child's play

New Work: Mud Play for Happi Kids

Laly in her mud pit making a Mud Café…

Laly in her mud pit making a Mud Café…

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A diary of a worm, something we had a lot of fun working on together and included playing with real worms found in the garden.

A diary of a worm, something we had a lot of fun working on together and included playing with real worms found in the garden.

In April this year I got one of the most wonderful photographic story commissions for a magazine I’ve ever had… when I read the phrases in the email “make things with mud”, “kids getting dirty”, “do you love the subject?” I barely held back my excitement and I was quick to reply YES! It ticked all the boxes for me and I couldn’t wait to schedule it in & get thinking on what I could create for this story for the summer issue of Happi Kids.

Do you remember when Laly was around 2 years old, I made her - by hand, spending no money (yes I’m proud!) - a sandpit in our back garden? Here is the post to jog your memory. Well, she’s now a regular beach goer, no longer afraid of the vastness of the ocean and loves ‘surfing’ on her body board. She’d outgrown her mini backyard beach so, inspired by the story for this shoot and in need of the perfect location, I turned the sand pit into a mud pit! I dug out the sand, and collected some buckets of dirt from the back area where our first chickens used to roam (we now have chickens again, but that’s another post for another time! We may live in the city, but that hasn’t stopped us from creating a mini farm it seems). I cleared the area around the pit and planted a few hardy flowers and pretty palms. I needed to create a space big enough for a couple of kids to play in, as well as a painting area. It was a lot of fun to build this set, gathering vintage kitchenware for the mud cafe, and mixing mud with beetroot, spinach and turmeric to create mud paint. I spent a glorious hour or two by myself making the tiny mud house (inner child meets grown up job - the best)…

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I had three wonderful young models for this shoot. With the fabulous production assistance from my friend Celia, she found two boys from Laly’s school, Zephyr and Luka, who came over with their mums Eliza and Narelle, one afternoon and basically hung out in the mud for 3 hours while I snapped shots of them playing. I only needed 3 hero shots from the boys, but there were many more created, they had so much fun and it was pure joy to capture them in action. I don’t think they could quite believe that this was a real job, and all they had to do was play and cover themselves in mud! Shona was my styling and photography assistant for the afternoon, so it was certainly a relaxed and joyful shoot…

Zephyr painting with mud!

Zephyr painting with mud!

Luka and Zephyr following my instructions to get dirty!

Luka and Zephyr following my instructions to get dirty!

The boys making ‘dirty denim’ with some op shop denim clothes I sourced for the shoot.

The boys making ‘dirty denim’ with some op shop denim clothes I sourced for the shoot.

Luka loved making mud ice creams.

Luka loved making mud ice creams.

Zeph covered in mud and pretty happy about it!

Zeph covered in mud and pretty happy about it!

At the end of the shoot, while Zephyr’s mum Eliza was hosing him down, I saw him look up at his mum and say “I will never forget this day!”. My heart exploded.

The next day was Laly’s turn, and she took on her role with not just enthusiasm but surprising skill, as she doubled as my photographic assistant as well, helping me set up certain shots and gathering materials, and restyling the props when needed. This is the first time she’s worked with me or seen me work as I have only ever brought her with me to a shoot once - when she was 6 months old, and it was a disaster, so I never did it again! Until now, at 7 years of age. She was so great, and I think I may have myself an ongoing assistant for as long as she finds joy in it! I’ve noticed she’s a natural behind the camera actually - she took a video of her friend the other day singing, and I couldn’t believe how still she kept the camera and how she followed her friend around, patient and mindful of how she was placed within the frame - there were even natural light flares from the sun, it was like a professional film, I couldn’t believe it! I’ve never taught her so I was pretty blown away - let’s just say she gets that from me, because as we know, it’s not one of Romain’s many talents.

Mud sandwich anyone? A bit of stale bread and some pretend ‘micro herbs’, yum!

Mud sandwich anyone? A bit of stale bread and some pretend ‘micro herbs’, yum!

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Having so much fun making sand slime!

Having so much fun making sand slime!

The article is out now in the Dutch edition, summer issue. And I cannot recommend highly enough to play in mud. I may even turn it into a mud bath for myself, that will be some serious earthing!! Ha.

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Here is the mud-inspired-but-completely-edible energy balls recipe for the article, which I made up from ingredients I had…

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup  of almond meal
3/4 cup of pitted dates
2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon of almond butter (or any nut butter - I used peanut butter which was delicious)
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
Pinch of salt

METHOD

Place the almond meal in the food processor with the dates and coconut oil and pulse until they are nicely crushed. Add the nut butter and cacao and then mix again in the food processor. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Continue doing this until the mixture is finished. Place the rolled balls into the freezer for an hour, then remove and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes 8-12 balls (depending on how big you make them).

