maandag 11 november 2013


Next Sunday 17th of November there's a new get-together from Simply Slow. Wool is the theme, and I will contribute. Wool is such a great material, an endless source of inspiration for me! Mae Engelgeer will be there as well,she's a weaver. So come and join a warm evening with food, good company and lots of wool. More info on 
11 november 2013

dinsdag 22 oktober 2013


My book is published and available! Utensils is a  photo survey that I did in Malawi. I photographed the household of 1 family. All they have, all they need. It's a photo document about the daily life of the largest part of our planet's population. It's also a tribute to improvising, re-use-reduce-recycle and the beauty of handmade. Therefore it adds to the discussion about social design. Reconsidering materials, production and longevity. The book can ordered through The price is 17 euro, including postage (in The Netherlands). It's also available at Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum in Amsterdam, and during the Afrikadag, on the 2nd of November which will be in the stunning building of Tropeninstituut, Amsterdam.

dinsdag 20 augustus 2013

Sew and Save VII

Still a source of inspiration, but back in 1941 a necessary item; the piece-bag with small left-overs. I always have ribbons, small pieces of fabric, threads, buttons etc. Just can't throw them away....
This is what Joanna wrote:

Never throw away any odd pieces of material, as some kind of decorative or useful purpose can always be found for them. A well-ordered piece-bag will save you many odd pence from time to time, and will do much to relieve the monotony of a rationed wardrobe. 
It is better to store pieces in a large square  cardboard (hat)box than in a bag. If you put pieces of material, lengths of ribbon, buttons and buckles into a large bag they will get crumpled and 'mussed', the buckles are likely to tear delicate fabrics, the buttons drop to the bottom of the bag and get lost, and the bits of material become really dishearteningly crumpled. So find a large box, and get your bits and pieces in order.
Isn't this a lovely way to describe such a handy item.....

maandag 12 augustus 2013

Sew and Save VI

Here's about another skill that we are loosing: darning.
Back in 1941 it was a common thing to do; clothes had to be kept as long as possible. I reckon we will need some time to practice this skill......

It may be that your most attractive jumper has a moth hole in it where it shows most. In this case you will have to mend it by grafting so that it won't show. Thread a needle with a length of matching wool and run it along the garment just before the place where the stitches have gone. Put it through two stitches at the lower part of the hole, draw it through, and pick up another tow stitches at the top of the the hole, then down again into the lower stitches. Draw up tightly enough to fill the gap, but not so tightly as to put any strain on the main section of the garment. Grafting forms a line of imitation knitting that is non-detectable. 
As long as a garment is not too far gone, neat efficient mending will give it a new lease of life. Repair where you can, and renovate where you can't.

                                                        Norfolk fisherman's jumper museum Sheringham 2011

dinsdag 30 juli 2013

Sew and Save V

Together with Sew and Save there's another great book from the forties in Britain: Make Do and Mend. This collection has reproductions from instruction leaflets. On clothes, fuel, household keeping etc.
Austerity out of need made everyone a hero in reinforcements and good care in those days. Here's on laundry:

Washing hints:
Mend all tears before washing- whether they are done at home or in the laundry. If you haven't time to do a proper darn catch tears together. Laundries are working under difficulties these days and a stitch in time will be appreciated.

Never let clothes or household linens get really dirty; several light washes are less harmful than one hard one and use soft water- rain water is best.

Dry out of doors when possible - the whites in the sun and the coloureds in the shade.

And indeed, there's nothing better than laundry freshly dried outdoors......

donderdag 18 juli 2013

Sew and Save IV

And this is what Joanna Chase wrote in 1941 about bed time:

Your three great allies in clothes care are heat, steam and a good, stiff brush. Always brush your clothes when you take them off at night, as dust left on overnight works its way into the material and is responsible for that grey 'bloom' on clothes. Buy several twopenny wooden hangers, so that when you hang your clothes up they fall into their natural folds and retain their shape. Be sure to get the hangers wide enough, so that the shoulders of clothes do not sag over the ends. Never hang a garment on a hook by its neck. If you do that, you simply ask for bulging neck-lines and sagging hems.

Come to think of it; it would maybe make us sleep better after this. Away from daily business, problems and thoughts in our minds. Just hang, brush properly and then sleep well...

vrijdag 12 juli 2013

Sew and save III

From 1941:
When you are storing clothes, remember that all shoes should be wrapped in newspaper, and all dark and heavy garments folded with sheets of newspaper between them. The printers' ink is disliked by moths. Mothballs, of course, are an elementary precaution.
Summer clothes should be stored in white paper so that they do not get soiled; hats put down crown downwards into large boxes, one crown into the next. If you are storing silk lingerie, or silk stockings that are new, do not wash them, but put them into an air-tight jar and seal the top. In tis way they will keep without perishing.

If you read this; we completely lost the skill of storing! The fight against moths is still going on today, and the newspaper method is worth doing, not harmful and very easy. I also have eco-bags with herbs that they don't like which I buy in my local organic shop.

maandag 8 juli 2013

Sew and Save II

If what you buy is precious to you, you will take care. Regarding clothes, that's what we've lost a bit. So read what Joanna said in 1941:

Clothes, like everything else in the world, respond to care and kindness in your treatment of them. If you look after them, they'll not only last you much longer but will retain indefinitely the speckless appearance they have when you bought them, thus giving you a well-groomed air which is more than half-way to being a well-dressed woman. The secret of looking after clothes is to make a regular job of it, just like washing up or sweeping the drawing-room carpet. Allot a few hours one day each week to going over your wardrobe for cleaning and repairing.
A few ours each week...but that must have been meant for the wardrobe of the whole family, or?

