earth weaving…
Posted in personal July 29th, 2014 by pia

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A few weekends ago I had a wonderful experience that I’ve been longing to share with you. In the photo above, there is a little treasure that I made by hand using a technique that has been passed down over thousands and thousands of years. Can you guess what it is?

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This basket, this tiny basket the colour of sunshine.

I made it by weaving pandanus collected from the outback, soaked and hand dyed with colour made from bush roots. With many thanks to my dear friend Kylie who invited me to attend the weaving workshop with her mum, sister Tiff and friend Jennifer, and to the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane who hosted the workshop taught by two beautiful Aboriginal women named Lucy and Shirley from the gapuwiyak community in East Arnem Land, I spent 2 hours sitting among 30 women, learning the technique and absorbing the sacred energy. It was such a privilege to be in Lucy and Shirley’s company, I could feel how special it was to be in their presence, and to be learning the ancient weaving technique that was passed down to them by the women in their families over millennia. During the workshop, Lucy and Shirley guided each of us as we began our coiling mat, it took two hours to get this far…

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…so how many hours does it take them to create an entire basket? Not to mention the walking to and gathering of materials which are collected along the shoreline of crocodile waters in remote parts of the outback, land that I will most likely never know, but these women know as their backyard. They also search and collect roots to create the dyes to colour the pandanas, all of which take hours of itself. Even though I’ve always had appreciation for Aboriginal art and wares, I didn’t know the depth of my appreciation until I sat with them and tried my own hands at it. When I came home to Sydney, I was eager to finish my piece, turning it into a little wonky basket that fits snuggled in my two hands.

Thank you Lucy and Shirley for travelling to us to share your knowledge, and to all Aboriginal women past and present and future, who will continue to weave and teach us how to connect with the earth. Thank you to Shannon for organising the trip and all that goes with it.

Please take the time to check out the website and facebook link to the gapuwiyak culture and art center, there is much to admire. And if you can attend one of their workshops, all the better.

xx

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Posted in motherhood, personal April 30th, 2014 by pia

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A few weeks ago, just before I finished writing my last blog post – ‘being enough’ – I serendipitously received an email from RAW beauty talks asking if I’d participate in a challenge today (Wednesday April 30, 2014) to post a photo of myself on my blog without any make-up, photo editing or filters – completely raw.

As those of you who have followed me from the early days of my blog will know, I rarely post an image of myself. And I’d love to tell you it’s because I’m really shy, modest and/or want to keep some anonymity. But truthfully, it’s because of a much simpler reason: I believe I’m ugly.

I’ve always been interested in learning more about my inner workings, connecting with my inner world, but it wasn’t until I became sick last year after my last book feat that I changed the balance of things in my life and started to focus less on work and more on my well being. These past few months in particular I’ve been working on letting go of old self-beliefs, letting go of old perceptions and welcoming new ways of seeing my world.

When I agreed to take the challenge, all those thoughts about how I look came up louder than ever before as I wondered how I was going to be able to do this. Although I rarely wear makeup, the biggest challenge for me comes simply from posting an image of myself where I am not turned away from camera, and I haven’t cropped it, photoshopped it, or added a filter. I’m a photographer after all, purposely behind the camera, seeking to enhance the everyday, being asked to let go of all that to create dialogue between you and I about the pressures we face in how we look, and the socially constructed notion of ‘beauty.’ Big challenge. Big ask. Here goes nothing…

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Today, while looking at these photos I see my ugliness, I see all my faults, and I hear the unpleasant words used to describe my face and body over and over again as a young girl and young woman, but now each time I think those things, I’m releasing them instead of holding on to them. And as I release those thoughts there is then space, and in that space I have made the choice to only allow a new, positive perspective on myself to fill it.

These photos were taken by Romain on Monday, while the three of us were on a mini break in Byron Bay. It was a cloudy afternoon after a stormy morning, and the 3 of us spent a few hours playing at Watego’s Beach. With nothing but white sand, rocks, and ocean to entertain us, we had a blast. I felt good. I felt free and happy, and it felt like a good time to ask Romain to take some photos of me by the water’s edge. At that moment I thought, no matter what these photos turn out like, or how I feel about myself when I see them up on the screen, I will post them.

