SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE - FEEL CONNECTED - LIVE MINDFULLY - SPOIL YOURSELF
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“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties” ERICH FROMM (1900-1980)
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WHY IT'S WORTHWHILE TO STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – TWO DRAWING LESSONS - DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE (OUT) RUSSIAN DIVAS FROM A BYGONE ERA – AND HOW TAKING ONE PHOTO CAN BE BETTER THAN TAKING THOUSANDS
Divas From The Past
Time for a Breather
What Makes Life Simple?
A Knitting Boy
CONTENTS Pages 19 to 52
Feel connected 22
PRODUCTS & IDEAS
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO? In each issue, we check in with a few of our favorite creative entrepreneurs to find out about their recent projects. This time, it’s Hayley Gosling, Annelies Bakker, and Rebecca Green.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP Yes, it’s true. Our personal relationships sometimes require bargaining, compromise, and concessions. Psychologists and relationship counselors offer us their best advice on how to do better in negotiations with your partner.
INTERVIEW WITH ARNE NERJORDET He took up knitting as a boy growing up on a farm in Norway, and later became one half of an international fashionwear duo, Arne & Carlos. He talks about his new home, knitting balls, and grandma.
COVER ILLUSTRATION BLANCA GÓMEZ
MEANWHILE, IN SOUTH SUDAN The capital of the fledgling nation is recovering from years of war, a struggle for independence, and the process of trying to discover its new identity. Four women who are helping to build the new economy talk about the power of creativity.
Pages 53 to 78
Live mindfully 56
PRODUCTS & IDEAS
WHY READ? Well, of course, because it’s enjoyable. But also because it slows your heart rate, it makes you relax, and it takes you into a world of your own. That’s why scientists now say reading is good for your health.
STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE There’s something so easy, pleasurable, and sweet about staying safe in your comfort zone. But sometimes we get too comfy and forget the benefits of new adventures. How do you figure out the boundaries of your zone, and then stretch them?
ONE PICTURE IS ENOUGH In this digital era, while everyone is posting pictures on social media to mark every single passing moment, we consider the pleasures of just taking one, perhaps imperfect, picture, and enjoying the world instead.
ZEITGEIST We interview Paul Verhaeghe about letting go of the things that you think you’re supposed to do, and just doing what feels good. It turns out that’s not as selfish as it sounds.
Pages 11 to 18
She was a naturalist and scientific illustrator of the Dutch Golden Age who discovered something incredible: that strange looking little insects transform into beautiful creatures. Four hundred years later, we’re still awed by the life and work of Maria Sibylla Merian.
SIBYLLA MERIAN THE BUTTERFLY
WOMAN She was pleasantly quirky, she could draw beautifully, and she lived in a golden age. But we are most inspired by her discovery of a wondrous process, the chrysalis of butterflies. We explore the forgotten life of the entomologist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717).
During the era in which Maria Sibylla Merian lived, people thought that caterpillars, worms, and maggots were Satan’s spawn, spontaneously emerging to life out of the dirt. But she saw them as creatures that had a marvelous life cycle that began simply and went through a gorgeous metamorphosis. Merian was the most famous entomologist of her era, which happened to be the Dutch Golden Age, and her specialty was to illustrate the entire life cycles of butterflies, flies, bees, beetles, and other bugs on their indigenous plants. At age thirteen, she discovered that caterpillars transform into the most beautiful of butterflies. As to how they did it, scientists of the time had no idea. The richly illustrated flower and insect books Merian published – first in her native Germany and then in her adopted country, the Netherlands – were an instant success. When she was 28, she published her first book, Neues Blumenbuch (New Book of Flowers), and when she was 58, she published her major work, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam). Even Russian Czar Peter the Great bought a collection of her works. The Girl Who ColleCTed CaTerpillars
Merian grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, in an artistic milieu of painters, engravers, and book printers. Little is known about her personal history, because no diary and only a few letters she ever wrote have survived. At least ten historians have written about her life story, but none of them really know what drove her to entomology.
