amsterdam

Swarm Studio, Amsterdam...

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Those who’ve known me for a long time will know that artist + founder of Swarm, Leslie Oschmann, is a dear friend of mine. We got to know each other ten years ago when I was living in my houseboat in Amsterdam and scouting hidden ateliers for my second book, Amsterdam: Made by Hand. We soon became friends, and went on many adventures together around the city and beyond. I’m drawn to people who see the world around them in a unique way, and can transform something overlooked into something extraordinary, which is what I call Everyday Alchemy. Leslie is one of those unique people.

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 My daughter Laly, taking in the atmosphere of Swarm & ready to paint, 2016

My daughter Laly, taking in the atmosphere of Swarm & ready to paint, 2016

Each time I’ve been back to Amsterdam since moving to Sydney, I spend time with Leslie and her sidekick, McDuff. I love being immersed in her creative world - her home & studio, which is always filled with her latest projects. There are chairs hanging from the ceiling, piles of found oil paintings ready to be transformed into something new, paintbrushes, textiles, leather straps, ropes and the most incredible found objects from her travels - many of which she sells in her online store.

When I visited her new studio in 2016 with Laly, Leslie had just embarked on the epic journey of writing and making a book. She’d been approached by Rizzoli to write a book about her creative life in Amsterdam, centered around her muse, wire hair fox terrier McDuff. The book was inspired by Leslie’s fun photographs on instagram of the sometimes obscure places her and McDuff would visit, and the playfulness of exploring these interesting landscapes together. Because wherever Leslie goes, so does McDuff - when she heads back to New York, he’s on the plane with her, and travelling to her new studio-in-the-making in France known as Q, he’s sitting beside her in her van. I remember when Leslie and I went to Beaune in Bourgogne for New Year’s Eve some 8 years ago, and McDuff wandered the frosted cobblestone streets with us.

With this book project, Leslie wanted to find a way to create the unique visual layout she had in her mind, and we’d discussed the idea of creating them by hand - each page spread as an assemblage which could then be photographed. When I got there, she had the page layouts pinned up on one of the studio cabinets. It was an honour to be able to see the book in progress at this early stage - to see how Leslie’s visual directing translated into book form, and I couldn’t wait to see the final result….

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Earlier this year, her book was published. It’s called Me & McDuff, and it’s filled with her creative energy & love for her sidekick. Every page is an artwork in itself, with each assemblage created by Leslie & photographed by Sarah van den Bosch. The book tells the story of Leslie & McDuff’s creative companionship in her way - minimal words, maximum visual effect…

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With some of her favourite captures from the book, Leslie has made some into pouches which I love, you can find them in her store.

While on my trip to Amsterdam this year in August, I took my camera with me to photograph her studio for one of my book projects. I won’t be able show you many of the incredible captures (her space is seriously amazing), but here are a few of the photographs from my shoot…

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 …in her zone. 2018

…in her zone. 2018

 Laly & I playing, Swarm Studio, 2016.

Laly & I playing, Swarm Studio, 2016.

Okay here is one more…

 The Alchemist’s kitchen, in all it’s utilitarian glory.

The Alchemist’s kitchen, in all it’s utilitarian glory.

You can click on the links to have a look at Leslie’s new objet d’art, her new book Me & McDuff, and her latest bag collection is stunning. They are one of a kind and they sell fast, so if you see one that pulls at your heart strings, you’ll regret it if you don’t get it (believe me, this has happened a number of times to me and my friends and we still lament over the ones we missed out on).

Thank you Leslie for continuing to be such an inspiration in my life & for sharing your world with us in all that you create!

With Love,

Pia xx

Issue Two: Happi.Kidz photo feature...

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In January this year I was commissioned to create another feature story for the next issue of  Happinez magazine's Happi Kidz. The brief was to create eight images that express how animals can give strength to a child's life, not just in literal terms, but spiritually. What I love most about shooting for Happinez is the creativity involved in coming up with unique ways to represent ideas  - rather than selling products or a look, it's all about ideas. As is our way of working together, I came up with a few ideas based on image editor Albertine van den Brink's brief, drew up a storyboard, ran it by Albertine via email and then got to work bringing the ideas to life. The magazine was published last month, and it's a delight to know that once again, my hero shot of gorgeous first time model Otis, was chosen for the cover.