A big thank you to everyone who helped me on this shoot: Romain, Laly, Shona, Celia, Eliza, Narelle, Zephyr, and Luka!

With Love,

Pia xx

School Holidays...

I love seeing the aftermath of painting as much as I love the process and final creation.

I love seeing the aftermath of painting as much as I love the process and final creation.

I seem to recall a few months ago I said somewhere on the socials that if there was enough interest, I’d post about what we get up to during the school holidays, and I do recall there being quite some interest but then life got busy and here we are at the end of another school holiday! So here I am, better late than never, offering a brief recap of some of the activities we enjoy during the holidays, to spark you if you’re feeling like you need some ideas…

Firstly, I thought I’d share what my intentions are during the school holidays. As you know, I am passionate about arts, music and nature education for kids, and the public school system here in Australia (and I’m guessing everywhere else in the world judging by the state of affairs and the current interests of the nations!) does not cut it. The kids spend a lot of time and focus on reading and maths and although I too feel those subjects are important, to me they come second to arts & music. In that art is the beginning of reading and writing, and music is the beginning of maths - which is guided by our intuition, so imagine if we learnt the skills of reading and maths through art & music! All the kids who struggle due to thinking expansively rather than linearly would benefit and those who are linear thinkers experience a new perspective. I feel everyone’s life skills would be much improved! I have much to say on this topic and will save it for another time.

So during the school holidays I focus this time on art, music and nature. While I do my best to not book in any work during this time so that I spend most of it with Laly, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way - this school holidays I had a week long shoot (of a two week break! with Easter in between!) but since I used my backyard as the set, and as the producer & photographer I create the shooting schedule, I made the shoot times short to fit in while Laly was occupied elsewhere. She also assisted me during the times she was around and she was fantastic, being my hand model and assistant set builder - this will be her first paid job at the ripe age of 7, and what a wonderful introduction to the working world, knowing you can make money from doing something fun that inspires thousands of people. I’ll share more about this particular shoot when the photographs are published in a couple of months.

A couple of afternoons spent like this, working on her bedroom painting, read on for more details…

A couple of afternoons spent like this, working on her bedroom painting, read on for more details…

This school holidays, I invited Laly to make her own bedroom painting. I bought a large artist’s board, and talked about where this painting would hang in her room, that is would be something she would wake up to every morning so she could think about painting something that would spark joy for her. Not surprisingly, she immediately chose to paint a rainbow! So away we went with this idea. For me it’s a lot to do with the process and not just the final piece so I use these ideas as a way to show her what’s involved in making art. First we needed to prime the board and then paint the background colour. She chose blue. But instead of just using the paints straight from the tubes, I suggested she make her own colours - to make her own blue. I helped her with this. The next day once the background was dry, it was time to paint the rainbow. I let her know that the rainbow doesn’t have to be the colours you see in other pictures, they can be whatever colours you like - in fact, it can be a rainbow of colours that you love, what colours do you love? I said colours out loud that weren’t the normal colours (ie turquoise, acqua, rose, indigo, etc) and she lit up with ones that she loved, so her intuition was well ignited. Then we set out creating the colours. It’s not as easy as it seems it would be, which is why I love this experience because it gives them an understanding of what’s really involved in art making. Once she decided she was finished I offered her some special gold paint to finish it with. And then I encouraged her to sign her name at the bottom. Her art work now resides in her bedroom and I also get to see it every morning, sparking my joy. I will add, it’s also a great experience as a parent to go through this, as you really need to let go of your control and let them make their own intuitive decisions here - this was by no means what I thought she’d paint, but I didn’t interfere. It takes practice.

…….

I’ve noticed we’ve created a few traditions and rituals over school holidays now, here they are…

  1. She loves being active, she has bundles of energy which when she was younger I found rather exhausting but now she is older this energy can be directed into things she loves doing…oh how I remember the hundreds of hours spent at all the local parks and how frustrated she was when she couldn’t reach the monkey bars or climb onto the roofed play equipment! Now she climbs up there and takes a book to read, as if she’s in a treehouse. So during the holidays, she has been enrolling in the wonderful Active Arts, run by beautiful Elena from Dance Domain in St. Peters. Active Arts runs for 4 days, 9-3pm, and the kids get to try everything from rock climbing, trapeze, dance, drama, martial arts, and clay making with local clay artist Agatha who I’ve done a few mother & daughter workshops with as well, and have absolutely loved it, Agatha is a wonderful teacher.

