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

Shop as art

April 30, 2011

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We’ve been working for the past 4 months clearing out the etalage and knocking out a wall to create a shop/exhibition space. See Craft Chronicles .

After the last coat of fresh paint, textile artist Sandra  Jongedijk came over with her wares. It was so nice spending time with her before her vacation and discovering each new piece she had brought. Everything she makes radiates a calm mastery of technique- she has been sewing since she was 12. The shop is filled with the warm playfulness of her work- from stools covered with recycled wool blankets, to purses called ‘Grandma’s curtain’, meticulously designed and put together and always carrying an extra touch such as hand printed motifs on the fabric.

I decided not to open for the public, but rather invite interested friends. I sent out about 30 personal invitations for the 3 weekends I’ll be open.
This shop is an experiment for me in exploring the new anti-marketing I’ve been writing about here for years:  create a local base; commit to something you are passionate about and prepare to have staying power over the long-term; trust it to work; avoid manipulative sales techniques; concentrate on finding your own audience as opposed to a mega audience; team up with collaborators; offer a service;  and use art to create community and inspire others. 

As I sat in the shop yesterday and no one showed up*, I began to doubt in myself and my seemingly naive expectations. Was this all wishful thinking? ‘What, just do something you believe in well and assume that eventually it will earn money? How do you expect to earn money when you don’t even add a percentage above the artist’s price? How dumb is that by modern marketing standards?’ What! You’re not on Twitter, or Facebook or Linked in! Then you don’t exist. Not for most of the internet using public.’   *(Later: today there was more interest and a few sales, that’s better!)

But for now the internet using public isn’t my primary target group. Of course I will use the web as a supplementary tool, and I always will link to the artist’s site, so international readers have a chance to buy directly from them.

However, the local aspect, having a neighborhood store where people feel comfortable to drop by, Read the rest of this entry »

Whenever I read a story of a successful person who has realized their dreams, it rarely starts out with,

‘Well, I decided what to do, ran a market research, thought up a name and launched a successful business’. 

Instead it almost always starts out modestly:

‘I liked baking cookies and my friends all asked for some, eventually they were asking me to provide party cakes, and my bakery grew from there’.


‘I always liked to make gifts for people, and it just kept expanding until companies were asking me to make creative
business gifts’.

 While thinking about what I’d like to do with my shop, branding at this stage seems premature and I question the prevailing commercial practice of having to decide on a name, packaging and a style at this early stage.

The best most enduring things take time- time to emerge, to ripen, to take form.  This project will find its identity through a combination of: my intents; the people who visit it, the people I collaborate with, its growth through time, the surroundings, and other outside influences. So why would I want to pin it’s soul down before it is even born?

Heck, ANYONE can think up a name and present a product with a professional looking package. Even the most el cheapo products can be presented convincingly because the technology is open to everybody.  Read the rest of this entry »

Craft chronicles

March 19, 2011

etalage before

For years our etalage has been a storage room for art and everything else

My new project is starting a shop/mini-gallery at home featuring beautiful handmade functional objects made by myself, my husband and guest artists.

Though I am not exactly thrilled at the idea of having opening hours (and probably won’t have any regular ones), the project answers a lot of my needs- short and long term. It gives me a structural, continuing base on which to build. This balances the nature of my free-lance work which usually involves large, one-of-a kind projects which sometimes demand a steep learning curve to learn to apply my skills to a set of new materials which I then don’t use again, often for several years (lettering a 100 year old huge document, burning letters in a wooden grave marker, decorating a period instrument, making a giant gold leaf sign for the local church/hermitage).

Having a craft shop in this period of rising interest in knitting, felting, crocheting, beading etc. supports good quality work and the artists making it, and also provides inspiration to aspiring handwork hobbyists.  I love to teach, so workshops will be a part of the concept.

new space

New space with hardboard wall removed

Important to me is the relationship with the local community. My focus will be in this neighborhood (rural northern Holland) and surrounding area rather than internet for now. I have a nice working relationship with the people who own the only other store (gallery and gift shop) in the village (besides the motorboat shop), they have a large space and we are planning an autumn creative course program linked with both our shops.

My space, on the other hand,  is tiny- three people max including me can fit in there and stilll breathe. But there is room for a table and 2 chairs and I can still offer one on one tutoring. Also, I am excited about the idea of organizing some local craft-ins, where people can just come and bring their currrent project and work and drink tea together.

Felt & beaded brooche- button from V&A museum gift shop(UK)

I have been having a great time working with felt, silk and beads to create some brooches for sale. My friend Betty just bought the first one, so that starts things off well. I’m making some great cotton roses for interior decoration, smaller ones for brooches as well.

brooches and buttons

Some brooches and a bowl of porselein buttons

I think I will post here from time to time (see Category Craft Chronincles) to share how this project unfolds. It is a leap, the last time we had a shop here, very few people came, and the village were not at all interested. But things have changed in 15 years and it feels like the time is right.