There was much to make for this shoot, creating four completely different sets. But I had another wonderful assistant, this time it was my dear friend Kaspia's beautiful sister, Lisa! Who is also the mother of Otis. Both her boys came to the shoot at my house, and they were such a delight - between these awesome young boys and Freya from my last shoot, my reluctance to shoot kids has been lifted...

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If you'd like to see all the photographs from the shoot, and learn more about the creative processing, I have composed two patron-only posts on Patreon:

1. giving patrons the opportunity to ask any questions  - nothing is off limits - to be able to dive deep into the creative process involved in each shot creation, along with a video compilation of some of the behind the scenes of each photograph. 

2. the idea of animal totems & spirits, and how their power can enrich your everyday life - relevant for both children and adults - how to ignite confidence, courage, love, and more. 

The magazine is out now in The Netherlands. Thank you to Lisa, Otis, and Marcel for your wonderful assistance and for helping to make the day so pleasurable. If you'd like to see my past work with Happinez, please click here and here.

Credits:

Producer,  Prop Designer, Photographer & Stylist: Pia Jane Bijkerk
Photographer & Stylist's Assistant: Lisa Taylor
Backdrops from Major & Tom
Model: Otis Taylor

Happi.Kidz photo feature...

 ...clear quartz crystal mobile made by me; beautiful chunks of tangerine quartz sourced from  Mineralism  in Glebe.

...clear quartz crystal mobile made by me; beautiful chunks of tangerine quartz sourced from Mineralism in Glebe.

In June this year I was commissioned to create another story for Happinez magazine, this time for their children's edition called Happi Kidz. The brief was to create eight images to show the benefits of various crystals for children. I came up with a few ideas, drew up a storyboard, ran it by Albertine via email - the image editor for the magazine - and then got to work bringing my ideas to life. The magazine was published last month, and it's a delight to know that my hero shot of gorgeous first time model Freya, was chosen for the cover...

 ...garnet necklace made by me, using  Tinctifolia  hand-dyed silk ribbon.

...garnet necklace made by me, using Tinctifolia hand-dyed silk ribbon.

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My dear friend Kaspia assisted me on the day, offering not only her talents as a stylist but also props from her incredible collection, including clothes & textiles from far away lands. Freya, who is half Norwegian and half Australia was my gorgeous model for the day - it was her first time modelling and she was amazing. Freya is Kaspia's niece, and along with her lovely mum Ragna, and Kaspia's eldest daughter Paloma, we had a great day on set in my home...

 ...aquamarine talking stick made by me; pouch for the jade fish made by Zoë from  Tinctifolia .

...aquamarine talking stick made by me; pouch for the jade fish made by Zoë from Tinctifolia.

 ...stunning lapis lazuli sourced from  Mineralism , Glebe.

...stunning lapis lazuli sourced from Mineralism, Glebe.

Here are a couple of the behind the scene shots for you as I know many of you love to see how I work...

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The dining table was removed to make room for the set, the light in this part of the house is beautiful. 

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The magazine is out now in Holland. I'll post some more behind the scenes shots on instagram in coming days. Thank you to Kaspia, Ragna, Freya and Paloma for your wonderful assistance and for helping to make the day so pleasurable. If you'd like to see my past work with Happinez, please click here

xx

Credits:

Producer, Photographer & Stylist: Pia Jane Bijkerk
Photographer & Stylist's Assistant: Kaspia
Props from Major & Tom, Mineralism, Kaspia's Caravan, Tinctifolia
Model: Freya Gilmour


 

The Alchemy of Assemblage Workshops 2017

Last year I held my first ever workshop, in the beautiful antique & restoration warehouse, Elements I Love, located here in my neighbourhood in Sydney. It was a collaborative workshop with owner Brooke, who shared her fabulous expertise on woodwork finishing while I guided participants to connecting with their unique creative flow as they each made their own assemblage boards. It was great fun,  and the energy in the room was magnetic.