  2. MCA school holiday workshops - this is something we’ve been doing for two years and it’s the most wonderful experience. Laly and I make it a date, we set off from my studio in Balmain and walk to the ferry, and take it under the harbour bridge into Circular Quay, then walk the five minutes to the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). We love watching the buskers along the way and Laly brings some of her money from her donate jar to pop into musicians hats she likes (there’s some music appreciation right there!). We head up to the kids area to buy the tickets and then find out what we get to do! As an adult I find it a fabulous way to experience the art in the galleries, from the perspective of a child who is encouraged to interact with the work and find ways of connecting with it. The kids (and adults!) then get to make things in the atelier space which is always the most fun, this holiday it was about making sound with art, using all sorts of found materials and objects. Laly made three, she was very inspired by this project! After that we head up to the restaurant for lunch which is always a treat, the menu is fantastic. Laly and I have been invited to be part of the kids committee this year which means we help the creators of the workshops design them and figure out ways to connect kids to art. Which means more dates to the MCA for us two! Happy days.

At the MCA this school holidays, playing on a handmade ping pong machine. So.Much.Joy.

At the MCA this school holidays, playing on a handmade ping pong machine. So.Much.Joy.

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…from a kids workshop at the MCA in January. The idea was to think of a place that is special and create a textural collaged ‘map’. Laly chose her Mamy’s (her grandmother in France) garden and got busy picking out fabric swatches that made her think of playing with Mamy in her garden. Heart-melt.

…from a kids workshop at the MCA in January. The idea was to think of a place that is special and create a textural collaged ‘map’. Laly chose her Mamy’s (her grandmother in France) garden and got busy picking out fabric swatches that made her think of playing with Mamy in her garden. Heart-melt.

…from a past kids workshop at the MCA making posters with their own messages. This was Laly’s message to the world: LOVE YOURSELF.

…from a past kids workshop at the MCA making posters with their own messages. This was Laly’s message to the world: LOVE YOURSELF.

3. Beach days or nature walks. I try to get a few of these in if we are not planning a holiday away, then I make sure we do a few local day trips.

And plenty of playdates with friends, where there is always some magic potion making happening in the backyard…

…Laly and her friend made this wonderful array of mud treats yesterday!

…Laly and her friend made this wonderful array of mud treats yesterday!

And a number of nothing days in between! I’m not a big planner as I like days to flow naturally/intuitively especially when school is so scheduled, however, I found this particular break busier than usual which happened because I had the shoot as well as my regular mentoring connections.

Also, during this school holiday I’ve also set a great screen time intention that incorporates art & music, I think it might be of interest to some of you, let me know if you’d like more information and I’ll write it up a separate post. Today was the first day I implemented it and it worked so well.

Oh and I nearly forgot, Tiny Doors! This was one of the highlights of our last school holidays, Laly and I had an absolute ball treasure hunting these all around the Northern Beaches. I’m not sure if it’s still on but here is the link, and you can start at Manly Library to get a map and go from there (call the library first to check the maps are still available and that the doors are still around) - we’ve almost found every door, there are only a few we haven’t been on the search for yet. I highly recommend it. And I hope every council picks up this idea and runs with it!

So, school holidays: art, music, and nature. I feel these ideas can be adapted to wherever you live, as there are always art galleries, nature and music venues around. I tend not to do the expected school holiday activities as, if I’m honest, I find them boring, exhausting and some things are torturous - like kids concerts and some kids movies (the exception being Moana, I will happily see that at the cinema a dozen times!). My idea is to make it joyful for both of us, so it’s not just about her but us together, to find experiences that ignite us both, as these will create ideas and memories for her forever. Let me know what you get up to and please do share your ideas here so others can find out, or link to any posts you’ve written about too for others to find you.

Vivent les petites artistes! xx

Episode 6 Podcast : Redefining Success...

Laly and her friend Mya enjoying some intuitive mark-making together, reminding me of Shona & I 'at play'. In fact, a photograph I captured of this joyful moment between the girls became the backdrop for our podcast logo. The beginnings of beautiful collaborations!

Laly and her friend Mya enjoying some intuitive mark-making together, reminding me of Shona & I 'at play'. In fact, a photograph I captured of this joyful moment between the girls became the backdrop for our podcast logo. The beginnings of beautiful collaborations!

