A short stroll after lunch

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #144

I wrote about lunch time walks way back in JOYFUL GRATITUDE #10, and now as the weather begins to shift with autumn just around the corner, I want to highlight my gratitude for going on short walks after having lunch on work days once again.  I want to keep up this good habit and continue going out for a breather through the next seasons, even as the temperature drops and when it is windy or raining.

I’m thankful for these pockets of freedom, even if they are to be found along a rather busy road in a neighbourhood where roadworks are rife.  Those ten or fifteen minutes, help to get my limbs moving and clear my mind, making it easier to concentrate in the afternoon. I also realise after a day where I stay in the office non-stop, that those strolls help me to feel less like I am nine-to-five captive in a glass cage. Also the fun conversations with my colleagues make it a nice chance to connect and get to know each other better.

Activist embroideries

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WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? #1

I’m very excited to share the first interview in this new series, where my sister Helena explains the background behind her amazing activist embroideries. I really enjoyed the afternoon we spent during her visit to Amsterdam making the photoshoot by the warehouses, and she was a great model as I was trying my hand at a subject other than close-ups of flowers and plants:)  Enjoy the read and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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How did you start? How did you come up with the idea?

I first started after watching a vulva embroidery tutorial video on the online magazine madmoizelle. The author of the video embroidered a vulva on a T-shirt to make women’s genitalia more visible in the public space, fighting the taboo around female sexuality. I’ve been a feminist for a few years now, and really liked the combination of art and the activist component. It inspired me to stitch a clitoris on a T-shirt I would wear to give more visibility to this other body part that is also too often forgotten.

I bought a simple white T-shirt, a wooden loop and some thread and needles in a specialised store and started my first embroidery. It turned out to be a cheap and fun hobby to take up!

 

How did you learn this skill?

I turned to the internet, as I didn’t know anybody around me who could teach me (although our mom said that maybe I hold embroidery in my genes because our great grandmother was a skilled embroiderer!). I mostly learned with YouTube videos. Articles can be helpful but videos are usually better because showing a complex stitching movement is easier than describing it. There are many videos out there, made by women across the world (unfortunately this is still a very gendered hobby…). Some of them I don’t even share any language with, but the visual is usually enough!

For the rest, it’s through trial and error that I learned (and I’m still learning) what kind of clothes can be best embroidered, how to draw the designs onto the cloth, how to do new stitches (I try to learn a new one in every project)…

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Where do you find your inspiration?

Most of my ideas are linked to feminist topics, and I get them from media I consume: the news, youtube videos, songs… Music can be good at making ideas stick. That’s how the t-shirt with the middle finger and the Spanish one came to be. “Cerrada de amor, cerrada de pussy” (closed from love, closed from the pussy) are lyrics of a song by Ladilla Russa. It’s about men who are too insistent with their sexual or romantic goals, while sometimes as a woman, you just want to enjoy other things in life, like dancing in clubs or tap dancing, without having to deal with those who don’t take no for an answer.

 

What effects have your pieces had?

My embroideries are often a conversation starter, which was what I was hoping for! For example, people often don’t recognise that the clitoris is a clitoris, because they think of that organ as just the external part. That gives me a chance to drop some fun facts about it, in a light but hopefully instructive way!

Among skeptics against feminism, though, my embroideries have led to tense discussions! It’s not always enjoyable, but I also don’t want to just preach to the choir. Presenting a radically different opinion than theirs is a good way to reopen conversations, maybe plants some seeds of thought and brush up my debating skills along the way!

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How does this work impact / interact with other activities you do?

Embroidery has helped me work on my biggest flaw: perfectionism (this is not only a job interview flaw-that-isn’t-a-flaw, it really exists!). The risk of failing has been paralysing in many areas of my life. With embroidery, I do take time to start each project out of fear, but once I start, I face all the imperfections that come with such a precise manual task: the thread is secretly building knots on the back, letters are not the same size, the chalk drawing is disappearing too fast…There are so many factors that I cannot fully control, that I am forced to accept the imperfection. And even though I’m usually dissatisfied with my work during and shortly after each piece, I tend to warm up to it after a while!