I’d love to invite you guys to join me in this challenge by posting your own raw photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, just add in my name @piajanebijkerk as well as #rawbeautytalks and/or #rawbeautychallenge so I can see your beautiful face and join in the conversation.

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I do this for myself, and as much for my little girl. I want her to feel confident and I want her to love herself exactly as she is, everyday. I don’t want her to ever question her beauty. And I know that the only way to achieve this is to do all I can to lead by example.

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With love,

Pia x

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Posted in motherhood, personal April 17th, 2014 by pia

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Yesterday at noon after I put Laly to bed for her midday nap, I flopped onto my bed exhausted, wanting to sleep for hours, days, however long it would take for the exhaustion to go away. This is how I feel at some point in the day, every day  – feeling the sting of it without exception when I put Laly to bed at night.  This is a feeling I know well as I’ve learned to live with it for many years, but it’s all the more apparent now that I have a little being in my life to nurture and nourish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I know now how important it is that I stop pushing the feeling away and listen to it.

So yesterday at noon, while lying in bed desperately wanting to fall asleep… why am I this tired? What have I done this morning that has made me so tired? I thought about all the things I’d done for that six hours: making Laly’s breakfast, tending to the chickens, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, helping Laly use the potty, gardening, preparing morning tea, and all the while attending to Laly’s various other needs. These are simple, everyday tasks that I know other people do without feeling exhausted, so why does it affect me so much?

I then thought about what else was happening while I was doing these things – how was I feeling while I put the clothes in the washing machine, what was I thinking about? And that’s when an inner light shone on an habitual pattern that I hadn’t noticed up until that point.

It occurred to me that while I go about all these daily activities, I am thinking one or all of the following: “I’m probably not doing this right”, “This isn’t good enough”, “Am I doing enough?”, “I should be doing more”,  “This is not enough”, “I’m not enough”. I question and doubt the way I go about every single activity in my life. It’s exhausting.

As an example, while I was sorting dirty clothes and putting them in the machine with the natural detergent I use, I was thinking about how so many of Laly’s clothes now have paint or food stains that won’t come out in the wash, or the whites have turned grey. I started to compare my washed clothes to those I see on other people or in advertisements. That’s when I started to spiral down in my thoughts and think, “I’m probably not washing our clothes properly. I’m not doing a good enough job at washing our clothes” which then, over a matter of seconds as I start to think about other parts of my life where I feel inadequate, it leads to “I’m not good enough”.

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Another example is that for the first time yesterday Laly sat on the tree trunk stools I created for her in an unkempt part of our backyard near the hen house. Without any prompting from me she sat on one of the logs, looked around, and decided to bring her favourite teddy to sit with her on a log and offer him a tiny cup of tea. I couldn’t have wanted for anything more after my grand search of finding the right tree logs. This was exactly what I had hoped she would do and at that moment I wanted to breathe it in, feel nourished by the scene before me. But instead, I thought: “Is she safe?  The stools aren’t very clean, I should stop what I’m doing and wipe them down. I should put insect repellant on her in case there are mosquitoes… am I doing the right thing by leaving her alone there? Am I doing enough?” With all the self-(re)searching I’ve been doing these past 2 years, I was able at that point to observe these thoughts  instead of immediately act on them, and so I took a breath, knowing that I wasn’t able to allow myself to be nourished by what I saw because of my thoughts but also acknowledging that yes she was safe, I was safe, and to let her enjoy her time without me hovering around her.  I’m becoming more and more aware that it is this thinking pattern that is exhausting me, this constant conflict within, this constant doubt. It runs through my mind like a speed train on a loop track, taking me away from the present moment and into unsafe territory. Yet because it’s become an habitual pattern, I’ve been under the illusion that it makes me safe to think these things because I’ve been with it for so long – I know it so well.