After some wonderful feedback and several consultations with a workshop specialist over the past months, I have designed & redefined The Alchemy of Assemblage into something delightfully unique & I cannot wait to share it with you! So without further delay, I am thrilled to announce  I have two exclusive & intimate workshops to be held at Elements I Love next month (and two to be held in Amsterdam in September, which I'll share the details of in a moment!).

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The first one coming up is a weekend workshop, spread over 2 days - from 11-4pm on August 26 & 27, 2017. Join me for a rare opportunity to spend 10 hours together learning how to connect with your intuition to unlock your own unique style and journey toward finding the beauty & magic in your everyday.  With a limit of just 6 participants so I can genuinely connect to each person, this unique workshop is a life-enriching experience that reaches heart & soul. 

On Day One, you’ll acquire the knowledge to create your own distinctive piece of personal art on wood using a collection of elements you love. Through the process of creating your own assemblage board (collage on wood), I will guide you on how to recognise and follow your intuition, allowing your creative spirit to flow freely - a technique you’ll be able to practice and strengthen over time. I will help you discover how to approach a creative project by guiding you through making your own beautiful and evocative collage: it will be like learning to bring to life one of the pages from My Heart Wanders but even more wonderful - this will be your very own. 

We'll enjoy a delicious & nourishing French-inspired lunch with champagne surrounded by incredible antiques from all over the world and have the chance to talk in more depth about creative blocks and how to work through them. 

On Day Two, you'll have the opportunity to practice what you've learnt from Day One and take it one step further by creating your own styled vignette with selected objects from the beautiful Elements I Love collection. Through the styling of your own vignette in a supportive, nurturing and captivating environment, learn how to get in touch with your intuition and work with your creativity to find beauty in the everyday.

This is where you'll learn my creative principles which I apply to styling & photographing for clients as well as magazine and publishing shoots.

After another delicious lunch together and more time to deepen your intuitive connection, you'll be ready to head home feeling empowered, nurtured and with joy in your heart.  You'll have gained confidence in your creative abilities and be inspired to nurture and grow your heart connection in a new and magical way. 

Here are the dates and details for the Sydney Weekend Workshop:

Date: Saturday and Sunday, August 26 & 27, 2017

Time: 11-4pm on Saturday August 26 & 11-4pm on Sunday August 27. 

Location: Elements I Love, 124 James St Leichhardt.

Price: $800

Learn: how to approach a creative concept and learn skills that will enable you to craft other assemblages.  Gain insight & knowledge into the thought process behind creative and artistic projects whilst learning the stylist’s trade techniques that make it happen.

Bring: (optional) one or two mementos from home that represent a moment, a place, a time, a memory or a person you love. For example: a photograph, a scrap of fabric, a piece of leather or similar, an old letter or card, a ticket etc. 

Supplied: boards and materials, beautiful organic teas & coffee, lunch (please inform us if you have any dietary requirements), champagne and afternoon tea. 

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The second Sydney workshop is a single day workshop, incorporating everything from Day One of the weekend workshop, here are the details:

Date: Saturday July 22, 2017

Time: 11-4pm 

Location: Elements I Love, 124 James St, Leichhardt, Sydney, Australia

Price: $400

Learn: how to approach a creative concept and learn skills that will enable you to craft other assemblages.  Gain insight & knowledge into the thought process behind creative and artistic projects.

Bring: (optional) one or two mementos from home that represent a moment, a place, a time, a memory or a person you love. For example: a photograph, a scrap of fabric, a piece of leather or similar, an old letter or card, a ticket etc. 

Supplied: boards and materials, beautiful organic teas & coffee, lunch (please inform us if you have any dietary requirements), champagne and afternoon tea. 

There are only 6 places available for each, you can click on the link below to learn more and book your place...

Now for the details about Amsterdam...

