vrijdag 30 maart 2012

The Language of Birds

From 'The Poetry of Birds', an anthology edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

The Language of Birds

Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove,
The Linnet and Thrush say, 'I love and I love!'
In the winter they're silent- the wind is so strong;
What it says I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving- all comes back together.
But the lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings; and forever sings he-
'I love my Love, and my Love loves me!'

donderdag 29 maart 2012

Wool in the Spring

Today I read in Trouw about  a flock of sheep and lambs with their shepherds Bos and Arends who left yesterday on their way from their pen in Drenthe to the city Groningen. A journey of 10 days, from farm to farm through the wonderful landscape. Having arrived in the city they will munch the grass on the roadsides. Making the trip on their feet and not in a lorry is to attract attention for the need of sheep flocks for ecological maintenance of roadsides and fields. I hope they will succeed in that. I also think about the healthy wool they will produce later!
What a great initiative...
photo Koen Verheijden

maandag 26 maart 2012

Knit Malawi IV

Preparing the optional designs that I can develop with the women in the villages, I was reading again in the wonderful book by beverly Gordon that I mentioned before: Textiles - the whole story .
Many of the elements that she describes play a role in the quest for textiles: human survival, social bonding and spiritual meaning. Leaving through magazines is of hardly any use, for decoration is simply not an issue in their lives.
Textiles in these villages in Malawi are used to cover, protect, carry, for rituals and- in the end- for beauty. It's stunning to see how a poor African woman can be most elegant in a wretched skirt. She has her pride; it will hardly ever be torn. At the end of the season before harvest, all left-overs have gone, and only then people might walk around in torn clothes, or the same clothes each day.
So each item that we will develop to design will need to comply with at least these conditions: usefulness, strength, protection, recognizability (both culturally and socially).
That's a great challenge. But there are many options; as they've shown themselves already.
So far most of what they've done was for children, and small caps for themselves. This time we might go further- do things for the household, the larger family or society.
Here are some examples so far:

vrijdag 23 maart 2012

Small Business

These mild spring days we have now make me think of the spring as it was in Chile last November. Slightly warmer there, but what we have now in March is astonishing. While there we went to a nature reserve for a day trip. On our way up we wanted to buy some lunch. We came across these small shops. Real small businesses. Simple, effective and good quality. The bicycle repair man had just one arm, but still he had good enough business. Good enough to live a simple, decent life.
Today I read about the current creativity of the people in Greece to deal with their enormous credit crunch; sharing, buying straight from farmers, reducing purchases. Not that it's easy for them but people can be really resilient. That's the positive sign of the crisis and an inspiration as well, I believe. What do we really need?

vrijdag 16 maart 2012

Knit Malawi III

Yesterday 'some' wool was delivered for the coming project in Malawi. The cousin of a fellow board member of the Foundation cleared the attic. Wow! Bags and bags full came into my studio! Today I checked all of it, and arranged the wool by colour. This is so good. Left-over wool, no longer loved, never used and now a great new destination! Also the very first time I took wool from attics, drawers and closets given by friends, colleagues  and family. The women in the villages will be really happy again. This is a good boost to continue the project. Two photo's of the project are part of Trend tablet's  yellow-is-the-new-pink!
I'm planning the trip now, and connecting with their ideas about the near future. What to do together, which challenges do we face, which techniques will be used, which designs are interesting, how to find the market to sell, how to sustain etcetera. Together we'll make it work, hopefully.

donderdag 15 maart 2012

Lost Vegetables

One of the keynote speakers at this weekend's Food Film Festival is Noesjka Klomberg. Today I read an interview with her in Trouw. She took the initiative Voedseljutter for field combing. That is picking up veggies that are left on the field. Like leek, potatoes, chicory or carrots. Because they are too small, too close to the ditch or too ugly. Another great way of avoiding food wastage. People become a member, farmers open their fields to the members and both are benefitting. Farmers get a fee and members pay a contribution. They receive a gunny sack to collect their veggies. Walking around on an empty field is a wonderful experience, and collecting your own vegetables is even better! On the website you can see which farmers have joined. Most of them are in the South. Hopefully more will follow soon. I'll follow it for farmers around Amsterdam. For a better world and more fun!

dinsdag 13 maart 2012


Some birds today. With inspiring colours and feather patterns. These I've seen in the British Museum, one of the most beautiful museums I know. Their collection is wonderful, and the Enlightenment Room is breathtaking. The Enlightenment was a period of endless encounters, and still a lot is being discovered of that era. The research department and the library are impressive.
The browns and blues of these birds remind me of some African textile designs. Recently I came across a website by the Smithsonian Institute where Mali's mud cloth technique is explained and where you can make your own. In a simple way but nice to do anyway.

vrijdag 9 maart 2012


In The Netherlands there's a discussion going on about whether we need to sustain to spend 0,7% of the total Governments' budget for development cooperation. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We have to take care of the poor. The World Bank recently published an update. Which seems positive, but still alarming for many people in many countries.
Yesterday for the first time I joined a meeting of the South North commission of PvdA (ZNC)  about development cooperation/international cooperation. And it is so obvious that we have the responsibility to do so! 0,7 %.... it's almost cynical to doubt that. There are countries around us who, even in those days of economic crisis, spend more rather than less of their budget. We need to take the whole system into the 21st century, relations are changing, but we still have the responsibility to do so. transparent, open to new initiatives, combining skills here and there, to take care for now and then. But DO it!

