studied the original, unrestored version of this rare double manual harpsichord.

Ruckers double manual harpsichord circa 1638 photo St Cecilia's-

Johan and I (and Matthias via Johan) have been brainstorming about this instrument for a year now- how it would look, what we wanted to keep from the tradition, what we could change to reflect the times we live in as well as Johan and Matthias’ aesthetic preferences. And of course my sense of how this would all influence the sound board decoration.

It has been a fun and exciting collaboration so far, punctuated by dinner out on the terrace here, a pastry-filled birthday meeting, and climaxing in Johan and friend Bert’s return from Germany yesterday and the delivery of the ‘case’. (The case is the upper body of the harpsichord containing the songboard- the strings and keyboard will be added later).

It is so beautiful. It is just so beautiful. (I’ve been listening a lot to Aerial by Kate Bush, these words should be heard as music, they are about 45 seconds into the video).

It/she/he already has a soul. Here is a picture of him/her under wraps, awaiting adornment with garlands, flowers and arabesques. This will take about 6-8 weeks.

More will be revealed later.

Under wraps

Latest craft attack

October 7, 2011

Blue arch with beads

I have uploaded images of all my felt brooches (created during my latest craft attack) onto my Flickr site .  Someone has just taken an option on Happy Blues Medallion and Purple beaded shiboru.

Now, I have commissioned work coming in requiring writing and organising skills, so my felts, wools, silks and beads are all sleeping in their baskets waiting until I have the frame of mind to get to them again. I tried knitting because you can pick it up and do a few rows in between, but it somehow aggravates a problem in my right shoulder, so it will have to be no handwork for now.

(Cool, I just found out how to color text in this program!)

Magnolia bud by SigridBluebells by Sigrid

When I was in Kew Gardens during my recent UK trip, I stumbled into an exhibition of contemporary botanical illustration. It was unexpectedly fresh, and I was so pleased to see that many of the artists were young. It did me good to know that this art getting new life breathed into it by young artists.

So yesterday at a plant fair I attended, I was especially pleased to discover Sigrid Frensen, a young botanical artist. We had a really nice chat about our work (including my harpsichord decoration which I guess is a form of botanical illustration) and her recent participation in a show of botanical illustration in London. Her mother joined the discussion about how there is more appreciation for this art form in England than in Holland. Here, as with other craft skills, this is looked down upon by some in the art world. But if you see the contemporary work being done in this field, you’ll notice renewal and innovation.

What I value about botanical art are the patience and skills needed to render a plant accurately, but more than these, the ability to get inside the spirit of the plant and make it come alive.

I spoke to an artist at the fair who, in keeping with the general opinion here, also rather dismissed botanical illustration as a lesser art form. But I feel that slowly people here will come to appreciate it as a branch of art/craft worthy of respect and attention. I find it an exciting field, and am looking forward to seeing Sigrid’s art develop. She is active in promoting the skill and is one of the founders of the Dutch Society of Botanical Artists.

You can see her site here (Dutch). And her blog (English) has a lot of good examples of her work, worth a look, for sure.

Bluebells by Sigrid

We got this rice paper lamp for the shop from Ikea. It was open on the bottom and the light bulb glared through. I solved the problem by searching for an interesting piece of similar paper to seal the bottom with.

The decision was easy when I remembered Annet’s wonderful letter to me when I finished work on my book. It was written on her special ‘Applause’ paper (the description is in Dutch, but the image gives the idea).
The cleverness of this product plays on a Dutch pun-  clapping is ‘Klap’ in Dutch. Coincidentally, the poppy flower is called a ‘klaproos’, ‘roos’ means ‘rose’.
How are these related?
In her ingenious concept, Annet printed the word ‘klap’ repeatedly on the paper along with images of clapping hands. The paper is specifically meant for sending someone a letter of applause for something they have accomplished, or simply a letter of appreciation.  The punchline? (and why it doesn’t translate into English), is that if you then PLANT the letter and give it water, it sprouts in ‘klaprozen’or poppies. If you look closely at the first photo, you can see that the paper is full of tiny poppy seeds.

I felt bad about cutting up the beautiful letter, but since it was meant to be planted anyway, it was ok. I should have copied it, I suppose, but the words are planted in my heart, so I don’t think I have to add more papers to my ever growing pile of memorabilia.

Also, using words and handwriting from friends in collage projects like these gives them an extra charge of love and connectedness. Every time I go in the shop, every time someone admires the lamp with its tiny books hanging down, Annet willl get a little shot of ‘applause’ right back again!!

James Krenov at work, please see below for photo credit

Photo comes from this site

Continuing quotes on the craft life from ‘A Cabinet Maker’s Notebook’:

The good thing is to develop your habits and discipline and get a flow in the work so that it all makes long-term sense. There is no way of making it easy though you can make some of it easier and most of it enjoyable by being friends with what you are doing. You learn more that way, and the work shows this. Which in turn helps to keep you going, without thinking about all the time and effort it takes: a large part of the battle is getting to the point where you no longer worry about the time and work involved.

Still, for some of us it is too much. In the long run we can’t do it. This is understandable.

And this is why, when we see a fine piece of cabinet-making, we should look closely, and think about what it means, and remember that it is not just pieces of wood put neatly together, but a measurable part of an honest craftsman’s life.

(James Krenov died at the age of 88 in 2009).

Spoonful feature

May 4, 2011

 

Balloon by Jesophi, Jewellery Designer

I’m thrilled that the shop is featured on the blog of a delightful little zine I ordered, called Spoonful, a happiness companion. Thanks Anthea! It is, as the title suggests, a bite sized helping of food for the soul.  There are hearty little snippets of literature, art, and musings on happiness, enhancing the everyday, creativity and more. 

I ordered it to include in my shop as part of the mission of bringing in inspiration from all over the world into this tiny little village where I live. There are just so many wonderful things happening on a grass roots level in the area of creativity and community building that people here would never get exposed to without a guide. So I guess that is what part of the function of this shop is.  Anyway, Spoonful is reasonably priced and beautifully presented, with a nice layout and colour artwork. I’m enjoying, after having read my 3 issues, dipping in and following some of the links, to say, Denise Sharp a creator of whimsical works in paper and calligraphy. Have FUN!

Click for Jesophi Jewellery designer’s Etsy shop