Illustration from Neues Blumenbuch [New Book of Flowers] (1680)
It is generally agreed that, as a child, little Maria was more interested in small creepy crawlies than she was in people. As early as age eleven, she began drawing flowers, caterpillars, and spiders, learning a lot from her stepfather, Dutch flower painter Jacob Marrel. By age thirteen, when she encountered the miracle of metamorphosis, she withdrew from all human company to focus entirely on painting. From that moment on, she collected all the caterpillars that she could find, and fed them fresh leaves every day so that she could observe and paint the entire transformation process. In order to illustrate particularly special flowers, as the legend has it, she
Merian was an intrepid woMan who did what she wanted all her life
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1. Happy in a new studio in Denver. (Photo Matt Phelps.) 2. Photos and memories from childhood inspire her work. 3. Fairmount Co. is an acrylic and oil painting on board, made for a private commission in 2013. 4. Rebecca loves party hats. (Photo Arrow & Apple.) 5. Farm Party was made for GROWop Boutique in Phoenix, which specializes in clothing, bee keeping, and community gardening.
2?<?==;'L??H ✖ 27 years old Denver, Colorado ♥ lives with her boyfriend, Matt; dog, Mori; and cat, Junie Myblankpaper.com
they’re very heavy, and I have the feeling that at any age, we’re really clueless about how big everything is, and I’d like to keep that feeling.
What Are You Up To? Lately, I’ve been really busy doing a lot of editorial stuff – illustrations for magazines. I just finished a huge project doing illustrations for an animation for a commercial, but that’s secret, I can’t talk about it. And I’ve been doing a lot of painting commissions. Oh, and I’m going to be part of a group show with 20 other artists in Denver. It’ll be my first show in Denver, because we just moved here from Phoenix.
How did you come into that? I’ve really only been painting like that for about a year and a half. Five years ago, I was doing realistic work and I totally stopped, and the work became really crude line drawings of sort of darker images, and then it turned into this naturally. I don’t know if I chose it; it just evolved that way. I don’t think it’s an end point, because it could evolve again into older people or more realistic stuff. I feel like sometimes they’re too sweet for their own good.
Your work features images of young girls and animals. What made you focus on that subject matter? To be honest, it’s probably just the way that I view the world, as an innocent young person with a sense of wonder. Sometimes, the things I think about are very happy and sometimes
What other kinds of projects would you like to do? My real dream is to create miniature sets for stop-motion films. So lately, when I have time, I make miniatures. It has to look like they came out of my paintings. I want to get really, really good first so they can’t turn me down when I show up with my portfolio. ●
Feel con nected
I’LL LOAD THE DISHWASHER, YOU TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE How to Negotiate in Your Relationship They say relationships are a constant negotiation. Where will you live? Who’ll pick up the kids from school? When it comes to negotiating, do you always lose? Then it’s high time you up your game, because negotiation skills are a) easy to learn and b) good for your relationship. Three experts offer their tips.
THE RELATIONSHIP COACH “Women often feel selfish when they put their cards on the table,” says relationship coach Caroline Franssen. “When it comes to negotiating, they should follow the example of men, who don’t hesitate to say what they want.” YOU SAY THAT MEN TEND TO BE BETTER NEGOTIATORS. EXPLAIN THAT. At the start of a negotiation, women more often think in terms of “we” (what’s good for us), whereas men think about “me,” what I want. For example, suppose a woman wants to live in the city, and her husband prefers to live in the countryside. When this comes up in discussion, the woman will begin by suggesting a compromise that’s reasonably good for both. She includes her partner’s wishes in her opening bid, and proposes living in a village just outside the city. So she begins the negotiation by immediately giving up one of her wishes. A man plays the game a lot smarter. He’ll put all his cards on the table, and right away he’ll think mostly of himself. Sometimes he’ll ask for more than he really wants, because then he’ll have something to give away. Negotiation means that you both have to give up something, so if you start out with a modest set of wishes, you’ll quickly end up with nothing. THE WOMAN GETS THE SHORT STRAW? Usually. Many women complain that their wishes are not fully taken into account. The underlying reason is usually that she didn’t negotiate well. Which leads to another problem: that men don’t
understand what their partners want, exactly. If she doesn’t clearly state her deepest wishes up front, then he can’t take them into account. SO WOMEN SHOULD BE MORE SELF-CENTERED. At the beginning of a negotiation, absolutely. First, as a woman you’ve got to stop thinking in terms of “we,” and ask yourself the question: what makes me happy? How would I most like to arrange my life? You should leave your partner’s wishes totally out of this phase of self-reflection. In your opening bid, you should go further and ask for more than you want. If you want to go to Aruba for two weeks, for example, ask for three weeks instead. That’s how you’ll always have something to give away.