photo taken at the archetype exhibition in MMKA 2011

vrijdag 5 juli 2013

Sew and Save

I found a most inspiring small book published in Britain in 1941: 'Sew and Save' by Joanna Chase. It's a manual to assist women getting themselves and their families through war and crisis in decent clothes. The way she describes how to handle clothes when new, how to maintain them and  how to take special care; we can learn a lot from it in these days. In 1941 clothes were on coupons and money was poor. Nobody had too many clothes; however sustainability was not an issue back then. We in our times are struggling with our consciousness regarding the circumstances in the clothing industry, poor quality of cheap clothes an an ongoing fashion merry-go-round of 2 collections each year. In those days you had clothes that were produced in your own country, of good quality and were relatively expensive to buy. So taking care was important. Reading the book made me think how useful the descriptions and ideas are for us now. So here's the first:

Every woman wants to be well dressed. At any time, but especially in war-time and now that clothes are rationed, this is a matter of planning rather than of plenty. So find five minutes to sit down with a piece of paper and pencil and plan your wardrobe carefully to fit in with the money you have to spend and the type of life you lead. Go over your existing clothes and make a list of what is still wearable, what will have to be replaced, and your next necessary and important 'buys'.
When you've done that decide on a colour scheme and stick to it, otherwise you'll find you have odd frocks that don't match your overcoat, or a sweater without a matching skirt, and not enough coupons to remedy these difficulties.

zaterdag 30 maart 2013

Social Design III

I'm off to Malawi tomorrow, to continue working with the women on the craft project. With them I've set up a structure, and we'll make an analysis of what worked and what not. Improvement is the aim, along their wishes and possibilities. I've made a business model of how a social design project can work. The book Material Change by Eve Blossom has been helpful, as well as other research and my previous experience. It's important to aim at individuals as well as the community for both development and poverty alleviation are among the targets. I'm also looking forward to meet them again, exchange and work hard. Each step, however small is a step forward......

vrijdag 8 maart 2013


From tomorrow on my new collection 2013 HAND KNITTED VASES will be on sale at museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. A new exhibition will be openened: handmade. The value of crafts and craftmanship are central themes so I'm happy my collection was selected for the shop.

photo: Jeroen Dietz

vrijdag 22 februari 2013

Selvedge | the textiles of your life

And here's the review I wrote about this fabulous magazine. A very respectable age..... this is issue 50!
It's all about worldly textiles, rooted in tradition but with a bright vision for the future!
Hurray on it's way to issue 100..

maandag 21 januari 2013

Bowerbird Collections | Sibella Court

Here's the review I wrote for Athenaeum about the book 'Life of a Bowerbird' by Sibella Court.
The Bowerbird is a very stylish bird with a great sense for colours, texture and shapes...
But the book is about the phenomenon of collections, how to start, how to display and how simple a collection can be with great visual impact. My review starts with one of the most beautiful museum rooms I know: the Enlightenment Room in the British Museum in London. Stunning and moving..

woensdag 16 januari 2013

Material Change III

I have almost finished this really good book by Eve Blossom. In the continuation of her interesting story of building Lulan Artisans she comes with some very important steps which I endorse:
Seems logic, but should not be forgotten; what do people want, need, which skills do they have? That takes time; in Malawi most of my work is to listen to the women and village leaders and discuss with them
Structure business around culture
If for instance agriculture is the main source of income, the crafts have to fit in. It cannot be the other way round; not realistic...
Build the company around people
It's important to get to know the people; some women might be shy but very skilled, others may be quite good leaders for the project.
Make meaningful products
That's a big issue; many so-called fair trade design is built around products that are not meaningful. Unsustainable decoration, things we don't need, or just for the Western market without any roots in the local culture rather than the skills.
Bring value
The project can add value to the community; it's important to stress that. Often women have a low position in the community, and are not used to be in the front. So step by step everybody in the community has to get used to the idea that the crafts are part of the way out of poverty.
Embrace community as your partner
The Malawian society is very traditional and has many rules. You have to respect those rules and work on getting everybody 'on board'. The Chief has to approve, for instance.
Incubate your future partners
Not specifically suitable for the craft projects I'm doing in Malawi, for they have their own local market, but it's all about endorsing any initiative.....

donderdag 10 januari 2013

Seikatsu Kogei - Living Crafts

Recently I bought the book "New Standard Crafts" by Kazumi Tsuji. This book has been put together because of an exhibition about Seikatsu Kogei, living crafts. Japanese are very good with crafts, and crafts are highly valued in Japanese society. So even before opening the book I knew it would interest me. I would say it's a silent book. Silent in its book design and silent in it s content.
'Things' we need for our daily lives, like buttons, haircombs, cups, spoons, chairs etc need to be made to last long and must be made to be utilised properly. Those things make our lives good, clear our minds and make us ready for our daily tasks. When you look at things in this way, you can see their beauty. You can also see immediately when they crappy, unpractical, unnecessary, of no value at all.
The images in the book are of such simple beauty, it struck me straight away.
They made me think of those items in my house that I value highly. My ceramic bowls, my bamboo comb, my wooden chairs, my hand knitted scarves, the handmade wooden table; really well designed and crafted.
The idea of Sekatsu Kogei suits my idea of design very much. For a sustainable angle at design you need to have things that have longevity and beauty. Besides that, the designers, makers and crafters are part of the product as well. In mass production their role is totally evaporated. Price, materials and the process of making have lost their value in mass production. That must change. Seikatsu Kogei is a way of revaluing things and makers. It's an ongoing process!

dinsdag 1 januari 2013


The first post in 2013 is a review I've written about Kinfolk. A beautiful magazine from Portland USA. Food, friends and living, in a wonderful mix.  On sale at Athenaeum, of course!