amsterdam: made by hand

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

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