Yes! Very excited to share with you my friend Leslie's incredible studio in Amsterdam for these workshops. All the details are as above, but they will be held at Swarm: Leslie Oschmann's wonderful world of making. Being an artist hermit (like myself, we are alike in that way :), this is definitely a rare opportunity! Here are the details...

Amsterdam Weekend Workshop:

Date: Saturday and Sunday, September 9 & 10, 2017

Time: 11-4pm on Saturday September 9 & 11-4pm on Sunday September 10.

Location: Swarm, Vereniging De Loods, Zeeburgereiland, Amsterdam

Price: $885AUS (600 euros)

Learn: how to approach a creative concept and learn skills that will enable you to craft other assemblages.  Gain insight & knowledge into the thought process behind creative and artistic projects whilst learning the stylist’s trade techniques that make it happen.

Bring: (optional) one or two mementos from home that represent a moment, a place, a time, a memory or a person you love. For example: a photograph, a scrap of fabric, a piece of leather or similar, an old letter or card, a ticket etc. 

Supplied: boards and materials, beautiful organic teas & coffee, lunch (please inform us if you have any dietary requirements), champagne and afternoon tea. 

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Amsterdam Single Day Workshop:

Date: Friday, September 8, 2017

Time: 11-4pm

Location: Swarm, Vereniging De Loods, Zeeburgereiland, Amsterdam

Price: $445AUS (300 euros)

Learn: how to approach a creative concept and learn skills that will enable you to craft other assemblages.  Gain insight & knowledge into the thought process behind creative and artistic projects.

Bring: (optional) one or two mementos from home that represent a moment, a place, a time, a memory or a person you love. For example: a photograph, a scrap of fabric, a piece of leather or similar, an old letter or card, a ticket etc. 

Supplied: boards and materials, beautiful organic teas & coffee, lunch (please inform us if you have any dietary requirements), champagne and afternoon tea. 

For more info, follow the link below...

If you have any questions at all, please send me an email.

With love, 

Pia xx

STUDIO book cover

I was informed by a friend the other day that one of my photographs of Leslie Oschmann's Amsterdam studio Swarm has become the cover for Sally Coulthard's new book called Studio: creative spaces for creative people. Leslie's studio is not featured within the book, so for those who bought the book hoping to see more of the space featured on the cover, here are more of my photographs of Leslie's incredible space...

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I met Leslie when I was living in Amsterdam and was researching for my book Amsterdam: Made by Hand. It was a joy to photograph her home and studio, it remains to be one of the most inspiring places I've ever had the pleasure of spending time in...

There are plenty more photographs which I will be sharing in my stock media room soon, for publishers interested in seeing the full story of images, please feel free to email me in the meantime. 

Leslie has since moved to a new studio in Amsterdam, and I had the pleasure of visiting with my daughter last July, and yes, I took lots of photographs! I'll share these with you soon too.

Also in exciting news, I'm about to reveal my next workshop dates - one of which will be in Amsterdam, in Leslie's new studio. I can't wait to share the details with you. 

xx

photo story for Christmas edition of Happinez 2016...

 1. "let me take you for a walk through my favourite neighbourhood": hand drawn map of Amsterdam (which I made a few years ago for my   Amsterdam: Made By Hand   tour, antique French book from our bookshelf, gold fabric from  Major & Tom . 2. "a wander on the beach": Bottle from  Major & Tom , as well as gold scalloped dish, made by beautiful  Bridget Bodenham .  ..............................................

1. "let me take you for a walk through my favourite neighbourhood": hand drawn map of Amsterdam (which I made a few years ago for my Amsterdam: Made By Hand tour, antique French book from our bookshelf, gold fabric from Major & Tom. 2. "a wander on the beach": Bottle from Major & Tom, as well as gold scalloped dish, made by beautiful Bridget Bodenham.