dinsdag 6 maart 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Man

At the Battle of the Cheetah's last week there was a presentation by Arne Hendriks. He's one of the people behind The Incredible Shrinking Man. The I.S.M. is a design project in which research is done about the consequences of downsizing humans with 50 cm. Instead of the constant growing we do.
We would have less impact on the planet's resources. We would see the world in a new perspective. It was a very inspiring talk, funny but with depth as well. He had some leaflets with ideas and posts from their website. One I liked very much is this one:

During a workshop organized by The Incredible Shrinking Man, Robert Nelk asked himself why pigeons sit so carelessly on the road when cars race towards them. They’re not particularly bothered by the approaching danger and only fly away in the last moment. Nelk wondered if this is because smaller creatures have a different sense of time.In 2008 Henk Jan Bouwmeester, a researcher for The Incredible Shrinking Man, participated in a walk organized by the American artist Robert Wilson. The walkers were given one strict rule: they had to walk very very slowly. In 4 hours only a very short distance was covered, perhaps the distance The Incredible Shrinking Man would have walked in this time. Bouwmeester observed that: “Objects that under normal circumstances are close-by, now seemed very far away because I was aware of how long it would take me to reach them”. The experience of distance and space thus seems closely connected to the experience of time. Perhaps pigeons, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, have more time because they experience more space.

Experiencing time is something we all talk about. Always busy, never enough time, less time than we need, less time than we want. So it's an interesting idea to try and experience the space around you, be more aware of what's there rather than just running towards the next meeting; it might save us time, at least emotionally.

maandag 5 maart 2012

Food Film Festival

Yesterday, during a lovely organic homemade Sunday lunch with friends ( lentil soup, Irish soda bread, eggs with mushroom oil, goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes) we decided to go to Food Film Festival. Tickets are almost sold out, but we've got them!

Food Film Festival 2012 from Food Film Festival on Vimeo.

vrijdag 2 maart 2012

Battle of the Cheetah's II

Wow, that was a great evening. Well organised, inspiring, topics that matter en some very good presentations. So much work has been done, so much energy has been released and so many ideas have been developed; that's a wonderful result anyway.The winning team (both public and jury) was Too Good to Waste. Their presentation was clever and funny, inspired by the daily television talk show De Wereld Draait Door: De Groente Draait Door.
I must say; their presentation and the content of their concept has improved a lot. It was no longer just about the idea to make sauce out of over-the-date tomatoes; it was much broader about the immense amount of food that's wasted in supermarkets every day. That's ridiculous, and their concept to change that and do something creative about that is good. Hurray for them.
I still think the impact of Echte Prijs is the biggest and the development is the most worldwide. But apparently their thesis was not as good as their presentation.
Anyway, most teams will continue. Here's a short film about how the evening started.

donderdag 1 maart 2012

Battle of the Cheetah's

Tonight's the Battle of the Cheetah's! Five teams of young professionals are battling to win. Food security is the topic. How can we improve food security, or how can we solve the hunger problem?
In only a few weeks they's come up with a concept an worked on their network to win. A few weeks ago I saw them doing their elevator pitch at the 40th anniversary of NCDO. The Queen was there; I wonder what she thought.
My favourite team is team Echte Prijs. They worked on the real price for food. All the teams are very creative, some also have a great idea, but I think Echte Prijs is the most realistic. Here's why.
RiskyFoodz has a charming idea to get rid of the ridiculous rules regarding the shelf life of food. With good visuals and a good story they try to convince people to eat raw cheese, or any other product. To think about how ridiculous it is to throw away food because the date on the package tells you to do so. They have a great pay-off: you might die! It's a good statement, and they will score high I guess. City Framing is about urban farming. In big high-rise buildings. Indoors, with artificial light. The idea that we need to become much more creative in finding new ways and places to grow food is good, but the artificiality is not very appealing. Food2 is also about shelf life. Of tomatoes. The evening before the perishability of tomatoes is due to end they want to take out all the tomatoes and make them into sauce. Nice, but we are not going to solve the real food problems by just saving tomatoes. Let alone the extra transport that's needed.
Made in Holland is another candidate for victory I guess. A charming presentation and a innovative idea. To make sure every human being not only gets enough food but also enough nutrition we need to think about new ways of nutrients. Maggots and locusts are a wonderful source of proteins. Easy to grow, and with 10 kilo's of feed you get 9 kilo's of food whereas for meat you only get 1 kilo of food out of 10 kilo's of feed. And maggots and locusts can be very nice and crispy. A wonderful idea, and the food of the future. Just a little too early I guess. I'm talking about this topic in my circle, and most people are still shivering when they think about it. This is a matter of time. You know; early adapters, followers, laggards... The so-called cultural creatives will be positive, but the rest of the western world is not ready yet. So that's why I think Echte Prijs is the best candidate at this moment. People don't realise what food actually costs. How can a chicken in the supermarket be so cheap, how can green beans pop up in our shops from Ethiopia while in the country itself there's hardly enough? Knowledge creates responsibility, so I truly believe we need to make people know about their purchases. And not just wit food but also with clothes and other items. If we can make food more fair, it will be easier to divide the food fairly. producers around the world will get better prices, and not just those who are subsidised by western governments.
So we'll see, I'm curious and I'll be watching!