“A woman begins the negotiation by immediately giving up one of her wishes” THAT SOUNDS RATHER MANIPULATIVE. Sure, but it will make the relationship stronger. However, when negotiating, you must consider the chance of hitting an impasse, when you don’t agree with one another. At that point, women tend
Women of the Mundari tribe, recognizable by their scarification, at a market in Juba.
Feel con nected
Meanwhile in Africa
Creativity in South Sudan After two decades of war and a struggle for independence, thereâ€™s finally time for creativity in the new nation of South Sudan, discovered journalist Marieke Kessel. She spoke to four women engaged in rebuilding the country, in their own ways: through writing and making jewelry; using sewing machines; and on the big screen.
Step Out of YOur COmfOrt ZOne They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. But how do you identify your own zone, so that you can move beyond it? Journalist Caroline Buijs examines the benefits of living with some uncertainty.
nce, on my very first trip abroad to India, I came into literal contact with the perimeters of my own comfort zone. At the hotel where I was staying in Delhi, there was a tropical garden paradise in the shade of palm trees, with sun beds, cocktails, and a gorgeous, clear pool. But the moment I stepped outside the hotel’s gate, I found that it was hot, dusty, and noisy, and there was a long line of rickshaw drivers shouting at me, “Lady, lady, rickshaw, rickshaw!” Frightened, I immediately ran back into the hotel garden, like a child.
On my second day, I still could not manage to exit the hotel, and I found myself enjoying the pool, but not quite as happily. I knew there was a world out there that I’d come to explore, but I couldn’t get past my fear of going out into it. On the third day, I realized that if I wanted to see more of India than just a swimming pool, I really had get out of that garden. I started with the safe route, booking an organized city tour with other travelers through the reception desk. The following day, I worked up a little more courage and took a taxi to a nearby temple by myself. Then, finally,
on the last morning of my trip, I walked out to that line of rickshaw drivers and asked one to take me to the market, only to discover that the ride was not at all scary, but actually very exciting. It was thrilling to be out on my own, and to see the real life of India, rather than the safe haven of the hotel. I found out that having new experiences felt good: I was doing things that I ordinarily wouldn’t dare to do, and I actually enjoyed feeling a little bit lost. comfy straitjackets
“What you know and what you’re used to feels familiar, and that’s your com-
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Take Just One Photo
(InsTead Of ThOusands) With digital cameras, it seems like everyone has become a documentarian these days. We take thousands of photos, filling our computers with tons of images – bad and good – and never delete anything. Sjoukje van de Kolk has an idea: how about just taking a single shot?
have only one photograph of my grandmother. It’s one of those posed pictures, where she’s looking straight into the lens and wearing her Sunday best. It stands in pride of place on my mantelpiece, probably because it’s the only picture I have of her. My great-grandchildren probably won’t do that. There are hundreds of photos of me, and thousands of my children. Since the advent of the digital era in photography, there’s no shortage of images of anyone in my family. In the days of film rolls, it was rare that I had time to go through all the images, order prints of the ones I liked, and then arrange them all in a photo album – but since I’ve had children and digital photography arrived, I simply can’t keep up at all. There are too many photos. Sometimes I don’t even look at them. Els Jacobs, a cultural anthropologist and professional organizer with The Housekeeping Coach, a Netherlands-based service that offers organizing coaching, thinks that our need to take – and keep – a million photos relates to a primeval urge. When we were hunters and gatherers, she says, we had to hoard food and tools, because we never knew if we’d come across them tomorrow. Now we apply that logic to photos, too. “Biologically speaking, we’re miles behind the technological
“The key question is: what quality of life do I choose? The picture or the experience?”
Contemporary society encourages us to put ourselves first so that we can succeed. But doing so goes against our nature and makes us lonely, says Paul Verhaeghe, chair of the Psychoanalysis Department at Ghent University, Belgium, and author of On Being Normal and Other Disorders. He talks to us about his recent research on identity.
reliable is research that looks at the various psychosocial indicators that we can reasonably assume are related to happiness. For example, we can look at statistics for suicide, crime, domestic violence, mental disorders, and the rising rate of truancy in schools. In recent years, these figures have risen considerably in Western Europe. That’s not a good sign.
