Depression and gobelin weaving

This morning this video of The Getty Center about The Art of Tapestry showed up on my Facebook news feed. It's a fabulous video about the immense and timeconsuming process of making a tapestry, from designing the image, coloring the wool, warping the loom to the actual weaving. Have a look, I guarantee you'll feel less stressful afterwards. Maybe that's why in the 1970s Amsterdam had a project of gobelin weaving for psychiatric patients...

In 1977 my mother was trying to recover from a severe and ongoing depression. She participated in the weaving project at Sociale Werkplaats De Blauwbrug. There is not much that I can find online and I doubt my mother kept any photos from that period, but I do remember the huge loom we had in our kitchen and my mother sitting behind it. To me it looked incredibly complicated what she was doing, but she seemed to be in her element.

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Sometimes she took me to the studio, where more people like her were working. Young as I was, I was told there was something wrong with them, but all I remember is a group of very friendly and even happy people working together on huge tapestries.

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

Photo by Kors van Bennekom

My mother gave up weaving when my stepfather had a heart attack and he needed her to nurse him. She just didn't have the time to warp the loom and weave the wool anymore. It is such a shame that he didn't see she needed that time to heal herself. She never fully recovered from her depression the way she could have.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge now. I am happy I bumped into the video today that made me search for the gobelin project and that allowed me to actually find my mother on the internet. My beautiful and talented mama...

Collection | Green

Oops, I skipped a week. Which doesn't seem to matter, because nobody sees my blog anyway. But for my own sake I would like to keep browsing through my collection of doors and group them together. 

This week the theme is GREEN, reflecting the climate summit in Paris. I wish I would live more sustainable, but as it stands now we drive, we fly, we shower every day, we put our laundry in a dryer and produce a lot of waste. In the Summer we always go to France where we camp and try to reduce our footprint a little bit.

These doors have nothing to do with the climate, but they're so pretty.

Although they do show that when we don't take care of our home, they fall apart. 

I so hope this little boy - my lovely son - and his children will have a healthy earth to live on.

A commission turned down and around

A while ago an anonymous lady contacted me through Etsy to request a custom order. She replied to this listing and asked if I could make a textile collage for her. 

At first I thought I had sold the collage and I was really happy about that. I thought I would never get rid of it ;-) But our conversation went like this:

What information do you need for a custom order?

Also I don't need it attached to canvas. 
Would the price be the same? I also have a specific size.

Have a happy day.


I answered :

Thank you for your inquiry!

What is it you're looking for exactly? 
Colors, size, topic?

Once I know this I could determine a prize. 

Lovely to hear from you :-)

This is what I got back:

Thank you for replying.  

I am looking for a teenage girl with shoulder length curly girl wearing a beanny hat walking with her dog (black dog that is larger then)..

Details: The girl wears worn blue jeans, a red tshirt with initials GG and black checkered sneakers. She has curly shoulder length hair and wears a purple beany. You can use a black pitt pen to indicate curly hair.

Our dog is almost bigger then her. Is black and has no tail. Like a Rottweiler. Has a blue bow around his neck. 

She walks in the forest. It could be one tree or three. Leaves are not important.

Oval size no bigger the an index card, 3 X 5. She enjoys distressed fabrics so an off white or
tea stain color fabric would work.  

I have provided details but the important thing is the colors.

Would this be too much?

I attached a drawing.



At this point I freaked out. The description of the custom order was so incredibly specific, I knew for sure I would never be able to meet T.'s expectations. Nor my own. The way I work in any artistic discipline is that I never really know exactly where I am going. The whole point is to get out of my head and into my hands. Most of my work just happens. And I like it that way.

What I also like is to make money, so to turn down a job because it doesn't feel right is hard for me to do. Part of feeling justified to choose the path of the artist is that I sell some of my work. But I am not just an artist, I am also a financial manager and I am used to assess proposals and judge potential clients.  I always use my sixth sense when making quotes and I often get the job. In this case something was telling me I would probably put in a lot of time to make a collage  - with a topic not of my choosing - and not get paid in the end.

So this is what I replied:

Thank you for your reply, T.

