beautiful book in the making: Solace by Helene Athanasiadis…
Posted in artists, australia, books, photographers December 16th, 2015 by pia

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“A poetic study of the beautiful spaces women create for themselves. Rooms of serenity & calm, to retreat from the everyday…solace.”

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About six months ago, visual artist Helene Athanasiadis wrote to me asking if I’d consider letting her come into my home to photograph me in my sanctuary as part of her upcoming book, Solace. It was two months after my mum died and I was in deep mourning, retreating daily to the very intimate place in my home that Helene was asking to photograph. After perusing her website, something about her collection of beautiful work made me feel calm and open, and I found myself saying “yes”.

It’s with such pleasure that I am able to share with you today some of the pages from her book while it’s still in the making. Take a look at this selection of wonderful spaces she has photographed from some incredible creative souls around the country…

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Helene is based in beautiful Castlemaine, a creative haven in the state of Victoria, Australia. She has degrees in fashion design, archaeology, and art history, and has been creating  fine art photography & mixed media collages for some time now. Her background and influences are evident in her work: “In both mediums I am guided by archaeological concepts; layered, stained & aged, all of which are rendered in muted & textured tones”.

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In my next post I’ll show you some of the photographs she took of my special place, but in the meantime you can check out the artist’s havens she has photographed so far.

Thank you Helene for allowing me to share your wonderful project here.

xx

 

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calling australia home (part one)…
Posted in australia, personal, pia's photos December 4th, 2015 by pia

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On November 18, Romain – aka french boy – became an Australian citizen. It was a momentous occasion for us as a family. He is very proud to be able to call himself Australian after living here permanently for the past 5 years, and I was touched that he felt at home and connected to this land. But in the days leading up to the ceremony, I became quite emotional. At the time I thought that him becoming Australian was triggering the release of emotion as tears of joy, but they were tinged with sadness and I hadn’t understood why. After much inner reflection over the past 2 weeks I discovered what it was…

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_5I took this photo the other day while up in the Northern Rivers, the country of the Bundjalung people.*

In part two I’ll talk further about my inner findings because I’m sure it’s something that many resonate with – especially those of you who have read My Heart Wanders and connect to the heart stories within the pages.

Today I would like to share with you the moving piece Romain wrote on facebook the day he became Australian. It is so open and captures his observations and enthusiasm for this country. Here it is…

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“Nine years ago, when I met my beautiful soulmate Pia in Paris, little did I know that I was on a journey to become an Australian citizen. Growing up in the ’80s in a small village of eastern France, my knowledge of Australia came at the time from two sources: Crocodile Dundee and Midnight Oil’s video clips. As such, I imagined Australia as a massive red desert with bits of bush in it. Although the red desert covers much of the country, I now know how much more diverse its landscape is: from lush coastal areas with temperate pasture lands, not unlike my birth place, to tropical areas where big saurians live. Did I mention amazing beaches as well?

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_3Beautiful scenery by the water at West Head, Kuringai National Park, the country of the Carigal people.*

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“I am not becoming less French in the process, I feel “augmented” by a second culture. France and Australia fortunately share the same values, except for cricket of course. The new Australian prime minister is even a republican!
“The Australian landscape is diverse, so are the people. A few weeks after I arrived, someone at work asked me: “What’s your background?”. Being in a work setting, I started rambling about my career and how I started up as a System Administrator, etc. I quickly realised that it wasn’t the answer that was expected. “What’s your background?” here, means: “where are you from originally? where is your family from?”. The makeup of Sydney-siders is so varied that it is a perfectly acceptable question and most people value everyone’s background and the positive influence of external cultures on Australia. At my child’s daycare, all cultures are regularly celebrated, to the point that the kids even made Chinese flags around Chinese new year’s eve. Yes, red flags and all. Multiculturalism in Australia is not all rosy of course and maybe it’s specific to capital cities but I do feel people from diverse cultural backgrounds mix well overall.

PiaJaneBijkerk_australiahome_2015_2Laly learning about Aboriginal culture at home through role play

“As a white Australian, I feel I must mention indigenous people. I wish indigenous people and culture were a bigger part of day to day life. It seems to me that a very rich heritage is being largely ignored. I find it funny when white australians say “we don’t have much of a culture here”. Well, yes, you have one that is over 40000 years old. Indigenous people have been wronged in so many ways over two centuries that it will take time for things to improve on that front but I am optimistic they are improving.

“Anyway, time to put another shrimp on the barbie while listening to “Thunderstruck!”

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Thank you for letting me share your musings here, french boy.  I’ll be posting my inner reflections in part two in the coming weeks…

With Love,

 

Pia xx

* I pay respect to the tribal elders of each area, I celebrate their continuing culture, and I acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.

Welcome to Stef Bassett’s Hessian Shack…
Posted in australia, handmade, interiors November 18th, 2015 by pia

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetStef’s studio space in her hessian shack.