YOUR RECENT RESEARCH HAS FOCUSED ON IDENTITY. WHY?
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE CAUSE?
As a psychotherapist and researcher, I noticed that people are getting increasingly unhappy and lonely. I wondered why that was happening. I wanted to understand. I also noticed in my own life and work how I sometimes feel that I get caught up in a system of thought that comes from cultural norms. That’s why I tried to unravel what identity really is, how it develops. I wanted to challenge the prevailing view, that identity is primarily a matter of genes and brains. In fact, identity is a psychological construct based on our environment, the society. Our identity – our sense of norms and values – is formed by mirrors that society holds up before us. As our society changes, so do our identities and our values. IS THERE REAL EVIDENCE THAT PEOPLE ARE UNHAPPY?
There is a lot of research on happiness, but in scientific terms, I don’t think it amounts to much. What I find more
It’s a result of the societal model, the neoliberal model of the free market economy. It dictates that we must be consumers to keep the economy going, we have to be very competitive, and we have to “make it” – be successful. We feel that we must always compare ourselves with others, which means we actually become competitors. As a result, people hardly ever trust each other anymore. Social trust has been declining considerably, while social anxiety has shot up. Again, the result is that we all feel isolated on our own little islands, even when we’re in a relationship, in some kind of social group, or at work with colleagues. We’ve latched on to the idea that we need to keep others at a distance, and yet we want to be with them because, essentially, humans are herd animals, social beings.
“Reflect on what really makes you feel good. It’s a gut feeling, you know”
SO TODAY’S SOCIAL MODEL GOES AGAINST HUMAN NATURE?
Yes, you could certainly say that.
“If you mean something to someone, if you can do something for someone else, that gives you the best feeling of happiness”
New research by behavioral biologists shows two main tendencies ingrained in our species. One tendency is focused on the group – on cooperation, sharing, altruism, and the desire to be with others. We also have the opposite: individualism, autonomy, even selfishness, and possessiveness. We all have both tendencies, but one will dominate the other, depending on our environment. Today, we have a model of society that accentuates the individualistic, the autonomous, and the egocentric. We are all individuals, working to achieve our own desires and ambitions, possibly at the expense of others. But that goes against the other instincts we have within us. SHOULD WE GO BACK TO THE ’50S, WHEN THE GROUP IDENTITy WAS MORE IMPORTANT?
No, certainly not. We need the group, but we mustn’t return to the oppressive social structures of the past either. I argue for more “self-care,” but not in the sense of “my interests come first and everyone else be damned.” The goal of self-care is having a good life. And the beauty of it is that self-care automatically leads to concern for the group, because social connections are among the things we feel are best for us. If you mean something to someone, if you can do something for someone else, that gives you a great feeling of gratification and happiness. So selfcare means care for the other because 76 _
it feels good. Here you should understand that “good” has two meanings: good in the sense of it has to feel right, and the good of ethically correct. DO WE KNOW WHAT’S GOOD?
Almost all of us know what doesn’t feel right: the pressure to perform, the burden to “be a consumer,” the feeling of needing to constantly “score,” or to compete incessantly with others. Often, we don’t feel good doing any of that, even though everything we read, see, and hear gives us the distinct impression that that’s what we’re supposed to do to feel happy. That’s why it’s important to regularly reflect on what truly makes you feel good. It’s a gut feeling, you know. It may sound flakey, but it’s a very good criterion. As a therapist, I’ve seen many people come into my practice who’ve turned their lives around after a serious crisis. Successful people, in the eyes of the outside world, who were unhappy deep inside, often through a totally imbalanced relationship between their career and private life. When it comes to a crisis, you stand at a crossroads. Are you going to try to cope by taking even more pills, or will you decide to do it all differently? So don’t say, “Forget it, I happen to live in this system, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” You could indeed say that it’s all the fault of the economy or society that you are unhappy, but then you’d end up getting nowhere. If
TEXT SJOUKJE VAN DE KOLK ILLUSTRATIONS MARLOES DE VRIES
you figure out how it works and if you understand how we have become who we are, then you can make changes. You may wonder, as I do, what the good life is. It’s certainly not a life in which you strive for success or where you work yourself to death so that you can go on vacation three times a year. It’s also not a life in which you keep on buying more and more stuff under the illusion that it will demonstrate what a success you are. That sort of life offers no satisfaction. And as always, no matter much you buy or earn, there are still the nagging existential questions of life. What is the meaning of my life? Why is my child sick? Is my mother going to die? DO WE FIND IT PARTICULARLY HARD TO DEAL WITH THE EXISTENTIAL QUESTIONS TODAY?