All 8 episodes of the first season of Shona Smith and my podcast titled “It’s All Up From Here!” are now available. I’ve just finished having a listen to all of them - Shona does all the incredible behind-the-scenes stuff that is involved in making a podcast, so I don’t listen to the episodes until they are out there! It does make me feely slightly vulnerable but hey, I’ve had plenty of practice at allowing myself to experience vulnerability when it comes to putting things out there, so this is all part of the journey.

I can say with all my heart that I have enjoyed being in conversation and listening to every single episode. It’s a big deal for me to say that - artists tend to be hyper-self-critical and nothing ever reaches ‘perfection’ (that’s because there is no such thing, but we forget that!). So I hope that comes through in the podcast and that you enjoy listening in.

One thing I’ve thought about since listening to the episodes is that we have said this is a ‘parenting’ podcast because it revolves around our experiences with our own children along with Shona’s extensive experience & knowledge as a youth worker, however it occurred to me that it’s broader than that - it’s as much about parenting of ‘self’. Because essentially, while we are parenting children, a huge part of it is that we are also learning so much about ourselves, and this is strong in our conversations.

The episode topics for this season are:

How to set rock solid boundaries
Intuition -How to use this powerful parenting tool
The Teenage Years - how to approach them with excitement and lose the dread
Redefining Success
The Mother Rage
Doing Christmas + Festive Season Reimagined

And I’ve just written up some show notes for “Redefining Success” as I mention a number of resources in it that I wanted to be able to link to. Shona and I haven’t intended to include show notes, but I think I will write them up slowly when I have the time as I see the benefit of the notes. I’ll let you know when the other notes go live, but for now here are the notes for “Redefining Success”. So, if you haven’t already subscribed, you can listen on apple podcasts or whooska, and I’ve also included each episode on my website here.

A big thank you to Shona for being my co-host and for all that she has done to make this happen - it has been such a joy to work with her over these months and I look forward to many more collaborations together!

With Love,

Pia xx

Sweet Nourishment: a tasting workshop for kids...

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A few months ago, I was having a chat with my daughter Laly about the amount of sugar in snack foods, and what she calls “treats”. She loves to snack, and I’m fine with that as long as the snacks are nourishing. We got talking about why there is so much sugar in these packaged snack foods, and what the difference is between a nourishing treat and one that is, well, the complete opposite.

It’s a hard concept to explain to a 6 year old! That’s when I got an idea: Children (and us too!) learn so much through experience, so I suggested we make time on a weekend to create a nourishing treat tasting platter and she was so excited, she began brainstorming about all the foods we could put together! It went from being a ‘boring’ conversation to planning a visual feast!

Soon after, I attended one of my friend Emma’s events, which was in collaboration with a beautiful new local waterside café called The Galley. Emma is a renown naturopath with a passion for food. The Galley team was celebrating their arrival into the neighbourhood and wanted to share some of the wonderful dishes they offer on the menu, their focus being on fresh, seasonal ingredients. It was a beautiful sampling experience, with Emma sharing her incredible knowledge and passion for nutritious, delicious food, introducing us through our senses to the 5 best foods for cleansing during the spring season.

That’s when the next idea struck me: in collaboration with Emma, we could share the nourishing treat tasting with other children, creating a fun, interactive workshop! She loved the idea, and within an hour discussion we had nutted (perfect pun!) out the details. So here there are!

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If you have a child between 6-10 years old and live in the Inner West of Sydney or beyond, and want to empower your child to make healthy eating choices, we would love you to join us!

It will be on Saturday November 24, from 3-4:30pm at Emma’s beautiful clinic, Studio You, in Balmain. 

In between Halloween and Christmas, this is a great time to teach them what it means to nourish their mind & body through food, and to learn the difference between healthy sweets and damaging ones. They will be sampling all sorts of delicious treats, and you will both come away with your senses filled, empowered and ready to enjoy the approaching festive season in a nourishing way!

 You’ll find all the details here, please click to find out more and place your booking.

Here’s a little more info about Emma & I:

Emma Sutherland - Founder and director of Studio You, an integrated clinic supporting kids to thrive and grow into healthy adults. With over 15 years clinical experience working with families, Emma is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. Emma is mum to 6 year old Sophia.

Pia Jane Bijkerk - As well as being a published author and photographer, Pia has worked as a food stylist for publications around the world, focusing on taste, colour, texture and nourishment. Her passion is to connect people to their creativity and intuition through her work. She loves working with children, creating interactive workshops that ignite creativity through play. Pia is mum to 6 year old Laly. 

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I LOVE creating interactive, intuitive workshops for kids, and I can’t wait to host this one with Emma. Hope to see you there! Let us know if you have any questions.