I wish to begin by acknowledging that in this post we are visiting the country of the Bundjalung people.  I pay respect to their tribal elders, I celebrate their continuing culture, and I acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.*

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Last week Laly and I flew up to the incredibly beautiful Rainbow Region of Northern New South Wales – the Bundjalung people’s nation area. Also known as the the Northern Rivers and Byron Bay Hinterland. Invited by my very dear friend Nat, we stayed for a week and together toured around part of the region, visiting The Channon markets, Byron and beyond. On Friday we drove out to our friend Stef Bassett’s shack set back from the road on a field in the bush among cows and horses. You may recall Stef used to own a beautiful store in Newtown, Sydney called Newspaper Taxi, where she hosted one of the most special book launch events for me for My Heart Wanders in 2011. Now Stef lives here, off the grid in an original 1940’s farm shack which she has transformed into a creative wonderland, take a look…

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Laly and I sat in wonder, looking around at all that Stef and her partner Ben have made, collected and displayed – everything being found or crafted from tossed away materials. It felt like we were sitting inside a hidden away hessian-lined treasure chest…

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While we chatted at the kitchen table, Laly happily (and quietly!) drew pictures in one of Stef’s notebooks, soaking in the unique atmosphere. Besotted with Stef’s cat Rupert Bunny, who was a wild kitten rescued from a wood mill and has the most incredible emerald eyes, Laly would wander in and out of Stef’s bedroom to pat Rupe who had nestled himself into the window frame. Laly then asked Stef if she could draw a picture of Rupe for her, so Stef drew the body and left the eyes and other details for Laly…

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All the while Ben sat across the table from Laly, strumming his guitar and playing Devendra Banhart’s Little Yellow Spider…

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The Hessian Shack has no electricity (except a little bit of solar), no hot running water, no TV, no big appliances – their ‘fridge’ is a steel chest with ice. Stef’s mobile phone, when in reception,  is their only connection to the online world. Thankfully for us she updates her life and creations on instagram regularly. As an artist Stef works in many mediums, and at the moment she is working on a range of ceramics which she will be selling soon.

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For more info about Stef and her work, you can email her here, and there is more information about her on her instagram profile. Stef was also featured in Kara Rosenlund’s beautiful new book Shelter.

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It was such a wonderful experience, thank you Stef and Ben for welcoming us and sharing a slice of your world with us here.

With Love,

Pia

*{From today, my dear readers, each time I write about an Australian place – be it about visiting a creative dwelling or a beautiful landscape – at the beginning of each of these particular posts I will write an acknowledgement and pay respects to the ancestors of the land. It’s my way of learning and connecting to my country of birth, and sharing that connection with you. Thank you. }

Little Treasure contributions abound…
Posted in australia, books, charities, little treasures: made by hand November 3rd, 2015 by pia

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Last month I sold the bulk of the last remaining copies of Little Treasures: Made by Hand through an online flash sale. I’m very grateful to every one who bought copies, shared the news, and sent me beautiful emails about the book throughout the past weeks. For those who don’t follow me on instagram or other social media and haven’t already read my appreciation, as I press publish on this blog post I send a big THANK YOU wave of love across the globe to every beautiful soul who supported the book, shared the book and bought the book and packages to make it happen back in 2013 and since. Being on the wild seas of self-publishing and crowd-funding was an incredible adventure, and it continued to be a stormy ride for the 2 years that followed as I discovered my limitations as a human – what I was willing, and not willing, to do. I know a lot of the murkiness had to do with the intensely challenging times in my personal life, and as I am a person who feels much, accepting that I feel that has been part of the challenge.  However I’m so thankful for the experiences on this particular part of my creative life journey, not just for the huge lessons but mostly for the amazing connections.

Today though I have to say that what is lifting me and strengthening my heart wings right now is the knowledge that I have been able to donate hundreds of Little Treasure books to some amazing not-for-profit foundations around the country.  It’s now become one of the most exciting parts of this book’s journey for me – as exciting as it was when the book was first published. It feels like a wonderful way to see out this book’s life.

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I’d like to take this opportunity to let you know where the books have gone and what their purpose and contribution will be within the community. Please click on each link to learn more about the organisations as they are all very special:

Grace Centre for Newborn Care – The Children’s Hospital at Westmead…
The Grace Centre for Newborn care is an  intensive care unit for new born babies at The Children’s Hospital, looking after some of the sickest babies in NSW.

50 Little Treasures: Made by Hand books were delivered to be included in the Christmas hampers given to the parents of each little one in care, with many thanks to Peta Cappello for coordinating.

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Kiss Goodbye to MS – MS Research Australia…
Kiss Goodbye to MS is an initiative of MS Research Australia, and calls on people with multiple sclerosis (MS), their friends, family and colleagues to raise funds for vital research into the cause and cure of MS. MS is the most common acquired neurological disease and affects around 23,000 Australian, of which 3 out of 4 are women. Kiss Goodbye to MS is on facebook, this is a great way to be updated on their events.