In recent years, we have indeed forgotten how to deal with the human deficit. If you look at all ideological systems, such as religions, there are many differences, but also agreements on two main points: the first is that every form of ethics is based on the idea of selfcontrol, the fact that you should set
clear boundaries on your need for selfgratification. The other commonly held idea is that there is a central deficit: some things will always be imperfect. Both of these principles have been swept under the rug in the last 30 years. Instead of employing self-control, we feel an obligation to enjoy ourselves all the time. And we are told that there is a perfect answer to everything, that anything is achievable. It is human nature to pursue our ideals, but all religions or ideologies have stressed that the ideal is not really attainable. Now we live in the myth of the perfect human. If you practice hard enough, try hard enough, work hard enough, you’ll be able to achieve perfection. And if you don’t make it, and you’re not perfect, it’s your own fault. That’s what we learn nowadays. So we don’t accept that there is a structural deficit, for which no one is actually responsible. We ignore how life really is. WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO MOVE BEYOND THE “ME” STORY?
The best alternative is the “we” story, because it allows us to enter into social relationships that give us real acknow-
ledgement, instead of the sort of ephemeral recognition that comes from individual “successes,” which ultimately don’t make us happy. If someone’s really concerned about you, really cares for you, and on that basis shows, says, or gives you some real recognition, this will have an impact on you. With the “we” story, you automatically return to self-care, and from there you reach out to the other, because doing something for someone else feels good. The other is no longer a mirror reflecting how well you perform. The other enriches you and your identity develops more naturally. IS OUR SOCIETY CHANGING?
We’re at a turning point. You always have periods in history when the emphasis is on the group and on mandatory connections. Then it tilts a bit and you get a period when the individual stands at center stage, with all the consequences of that model. Now you’ll see many examples of a turn toward the social. Once again, people are looking for more connection with others. We’re doing things together again, forming cooperatives. There are more examples of people trading in a career for a job that has meaning on the community level. Ultimately, our social nature is stronger than a system that forces us to compete with one another. Soon, we’ll find that taking good care of ourselves and others is quite normal again. ●
How To Feel Good As Paul Verhaeghe tells us, our contemporary neo-liberal culture has been selling us the false notion that competitive individualism is the route to happiness and success. But, in truth, competition, distrust, and self-promotion at the expense of others tends to make us feel separate and lonely. We are social animals, he says, and we need one another.
Societal change needs to come from people doing what “feels good” – that is, coming together to build trust. By helping others, we’re helping ourselves, says Verhaeghe, and promoting social health. But far too often, we’re doing what we think we should do, rather than what actually feels right. Use this worksheet to get in touch with what makes you feel good.
1. Write down three activities that you do now because you think they will help you succeed. 1. 2. 3.
2. Write down three activities that you do that make you feel genuinely positive, energized, and gratified. 1. 2. 3.
3. Write down three things that you think would improve your local community, or help other people in your neighborhood. 1. 2. 3.
Now, match items from list #2 that could help you address some of the issues in list #3. Think of two activities you do that makes you feel good that would help others or your community. Write those here: 1. 2.
And what would you eliminate from list #1 to make time for the above? 1. 2.
SPOIL YOURSELF Take a little time for things that make you feel good
Sew Helpful What started as a single class at a sewing school in Chicago has become a true sewing institution. Rachel Epperson founded the Needle Shop for anyone who wanted to learn how to sew clothing and interior fabrics. Unfortunately, Chicago isn’t around the corner for all of us, but the Needle Shop website provides lots of information for the sewcurious. And of course what’s also fun is that there’s a shop. Rachel sells the beautiful things her students create. Check it all out here: theneedleshop.net.
Jessica Jones is the multitalented designer and blogger from howaboutorange.blogspot.com. She searches for all kinds of inspiration, suggests do-it-yourself projects, and is also kind enough to share her design discoveries with free downloads.