With Love,

Pia xx

It's All Up From Here! podcast is now live...

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I’m so thrilled to let you know about this collaboration, it’s something that I’ve been working on in the background for the past 6 months and here it is…

Welcome to Season One of the It’s All Up From Here! parent podcast, hosted by radio producer/presenter + ex-youth worker Shona Smith, alongside me, Pia Jane Bijkerk. This is a refreshing, unscripted & honest podcast opening up discussion on issues and topics of today, with the focus to bring back the fun to our parenting.

What I love about this is that both Shona & I have very different parenting styles, backgrounds & personalities - while Shona is effervescent and knowledgeable, I am, well, the heart wanderer: travelling along my parenting path led by my intuition & creativity. We are very good friends, and this collaboration came about after many wonderful discussions. I found I walked away from our conversations feeling uplifted and empowered to be on this wild parenting journey. There was so much great information shared. And after hosting some parenting workshops together in Sydney in 2017, we soon realised a podcast was in the making…

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Shona’s passion is to bring the joy back into parenting, for so many of us who feel overwhelmed and pressured to ‘get it right’. And my passion is to live wholeheartedly, guided by intuition. In this podcast we come together with honesty, openness and reality, without the bells & whistles or smoke & mirrors of social media. In fact, that is the topic of one of our upcoming episodes.

This is Shona Smith! I love this photograph - it captures the humour, joy and warmth she brings everywhere she goes.

This is Shona Smith! I love this photograph - it captures the humour, joy and warmth she brings everywhere she goes.

Each time Shona uploads an episode, I’ll post it here on this page, but you can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts and Whooshkaa. Without further ado, a very big welcome to It’s All Up From Here! Bringing the joy & heart back to parenting.

With love,

Pia xx

Festive Season Reimagined by Pia Jane Bijkerk

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I’m delighted to let you know that my new publication, Festive Season Reimagined is at the printers and will be ready for shipping from October 29!

For those who don’t already know the journey of this book, I wrote the beginnings of it in 2016 and released it as an ebook which was titled The Everyday Alchemy Festive Guide. It was in response to my deep yearning to move through this time of year in a very different way. I was tired of feeling drained by the frenzy of the season, with all the rushing around, consuming, and the general expending of so much valuable energy. This year I decided to embark on creating my own printed version as I had a lot more content to add to it since I'd learnt from another 2 years of experiencing the festive season in this new way. Would you like to see some of the inside pages? Here is a sneak peek…

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Here is some insight into the contents…

“In this beautiful 80 page handbook, author + artist Pia Jane Bijkerk has created a visually inspiring & intuitively formed anthology of ideas for those among us looking to connect deeper as the year completes its cycle, no matter where we live in the world.”

I created this book for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and essentially, for the child within. It will open up a path of discovery in finding  fresh ways  of experiencing the festive season with great joy  and a sense of renewal, without stimulating  over-consumption and stress. Nature has always been the foundation of all that I create, and you will notice this among the pages. This is one of my favourite new images for the book…

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As with all books I create, this one is highly illustrated, combining my photography, stories and sharing ideas of my own as well as those from creative souls around me. I’m releasing a small eco-conscious print run which I am printing locally.

It will retail for $30 AUD, but I am making the first 50 available now for pre-order at a special price of $25. The book will have a soft launch at my next speaking event at the Turn Out fete at the Locomotive Workshop in Everleigh, Sydney on October 27, where I’ll be speaking about the power and importance of intuition in our lives. I’ll be signing books at the event, so for those who have pre-ordered, you can let me know you’ll be at the event and I’ll have your copy available. For those who are not able to come along to the event, you can still pre-order with shipping, and I’ll send it off to you on November 1. It is also available for independent retailers, just send me an email if you’d like to purchase them at wholesale.

And for Patreon members, all receive a 10% discount code they can use across my website for the duration of their patronage. For those not yet a member, you can find out more here.

Thank you to all who have supported me in this project over the last couple of years, through purchasing my original ebook, sharing my work with your own social media networks, and becoming part of my patreon collective to enable me to keep creating freely and wholeheartedly.

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I’ll spread the news on social media over the next 2 weeks - lifting my hiatus while I release this into the world. I’d love your help in letting people know about it, so if you would share it on your social media and friends, I’d be so grateful. This is a book I have produced independently, which means I rely completely on us as individuals to share it, purchase it, and support it any way we can. I would love to be able to continue making these types of work and in the future I’d love to grow the collection to include work by others.

Okay that’s it from me for now. Let me know if you have any questions!

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