48 Little Treasures: Made by Hand books were donated to raise funds, give as gifts and as lucky door prizes for upcoming events. Many thanks to Emma Giunti for reaching out and coordinating the collection and delivery of the books.

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Sarah’s Place – Pregnant Alternatives…
Sarah’s Place is an independent, not for profit organisation that offers a service to women seeking advice on matters to do with an unplanned pregnancy, headed by a team of specialists in Pre AND Post Decision support and consultation.

100 Little Treasures: Made by Hand books were donated to their recent fund-raising event, with many thanks to Linda Smyth for coordinating.

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Sandhills Community Garden – Newcastle
Run by local volunteers, Sandhills is a self-sustaining community garden, supplying residents and visitors with herbs and vegetables without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilisers. The recent addition of a sensory garden provides visitors – including the visually impaired -with an opportunity to experience the aromas of a wide variety of scented plants and herbs. The concept of these gardens has been designed to encourage the community to ‘pop in’ take what you need and leave the rest for other locals.

48 Little Treasures: Made by Hand books were donated to use as part of the garden activities, developing outdoor craft activities using the contents of the book. The books will then be given to participants. With many thanks to Jen Robinson for reaching out, and coordinating the distribution of the books.

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There are a few copies left available to purchase through my online bookstore along with my other titles,  and I have a few remaining boxes of books reserved for charities so if you have any more wonderful suggestions for an organisation that can benefit from the donation of the books please let me know. Organisations that help new mothers or babies would be great, and if you or someone else can be in charge of liaising with the organisation that would be appreciated.

Unless there is any big news, this will be my last post about the book. I’ll update news about further donations on facebook and add them to the book blog page (when I renovate the blog in coming months).

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Little Treasures: Made by Hand – thank you for all you’ve taught me, I’ll never forget you!!

With love,

Pia xx

how to create your own edible garden…
Posted in australia, creative ventures, food, nature June 24th, 2015 by pia

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Earlier this year on a drizzly and rather misty Saturday morning in February, I drove down to the very beautiful Glenbernie Orchard in Darkes Forest, in the Northern Illawarra of New South Wales. I had signed up to talented baker Tara Mills of Mill Lane’s workshop on “how to create your own edible garden”, encouraged by my dear friend Jenni who was also attending and lives in the area (I’ll be showcasing Jenni’s gorgeous home here in the (blog)house very soon, in the meantime you can have a little sneak peek here).

I love turning off the highway upon entering the Royal National Park, like other times I’ve traveled in that direction, I wind down all the windows in the car and take deep belly breaths to absorb the gorgeous air. On this occassion, I was playing the latest album of Tenzin Cheogyal called Heart Strings, and so by the time I arrived at Glenbernie, I was well and truly at ease and ready to enjoy the full day workshop ahead. It’s an incredibly rare treat to have an entire Saturday to myself, and to spend it with like-minded people learning all about permaculture and enjoying a glorious home made lunch by Tara made it very special…

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These seasonal workshops, hosted by Tara, take place in a large shed on the Glenbernie Orchard property, looking out over the apple orchard. It is taught by Narelle Happ, horticulturalist and garden designer, who has over ten years experience in permaculture, and is filled with knowledge which she passionately shares throughout the day. She’s a great teacher, very patient and willing to share everything she knows about creating beautiful edible gardens.

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Throughout the day Tara served a delicious array of dishes for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. At lunchtime we sampled the orchards own apple cider, as well as indulged in a glass of sparkling wine, which relaxed us into the afternoon. In the morning we talked about the principles and ethics of permaculture, designing our individual gardens, and creating health soil, while in the afternoon we learnt about specific seasonal and perennial plants, propogation, and seed saving and raising. Narelle incorporated a lot of hands on activity, so we were able to learn through experience which I have always found the best way to soak in information, especially for those of us who are visual learners.

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At the end of the day we each came home with an armful of gardening goodies including our propogated plants, seeds, companion guides, notes, a wooden handled trowel, and some of Tara’s delicious recipes.

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It was a wonderful experience, and to be able to come home to my own garden and see it afresh, implementing Narelle’s advice and teachings over time spent in my own little borrowed patch of earth. I have more confidence now with things I wasn’t sure about like my compost system and soil, as well as the needs of certain vegetables. And I’m inspired to keep trying, keep planting and experimenting, and then to cook as Tara does, with pickings straight from the garden.

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Thank you everyone who attended that day for the wonderful conversations and a big thank you to Tara, Narelle and Jo who owns the farm, for having me along. I am keen to get back down there for Tara’s baking workshop now, called “the art of making French breads” ah oui!

xx

 

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all photographs by Pia Jane Bijkerk

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