Chocolate Heaven Belgian and Swiss chocolate is famous worldwide. But English chocolate? Hmm. Well, your opinion might change once you’ve tried the bonbons or the champagne truffles from Charbonnel et Walker, one of England’s first chocolatiers. They’re famous for dark chocolates that come in handmade pink boxes with silk ribbons. (Now, that’s a nice touch.) The company was founded in 1875, when Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) encouraged a partnership between British chocolate maker, Mrs. Walker, and Madame Charbonnel of the Maison Boissier chocolate house in Paris. They still make chocolates using the original molds from Madame Charbonnel’s time, and the shop is still in the same location: 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair. But they’ve happily adopted modern technology, so you can now order via the website: charbonnel.co.uk. And they ship internationally, too.
A little black rabbit named Juno was the inspiration for Kelly, an illustrator and designer in Sydney, who started a lot of creative projects after she brought home her furry friend. At her Etsy shop (thestorybookrabbit.etsy.com), you’ll find not only drawings of lots of rabbits, but also bunnies Kelly has embroidered, crockery with rabbits on vintage porcelain, and much more.
Fun for Peeping Toms
Are you the kind of person who likes to look inside other people’s homes and check out their stuff? Now you can do it unashamedly, and without the risk of jail time. Go on. A good start is the “Weekly Interior Research” section on the Danish site housedoctor.dk. For all kinds of selected interiors, check out the blog designsponge.com. Inspired but still on a budget? Then see what you can do with old Ikea furniture at ikeahackers.net.
TEXT JOCELYN DE KWANT, NINA SIEGAL, CORINE SNEL, DORINE VERHEUL
The people at Donkey products in Germany can make something as simple as a tea bag into something special: they designed tea bags with celebrity companions. Now you can have a cuppa with the Queen Mum in your teapot. Or Audrey Hepburn. Or Elvis. What’s also nice is that proceeds from each package support a daycare center in Germany (bethanien-kinderdoerfer.de). You’ll find the tea bags and other products with a clever twist at donkey-products.com.
Kahina from St. Malo in the French province of Brittany designs and makes simple and feminine jewelry out of porcelain – nearly all of it with a gold tip. Find her at byloumi.etsy.com.
No Average Shop The name of the shop, Not on the High Street, says it all: the things here aren’t the kinds of wares you’d find on a typical shopping strip or mall. Nothing is mass-produced. Everything is created by designers with an eye for detail and a love of craft. Visit notonthehighstreet.com.
WEB Shopping No matter where you live, you can find great products anywhere in the world. Here’s a selection of our favorite international retail picks at a click.
engelpunt.com placemat ✱ €12.99
An Apple a Day
dotcomgiftshop.com tablecloth ✱ £24.95
amazon.com memo holder ✱ $10
orlakiely.com mug ✱ £8.50
koziol-shop.de lunchbox ✱ €11.95
ebay.co.uk memo block ✱ £1.50
magnoliasurprise.etsy.com crochet apples ✱ €20.49
elizabethrosemond.etsy.com stitched notebook ✱ €7.21
darlingclementineshop.com stripped cushion ✱ €69
notonthehighstreet.com print by Rockvilla designs ✱ €43.82
showlerandshowler.com print ✱ €15.99
redcandy.co.uk jar ✱ £10.30
spylovebuy.com wellies ✱ £19.99
Prices are listed in the currency used on the website. Want a conversion? Try: gocurrency.com
InspIratIon on your wall Designers and artists use mood boards when they want to explore new ideas and come up with creative projects. You can use them, too, to help get in touch with your intuition or remind yourself what’s important in your life. Caroline Buijs talks to five artists we admire to find out their tips on how to create your own inspiration wall.
