Swarm Studio, Amsterdam...


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.

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….


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…


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…

…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

We are all made of stardust...

Stardust print installation , currently in my studio

Stardust print installation, currently in my studio

Having a studio has given me the space- physically and mentally - to embark on something I've been holding back from doing for, well, since I completed my arts degree at Uni some 19 years ago! While I was at COFA, I spent many hours in the dark room printing my photographs. I loved it. Every step of the process (minus the intensity of the chemicals) was a joy for me, I absolutely loved the alchemy of it. And to see the finished print was always exciting, it fuelled my creative fire.  Throughout my last two years of high school and into my Uni days, in those 5 years I spent most of my free time between classes in either the dark room or the library.

But since the onset of digital photography - which I have fully embraced in the most analogue way possible!  - I lost something of my work that I hadn't realised until now.  That is, the beauty and wonder of experiencing my photography in full colour and off the screen...

Stardust photographic print , limited edition, 11 x 14 inches

Stardust photographic print, limited edition, 11 x 14 inches

While visiting the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane a few weekends ago, I came across a room that reignited that lost part of me. It was filled with Australian artists I had studied all those years ago, intently, in books and galleries. As I roamed the room, little sparks lit in me with each work. I moved from Arthur Boyd, to Sydney Long, Rosalie Gasgoigne, and John Olsen. Every one of them had been an influence and inspiration in my years of intense study and making. Then I saw a piece that made my heart skip a beat, and took me to a long lost memory. It was a photograph called groundspeed (rose petal) by renown contemporary Australian photographer Rosemary Laing. In that moment of staring into her carpeted forest, I remembered how huge a role she played in my photography. She was one of my teachers while at the College of Fine Arts, and taught me everything I know about photography, both digital and analogue. And she was one of the best teachers I ever had. I remember how much she'd engage with each of us while we learnt the ropes of Photoshop. She was patient, kind, passionate and enthusiastic. She also gave me my best marks, which compelled me to learn more about my style, my motivation, my goals. While I looked at groundspeed (rose petal) and got lost in those memories, I felt a wave of gratitude and realised how lucky I was to have such a great teacher.

It also cemented in me how powerful it is to put your work out there, to move through those emotional blocks that stop so many of us from creating what we know we are meant to, and how important it is to have those influences in our lives - and why I love being able to be that person, that mentor, to artists around the world now. By making our work, by supporting each other and investing in each other's work, it's how we will thrive.


So it's with absolute delight that, having found the best pro printing lab in the city, I offer one of my most popular photographs Stardust as the first photograph released as a limited edition print on archival rag paper. This photograph is featured in my Festive ebook . As with all my books, I love creating visual stories throughout to capture your imagination and connect with your heart.  This photograph was created inspired by my work in redefining this intense time of year, by exploring the alchemy in each of us: The wonder that we are all made from stardust...

"Every element of the universe is made from stars, including us. As beings, each element within us was birthed in stars, the very stars that twinkle above us in the night sky and around the Earth. As humans both ancient and existing, we have held an everlasting fascination for stars, and knowing that we are made from stardust only enriches the allure and magic of the exploration of those tiny intergalactic sparkles that light up the deep indigo sky we look to each evening before we sleep."
Excerpt from The Everyday Alchemy eBook, Festive Edition. 

Each Stardust print is hand numbered, dated and signed by me. There are two sizes available, worldwide shipping is available (with free worldwide shipping for the next two weeks  - promo code in the info) all the details are available here.  When I say limited edition I mean LIMITED EDITION. Only a very small number will be printed. 

Thank you to everyone in my life who has encouraged me to print my work over the years. I finally got there! It took a while but the wait, I hope, will have been worth it. 

Vivent les artistes. 





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...


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.