I am afraid I won't be able to help you. Your request is too specific for me and when it comes to my textile collages, that is not the way I work unfortunately. 

I take a feeling, a color, and take my work from there. I kind of let the image come to me as I go.

You've helped me realize I should remove the custom option from my textile collages.

I am really sorry and hope you can find an artist that will meet your needs. 

A few days later T. replied - not too happy:

Your email mentioned you needed color size and topic.

I furnished that.

I furnished the details because I thought that is what you

I did not know that you take a feeling, a color and go with it.

Hot dog, instead of removing the custom button just add, psychi fabric collage.

Yes, please remove the custom from your page.

Thank you for taking my joy.

A very, very sad girl.

A psychi fabric collage - Taking my joy - A very, very sad girl... Those words were screaming at me, and my first instinct was to scream right back. But I didn't. I just didn't want to feel like I failed to please a customer and I didn't want to give anyone the power to upset me. So after a day or so I wrote back:

I am very sorry you feel this way, T. 

Since you put so much of your heart into your idea, may I suggest you try to make the collage yourself?

I found much inspiration in the work of artists like Cathy Cullis and Viv Hens Teeth. I believe anyone can make art, it's just very difficult to make something that exists in someone else's head.

I wish you a joyful day and thank you again for stopping by in my Etsy store.

Of course I never got a reply and that's okay, I wasn't expecting one. Writing this answer did give me a sense of (self-)respect and relief though. I hope this sad girl is now working on her own collage and discovering a whole new skill.

Doing what I love most

Last week was Fall break. There were so many things I wanted to do with the kids, my husband and by myself. So many fun little chores that I saved up for this week. But I got bronchitis. With a fever. So I knew I had to pace myself immediately.

While lying on the couch under a blanket of self-pity I realized I had been pushing it a little bit too hard lately. After Summer break - especially the great one we had - I expected to have enough energy to last me at least until Christmas. What I didn't realize is that taking on my husband's management is a full-time job when I combine it with the office work I was already doing for him. Add full-time motherhood, guests and a new puppy to the mix and no wonder I got a little tired and stressed out. 

Worst of all was that I couldn't find the time to do what I love most. I got more and more frustrated about that. Then I got sick and was forced to think about my health. It's amazing that you actually need a crisis to make changes. Which I did. As of this week I am giving myself two studio days and three office days. And so today I started with my wool again.


Procrastination, feedback and low self esteem

It's Tuesday, not Monday. I had promised myself to write one blog every Monday and share it on Social Media, here and here and here. But I skipped a day because I was busy doing other things. Important things like making contracts and invoices (the day of the event), answering emails (that were left in my inbox for a week unanswered). Walking the dog and cleaning up after the dog (she's one messy puppy). Cooking dinner and giving attention to my children (teenagers need just as much attention as toddlers do, just a different kind). Oh and I also had a long and enlightening conversation with my dear uncle about one's self esteem. It was a productive day and yet I wasn't satisfied because I didn't write my blog.

Everywhere I go I read it is very important to be reliable and consistent in the online world. Otherwise you don't get noticed, or liked, let alone be shared. So every Monday since Summer break I sit down at my desk, think about what I want to share, sort through my pictures and try to write something that is hopefully inspiring, interesting or just beautiful. I get a real kick out of showing you the things I like and I hope they give you a little spark of happiness too.

Today I have nothing to share, because I have been procrastinating. It's a bad thing but I actually do love the word. I think I learned it from my sweet sister-in-law - an artist herself - who writes a beautiful blog here. Pro-cras-ti-na-tion. Not doing what you should be doing. Even things you actually want to be doing! Like using the wool I washed and prepared this Summer. I have so many ideas about what I want to make, but until now they have only lived in my head. In that very unproductive place filled with self doubt and low self esteem, waiting for feedback and recognition to light the fire of productiveness.

The Dutch have a saying about waiting until you weigh an ounce - losing weight would actually be an added bonus, but I just made a deal with my body not to be unhappy with it anymore in exchange for good health (cross my fingers). So while I wait, I guess I'll write and try to make some more...