Before they get down to serious work, many graphic designers, illustrators, fashion designers, and other professional artists make a mood board. A mood board is a large collage of anything they find inspirational or useful for their work. Sometimes it’s a composition of not only images, but also small objects, such as stones, shells, or feathers. Personal coaches also often use mood boards as a tool. “The power of creating a mood board,” says coach Karin Jansen-van Megen, “is found primarily in the fact that your choice of images comes from your intuition. You don’t think about it – you let your feelings choose, you let your heart speak.” If you’re going to make a mood board, you can do it, for example, to answer a question. “The question I often use in my practice is: what gives me energy?” says Jansenvan Megen. “Your choice of pictures is
based on what you feel. When you put the pictures together, you see connections and gain insights. Normally, you understand everything rationally, but because you choose images intuitively, you often get insights that are more reflective of your emotions.” Anything goes There are no rules for making your own mood board or inspiration wall. The professionals use Styrofoam as a base, or sometimes poster board, but you don’t need to do it that way. Increasingly, people are doing it online via Pinterest or with other creative sites and apps. You can use a wall in your home office or your bedroom as an inspiration wall, or you can use your bathroom mirror, a notebook, or the last pages of your diary. Basically, any surface will do. A few years ago, I was more or less addicted to making collages. At first, I just made collages of pretty things I liked to
stick up on my wall. But once, when my work was getting a bit out of hand, it helped me to focus on what I thought was really important in my life. So I pasted a photo of my husband and kids onto a sheet of paper. Then came a picture of a full bookcase, to remind me to keep reading. Then one of kids jumping about in a chaotic bedroom, because I don’t always want to be a whiny mother. Then Japanese sushi on a saucer, to remind me to eat what I really like more often. And then pictures of a large country house with open patio doors leading to a lush garden, because you should always hang onto your dreams. I hung my collage beside my desk, and whenever I saw those pictures, I remembered: “Oh yeah, that’s what I find important.” Here are some ideas for how to create your own inspiration board from some of our favorite artists:
“Anything can move me, so long as it’s unusual” FRENCH ILLUSTRATOR, NATHALIE LÉTÉ (NATHALIE-LETE.COM): “I have a kind of inspiration notebook in which I collect and paste pictures. I also have countless bags in which I save pictures, but I never have time to get around to sticking them into albums. Before I toss my old magazines in the trash – usually fashion and lifestyle magazines – I always cut out all the pictures I like. These pictures remind me of exactly what moved me: what made my eye fall precisely on that picture? Was it maybe the print or the color, the composition, the material? Anything can move me, so long as it’s unusual. “My advice: be open to anything when you go looking for pictures. Set no restrictions. When you have all the pictures lying on the table in front of you, then you can make up stories with them. You can sort them by color – that’s the easiest way if you are a painter, like me. Sometimes, the subject or theme will ensure that the pictures come together. “When I’m about to start something new and I don’t have so many ideas, I always browse through one of my inspiration notebooks. A few pages later and the ideas come by themselves. So yeah, mood boards, or whatever you want to call them, are very helpful at the start.”
Aleftina Fedorovna Arkhangelskaya (see page 105)
from the Past Even without a stage, they still shine: Russian actors, directors, and opera singers residing in the Home for Retired Artistes in St. Petersburg. In 2010, Russian photographer Lucia Ganieva visited the home to create this series of photographs, placing her own current portraits alongside image of the performers in their glory days. The home recently closed for renovations and all the performers are now living elsewhere. Note: ages on profiles were current when the photos were taken.
Irina Pavlovna Rudina
The Home for Retired Artistes is situated in a beautiful park on an island just outside the busy center of St. Petersburg. Here, veteran actors, opera singers, and ballet dancers who devoted their lives to the professional stage can enjoy the company of like-minded friends and former colleagues in their old age. Russian photographer Lucia Ganieva, who has lived abroad since 1993, visited the home and spent an entire month photographing the residents. She won over their confidence by spending lots of time with them in their richly decorated antique interiors, drinking coffee, tea, and sometimes vodka. “They told me their beautiful life stories, often marked by the Second World War, and showed me their worn old photo albums,” Lucia says. “Whenever they talked about the past, they became so enlivened. Several women recited poems to me, and a former German teacher – one of the few residents who was not an artiste – wrote letters to me in French and German.” Along with present-day portraits, Lucia photographed their private collections of old photographs from their lives on the stage, hanging on walls in their rooms. “Most Russians have pictures from the past on the wall, especially the people of this generation,” says Lucia. “They are artistes, famous actors and singers who are proud of their past.” The residents of this home lived for the theater. Most don’t have children of their own, because when they were younger it was especially difficult to combine a family life with a career on the stage. Another factor is that most of the women here lived through the Second World War – the men went off to war, and very many didn’t
come back. So, they either didn’t marry or lost their husbands young. Partly for this reason, women outnumber men in the home as well. They do not seem to have missed out. They are divas, flamboyant personalities, accustomed to shining on stage. Their age does not stop them from giving themselves over to immaculate grooming; they like to reflect perfection every day. One octogenarian Lucia met gets up daily at 7:30 a.m. to go for an hour’s walk, then she eats a piece of fruit and does some calisthenics. Her drive to stay fit and look presentable every day, she says, is simply logical. “I am an actress, and I shall remain an actress until the day I die,” she told Lucia.