Practicing letting go of imperfections through stitching has helped me in other areas of life, to tell myself it’s ok that I made my stew to salty that one time, or that I’m not the biggest loser of all times just because I said something dumb in a conversation!

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Any ideas for what you plan to work on next?

I have too many ideas, and too little time! My next embroidery will be a reference to the great youtube channel Contrapoints (you should check it out), and the following one will have an activist message about napping! Stay tuned 😉

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*****

A huge thank you to Helena for being my guinea pig (or should I say my gerbille!) to test out the questions and format, and for her inspiring and well-written answers. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better start!

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Rearranging furniture

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #143

Another week has flown by and September has arrived, carrying with it memories of the back-to-school season with its deeply ingrained urge for renewal (new clothes, pens, notebooks…).  Instead, Paolo and I did some furntiture re-arranging in our appartment, which turned out to also be the perfect opportunity to give the bookshelves a much-needed scrub and donate some books to the little free library to make some space. The perfect autumn cleaning!

We decided to experiment with a new layout we had in mind, using only furniture we already have to see if the set up works for us.  As I type, my laptop is now placed on a table which receives lovely natural light, and my posture is greatly improved compared to when I sit in my usual writing spot on the sofa, cross-legged with my laptop balancing on a cushion on my knees.

So far I’m really enjoying the fresh perspective and it also feels like our living space is suddenly much bigger.  It’s a pleasure to see how a small change can make such a large impact. Now, I just need to keep my good resolutions of keeping the desk free from clutter:)

New interview series starting next week

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Do you ever have that feeling when you are talking with strangers or people you know, and you are mildly bored?  You go through the merry-go-round of basic questions, make small talk and are left feeling kind of bland. I realised lately that the conversations I enjoy most are the ones about people’s stories and dreams, their ‘crazy’ ideas or the creative projects they mention in passing with a sheepish grin, things that may seem random or unimportant on the surface.

I love seeing how people’s faces light up when asked a follow-up question about it, and feeling how my curiosity is piqued, like I’ve landed on a precious nugget of information, a vein of gold leading me to a more interesting aspect of the person.  One of the reasons I enjoy these chats so much is that they open up the door of possibility for everyone listening. They are a powerful reminder of the importance of doing things just to feed our soul, sometimes with no specific reason other than to feel ourselves come alive, out of pure curiosity to see what it would be like and where it might lead…

So I want to explore the inner workings of these types of endeavours with people around me, who, when an idea tugs at their sleeve, decide to show up and simply give it a go, despite the unknown and the fear that may lurk.  This new series will be called WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP? and I’m excited to share my first interview next week!

A yurt all to ourselves

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #142

Sometimes you just need to conjure up your perfect holiday…  Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending three days with my good friend Eva in Wageningen, where we rented a yurt:)

We had no plans other than to relax and we were very successful. It doesn’t hurt that we had this gorgeous space all to ourselves. The soothing roundness of the space with its wooden beams leading up towards the skylight, a basic kitchen to cook our vegan sausages and other treats, a tap outdoors to do the dishes while the sun warmed my legs, a tree to read and play games under, progressively moving our blanket to remain in the shade, feeling the humidity come up from the earth as the sun set, being able to see the stars in the night sky…

Every evening we chatted whilst looking into the flames of the wood-burning stove, feeling the heat on our bodies, tired in that lovely way that comes from spending all day outside.

It felt like true luxury to have our own garden and be able to eat leisurely meals outside, feet in the lush grass, next to a patch of colourful flowers. Enjoying all this green and fresh air, as well as our chats about creative plans and laughs, recharged my batteries immensely.

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Photography portfolio

Welcome to my photography portfolio! Feel free to browse.  By clicking on the tile you can view the full image. I’ll be adding new photos here regularly. Drop by whenever you want!

