The gift

September 19, 2011

I’m still little more than half way through Lewis Hyde’s ,’ The Gift’  but I want to write about my impressions so far.

Though I hadn’t read it before now, his book has been known to me for over 20 years. In the early ’80s I read an article excerpted from it called ‘The Gift must move’, and I have saved those brittle photocopied pages all this time.
His quote concerning art being a gift rather than a commodity opened Suzi Gablik’s, ‘Has Modernism Failed’, and has been a central question for me as ana rtist and for many thinkers on the dilemma of art vs market.

I bought the book hoping to find answers to the last part of this question, (paraphrased) ‘If art is a gift and not a commodity, then how are artists to survive in a primarily market oriented society?’  I admit that some passages are pretty tough going, dealing with subjects such as usury and philosophical meanings of interest on money exchange, nor are the answers to my questions presented on a silver platter. Read the rest of this entry »


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!!

Front view of my new 'Kamoekel'

Marcel de Jong graduated from art academy in fine arts and printmaking. After working as an artist for a time, he eventually found his way into sewing new soft toys from recycled ones. And in the process creating entirely new animals. My little flying bear’s wings are actually the ears of a larger teddy bear.

The evidence of his fine art training and devotion to craftsmanship is visible in all his ‘kamoekels’ (pronounced ka- moo’- kle). I wish you could pick them up and feel how soft and cuddly they are;  we sat across from one another at an art fair this past week-end, and people really responded to them and bought quite a few. I think he is going to be a hit when he gets ‘discovered’.

I’d check out Marcel’s site (it is in Dutch, but you can easily find his contact info and write him in English), and get some early Christmas or birthday gifts before there is a run on them. His prices are very reasonable and the quality is high.  Concerning the recycled factor, I was a bit worried about whether they would carry any musty odors from their former lives,  but they have been all washed and disinfected thoroughly and smell sweet and clean.

Important because once you have one, you’ll want to bury your face in it and hug it to bits.

Needle felted landscape

June 15, 2011

A soon-to-be brooch

The little trees are needle felted. The background is a rectangle of hand-dyed and felted wool I bought.

This was satisfying to do because even though I’m not painting or drawing at the moment, on my daily walks, my eye keeps registering the colors and textures of summer happening all around me. I’ve been wanting a way to express all this beauty visually- especially the sage green waves of grain and our wonderful lollipop willows that are so characteristic of this northern Dutch landscape.

Add blackbird song at dusk, and a cloud of warm, flower scented air with new mown grass thrown in and the picture is complete.

I’m getting ready for an art/culture fair as part of a 10 day Art and garden festival here in Groningen and surroundings.

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

Funeral as a sacred space

January 12, 2009

Our next door neighbor died suddenly on Tuesday night. I didn’t know Frans well, he only used the house as a recreation and hobby space. But in the 6 years that he came there, sometimes daily, we came to know him as a gentle and  kind man.  I am sad that he was cut down at 69 in good health with lots of plans on his new 2009 agenda.  And his family and friends are  bitterly bereaved.

I was at his funeral all afternoon and am gradually reentering the world. It was such a sacred space.  I loved the unfolding of the ritual. First, entering the tiny church in the middle of a winter country landscape, with only a few farms dotted around, hardly any trees. Hearing the reflections on his life from his family and friends, hearing the occasional sniffles, being soothed by the sunlight on the whitewashed walls. No mobile phones, no mundane thoughts, just this, the death of a good man. All of our approaching deaths.

The stories continued for an hour or more, the wind came up, the sun clouded over. The family lifted the beautiful wooden coffin made by friends, and a hundred of us stood as his body was carried outside. There was a 20 minute drive to the cemetery and a cruelly cold, wet and windy wait by the grave.  This part was done in silence, and family and friends passed by the open grave and threw a scoop  of the heavy clay onto his coffin. It was a desolate clunking sound, raw and earthed and definite; we would leave our friend behind, alone in the cold ground.

Then the drive back to the church, a cup of coffee waiting. Warmth, shelter, friends. Fewer signs of open grieving. Slowly people started talking in little groups. There was soup and sandwiches, and gradually life started to reestablish itself as the circle closed. After about 20 minutes it could have been any social gathering, with albeit subdued, chatter and some laughter.

The ritual: grieving, saying goodbye together, the burial, the coming together for food and drink and comfort.  How beautiful it was, how comforting, how entirely right.

Calligraphy box breakout

December 6, 2008


This is the companion piece to ‘Enchanted Vessels I’  which appears in a previous post.

Both pieces are based on the following quote from ‘The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life’  by Thomas Moore:

    ‘Enchantment arises whenever we move so deeply into anything we’re doing that its interiority stirs the heart and the imagination’.

They were done in the context of an oil pastel series, so inadvertently solved a problem I’d been having with calligraphy:

As  result of working in the field of calligraphy for most of my adult life, I had become enclosed in a box I couldn’t see my way out of.  That box was ,’ Calligraphy is making beautiful legible letters to express a quote you like’.  When starting a calligraphy piece I would simply reach for my calligraphy materials, and somehow also my calligraphy mindset.

Though I’d done a lot of abstract calligraphy where the emphasis lay on the markmaking and expression, I’d not yet been able to find a satisfying way to respond to the many literary quotes that continually inspired me.  I’d end up ‘doing a piece of calligraphy’, and it was more of the same old same old.

So this piece, saturated with the magic of Moore’s quote, resolved my dilemma. Snatches of the quote are legible, but most importantly the essence of what touched me is expressed in this piece, and only in part by the calligraphy. The colours, the  monoprint, the handwriting and more formal letters, the  collage and drawing and stamps all work together to form a whole.