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 3. "I'll be your  Marie Kondo  for the day": everything found around my home - fallen bark from a nearby tree, found feathers, and beautiful velvet lined box gifted to me by an  Alchemy of Assemblage  workshop attendee. 4. "I'll knit you something warm this winter": wool bought in British Columbia many years ago, tiny knitting needles found in a vintage shop on King St, Newtown, blue silk fabric given to me by my friend  Kaspia .  ..............................................

3. "I'll be your Marie Kondo for the day": everything found around my home - fallen bark from a nearby tree, found feathers, and beautiful velvet lined box gifted to me by an Alchemy of Assemblage workshop attendee. 4. "I'll knit you something warm this winter": wool bought in British Columbia many years ago, tiny knitting needles found in a vintage shop on King St, Newtown, blue silk fabric given to me by my friend Kaspia.

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In September last year, I produced, styled and photographed an 8-page feature for Dutch magazine Happinez, for their Christmas edition, 2016, issue 8. It was titled "What money can't buy", featuring non-traditional gift ideas for the festive season. The brief was to come up with some gift ideas that celebrate sharing time together and offering a skill, rather than going out and buying something. As you can imagine, I was pretty rapt with this assignment: challenge accepted!

Would you like to know a little about how I made these assemblages?

 5. "I'll plant you a rose garden": back boards from Major & Tom, hand dyed silk ribbon from  Tinctifolia , and tiny French pots from  Elements I Love   .  6. "I'll make you some healing soup": sari from Malaysia (details below), hemp string from  String Harvest .  ..............................................

5. "I'll plant you a rose garden": back boards from Major & Tom, hand dyed silk ribbon from Tinctifolia, and tiny French pots from Elements I Love . 6. "I'll make you some healing soup": sari from Malaysia (details below), hemp string from String Harvest.

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Together with the Creative Editor, I came up with some ideas and then had to figure out how to visually capture them. For example, one idea was to gift a walk on a favourite beach together. When I thought about that idea, I began to visualise a beach in a bottle, so I created just that, using a small bottle, some sand, tiny shells and a little sparkle (shown in the top right image). The layering of the objects around the bottle created depth and warmth, and I used gold threaded fabric and ceramics for texture and a touch of festivity. That was the first photograph I made from the story, as in my mind it was the strongest, but it also took the longest to create (3 hours). 

Another gift idea was to make some delicious festive soup, but instead of creating an image of a bowl or pot of soup, I decided to bundle the ingredients together, giving a textural feast for the eyes (image 6). I deconstructed a variety of fresh mushrooms from the supermarket, choosing the most interesting ones and creating a bundle with fresh herbs and watercress, wrapped with string and bells. The sari used as the backdrop for the ingredients I had bought in Malaysia many years ago when I was a bridesmaid for a modern Malay wedding. 

 7. "Private concert": Gold textile from Major & Tom, Indian festive circles from  India in Balmain,  music sheet from my personal collection. 8. A beautiful mess.  ..............................................

7. "Private concert": Gold textile from Major & Tom, Indian festive circles from India in Balmain, music sheet from my personal collection. 8. A beautiful mess.

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Below each image is more information about each photograph, with links to wonderful prop suppliers and makers here in Sydney. And if you'd like to see a behind the scenes mini film of me in the process of making one of the photographs, you can see it right here

 9. "I'll come to clean up your decorations": box of decorations from my personal collection, with collected seed pods dipped in glitter, vintage baubles, and an assortment of ceramic stars by  Paper Boat Press . 10. vintage sari as above.

9. "I'll come to clean up your decorations": box of decorations from my personal collection, with collected seed pods dipped in glitter, vintage baubles, and an assortment of ceramic stars by Paper Boat Press. 10. vintage sari as above.

Would you like to learn how I create assemblages like these? This year I am scheduling a few exclusive and very intimate weekend workshops to share my techniques with you, connecting to our intuition. In the next couple of weeks I'll be announcing the dates, first through my newsletter to allow subscribers to get first choice with early bird specials, then publicly. There will only be 6 places available per workshop, so if you'd like to be first in line to book your preferred date, please ensure you have subscribed

And if you have any questions, please comment below! xx