If you are interested in postcards or prints, please reach out to me (fannytje2006 [at] gmail.com)

The sound of waking up in Australia

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For my birthday, I received a book of poetry from my Mum, called Two green parrots by Australian poet Anne M Carson. It’s a lovely gift, which my Mum took the time to dedicate to me, that short handwritten note in biro at the front making it so much more personal.

I really enjoy picking it this small volume and reading one or two poems here and there, little stories that draw me back Down Under for a few minutes as I visualise the scene from my memories with sight, smells and sounds.

I especially like her poems about birds. For me the sound of waking up in Australia is amazing, the birds are so much louder than here in Europe and their cries are completely different.  Just hearing them in a movie will bring me right back to where I grew up as a child.  Here is a little extract to give you a sense of how beautifully the poet expresses it:

“Wattle birds wake up raucous.
They don’t murmur their way into day
or carol the growing light.
They ram their voices into the first chink
that opens between dark and dawn, staking claims.
Voice as a lever, they wrench morning open for themselves.”

Extract from: Wattle Birds, Kew
                         Anthochaena carunculata

This inspires me deeply to practise writing about daily scenes around me, playing with words to capture life going on all around me. Merci Maman for this wonderful gift:)

Shooting stars

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #141

This week in the midst of a stomach bug, the general messiness of life and work tension, Paolo had the brilliant idea that we look out for shooting stars one evening, since it is the season for them.

So there we stood on the balcony wearing our jackets and breathing in the cool air in the dark, heads tilted upwards, scanning the sky until my eyes got dry from not blinking and my feet got cold, surrounded by the soft sound of drops from an earlier rainshower rolling off from the trees into the gardens below.

We gazed out above the rooftops full of hope regardless of the light pollution of Amsterdam. We scouted optimistically despite the passing whisps of clouds obscuring the few stars we could see. We sometimes remained in silence and other moments we talked. Twice we were rewarded by the appearance of a bright shooting star! The shared joy of both catching a fleeting glance of bright travelling light was magical.

Be astonished

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“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

Mary Oliver

This quote from Mary Oliver’s poem “Sometimes” is one that often get shared. I like its simplicity and straightforwardness considering the vastness of the scope (it would be hard to be so direct for something as small as how to install wifi on your phone). It works for me, I am repeating it to myself, trying to be mindful and to follow the instructions…

It’s my reminder to be in the moment, with a beginner’s mind that allows itself to be astonished at whatever catches its attention and to share it. For example, look at these flowers I saw at the Botanical Garden. Don’t they look a little like tall hats? And how gorgeous is the winding stem holding them together with its copper green tint? Just beautiful:)

Organic farm day

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #140

This week I spent a day with my colleagues on an organic dairy farm. It was a welcome break from the usual grind in the office.  Literally, a breath of fresh air… including the potent smell of dung of course (though I noticed you get used to it surprisingly fast:).

In the course of an afternoon we experienced rounding up the 46 cows from a field down the road and escorting them to the barn where we helped (a bit:) with the milking. The cows are beautiful, huge with shining fur and it’s funny to see they have different characters, they know what they like and don’t like, and are very human-like.

Even if this experience just scratched the surface, it was eye-opening for me as a city-girl to realise how relentless this lifestyle is (having to make sure the cows are milked twice a day no matter what, going through the motions with each individual cow, keeping the milking space as hygienic as possible, checking how each cow is doing…).

I suggested we should do team outings like this regularly, to be more in touch with where our food is coming from and what the life of a farmer is like, even if it is just a glimpse, to avoid romanticising it or ignoring the difficulties.

I’m grateful to have a chance to get out of my urban bubble and learn a lot in a day.  Even though I realise that dairy farming has a huge negative environmental impact and should be reduced, I appreciate that there are farmers trying to do so on a small scale, organically and with deep respect of the animals, and the hard work that goes into producing each glass of organic milk.  Next time I hope we go to an organic veggie farm:)