IrIna Pavlovna rudIna (94),
actress and director
Irina Pavlovna Rudina at first seemed frail and fragile, but as soon as Lucia picked up her camera, she became radiant and statuesque. During her photo session, she recited poetry by Pushkin for fifteen minutes straight. Irina comes from a truly artistic family: her father was a decorated artist, her sister an actress, and her brother a painter. From childhood, Irina held jobs in the theater. She worked for a traveling theater company from Moscow that toured through the entire Soviet Union by train. Later, she traveled to Central Asia with the company. She is one of the few residents not to display any photos of herself, because, as she says, “I don’t want to be remembered with pictures.”
TODAY IS BAKING DAY Baking is the new yoga. You could easily spend the whole day making this wonderful white meringue-covered cake with a pink rainbow inside, using the recipe by Swedish pastry chef Linda Lomelino. So take your time. There is pleasure in waiting as, layer by layer, the full rainbow unfolds. And then, of course, eat!
Simplify your life
DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE When you’re calm, you breathe deeply. It also works the other way: when you breathe deeply, you begin to calm down. It’s such a simple stress reducer, and you’re never without it. But why are so many of us getting it wrong? Breathe. It was the first thing you did when you were born, and it will be the last thing you do before you die. In between, you’ll do it about a billion times. Despite that incredible number, we hardly ever realize that breathing is a life-giving function that is very directly connected to our state of mind. Our breathing follows all our moods. Have a fright? The first thing you’ll do is breathe deeply to get up your courage. If you’re restless, you’ll take slow but shallow breaths. When you’re angry, you breathe through your nostrils, ready to explode. Our breathing changes at every turn. It’s like a barometer of how we’re doing at that moment. But the reverse is also true. Based on your breathing, your brain sends your body messages to slow down or to speed up. In other words, if your breathing is calm and relaxed, then your body stays in a relaxed mode. When your breathing is rapid and short, your body will think, “something’s wrong;
I’d better stay alert – and tense.” This is a signal for your body to make an extra high dose of stress hormones, which can result in even more tension. So, in your breath you can find a key to doing something about your mood, or the quality of your life, every day. Invariably, breathing the wrong way ensures that energy seeps out of your body. You’ll feel tired, lightheaded, and maybe you’ll get shoulder and back pain, for example. All of that without even realizing for one single moment that it’s something you might be able to control. On the positive side, good breathing is relaxing; it gives you energy and a sense of peace, confidence, and safety. Once you know how to breathe, a new world opens up to you. WE BREATHE TOO FAST As it turns out, research shows that most people breathe too fast. A respiratory rate of six to eight breaths per minute is high enough, but most people breathe much faster than that. This creates fatigue, anxiety,
DRAWING LESSONS Oh, to be able to draw as well as the illustrators we admire. We asked a couple of them to share with us their ways of working, so that we could try a hand at it ourselves.
ANNEMOON VAN STEEN gives us a short course on how to draw a flamingo. She suggests: “Don’t think too much about it and don’t have really high expectations for your work. Not being able to draw can actually be an asset: you won’t fall into the trap of making it too stylized, and the image can become more surprising and more unique to your vision. I find that messy drawings often have the most charm.”
DEBORAH VAN DER SCHAAF demonstrates how to copy anything from life. She says: “Be sure to use new fineliner pens, and have a clean nib on your pen. I find it quite complicated to explain something that you do yourself so often. This also happens often with a keyboard: you put certain combinations together yourself, but if someone asks what the keys are, you can’t remember!”
Annemoon is a freelance illustrator and develops her own projects, such as a Horoscope card set and lucky charm dolls. Annemoonvansteen.com
Deborah works as an illustrator for various publications, including the Volkskrant Magazine in the Netherlands. Deborahvanderschaaf.nl ●
Annemoon van Steen
Simplify your life
illustration Silvia Dekker