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At the end of everyday, I plonk my exhausted self on the couch. For all the time that I’ve felt this tiredness  – reaching as far back as my mid teens, I thought that it was life in general that was tiring me. All this time I’ve been thinking that I’m too weak, that I can’t handle simple every day tasks, that I’m simply not able. But I’m now seeing this is not the case at all. I can do all the simple every day tasks, and I can do really great tasks too like write a book. What has been tiring me all these years is the constant self-criticism and self-judgement that runs through my mind with everything I do. I plant seeds – have I done enough to help them grow? I let Laly sit without socks on, will she get sick, have I done enough to keep her warm? I put her to bed at night – what if I haven’t done enough for her today? This self-criticism affects every part of my life – I have always had the feeling that I’m not enough – I am not enough of a friend, a daughter, a partner, I’m not enough as an author, a writer, a photographer, a blogger, an entrepreneur.  I know that this self-criticism has been learned by example, along with being criticized from those I’ve adored over my youthful years. All of which helped to make my inner critical voice louder.

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But as I discover these aspects of my mind, I’m opening up who I truly am, and what I need. And that it’s okay to need while I myself am being needed. And by keeping myself surrounded by people who connect with my core, who understand and support me, I am getting stronger, and wiser.

There will be judgement for this post, this I know. But I know that judgement will be coming from those who have their own loud inner critic just like me, the voice of judgement. It’s an aspect of ourselves we can be aware of, and accept, but not indulge. I heard a wonderful life coach say in an interview the other day, “If this inner critic was a real person, always hovering over you, criticizing everything you do, would you invite them to tea?” The answer for me was immediately no, and I laughed at the absurdity of allowing such a voice to dominate my life.

Have a beautiful weekend mes amis. Thank you for being in my life.

With love,

Pia x

PS these are our backyard hens, Plume (the isa brown), Alouette (the white leghorn) and Esther (Rhode Island red). I’ve written more about them on instagram (my username is piajanebijkerk)if you’d like to follow my everyday adventures in chook rearing, mothering, gardening and more.

 

 

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Posted in little treasures: made by hand, personal August 26th, 2013 by pia

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Has it been almost three months since I last spent some time here in the (blog)house?

To think that a year or so ago I started dreaming and thinking obsessively about the possibility of creating a book of little handmade treasures. In the dark hours while feeding Laly, the idea bloomed in my mind, and now, after a lot of work and wonderful support from you, my latest book, Little Treasures: Made by Hand is complete.

Through all the making and doing, I’ve wondered to myself whether it was completely outrageous to have launched such a huge project so soon after giving birth, and in so many ways it was. I forgot that making a book in itself is a birth: I think I figured that because I’d made three before, that this ‘little one’ would be a walk in the park. But each book holds a large part of my creative being and so each has come with its own steep learning curve. The self-publishing aspect of this one, combined with my new life as a mum, certainly took hold of me like none of the others have.

With that said, I can say without hesitation that I am delighted to have this special little bound treasure in my body of work, an everlasting keepsake of Laly’s first moments of life shared in the form of a visual story of incredible handmade pieces given to her by creative souls around the world.

And the beautiful truth that there is no way this book could have been born without your support.  Not just from those of you who pledged but also those who have ceaselessly cheered me on from the sidelines, helping me get to the finish line.

The project is now finalised as we have finished the mailout of all the books and packages from the crowd-funding campaign.  That means that if you ordered a book or package back in February from the campaign then you should have received it no matter where you are in the world. If you haven’t then please email us at [email protected] and we will resolve it for you as soon as possible.

I’m also really excited to announce that the book is now available for sale in my online book boutique and we can post worldwide!

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Also we are now at the stage where we can take wholesale orders around the world so if you would like to stock Little Treasures: Made by Hand in your own boutique then please email [email protected] with your order request and location and we can send you more information.

Thank you for your belief and encouragement of this midnight dream of mine.  I don’t know how I made it through the past year but I was comforted during many an early morning hour with the knowledge that so many of you were cheering me on from afar.

I’m incredibly happy to be able to spend some more time here in the (blog)house. I’ve missed you.

xx

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Posted in personal April 1st, 2013 by pia

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Hi guys. Sometimes – actually, every time -  it’s hard to write a blog post after a long break. So much has happened between posts that I don’t know where to start, or what to share. But then after a while of sitting here looking at the blank box, I realise the best place to start is in this moment.

In this moment, I am sitting in my little home office/studio/dumping ground, at the desk, writing this blog post. Laly is having her midday nap (what a wonderful difference it is to be down to one long day nap!), and Romain and I are working on getting the last remaining shipping invoices to the book buyers from the campaign, and then I hope to be able to start getting some of the packages together throughout the rest of this week, so that we can start sending them off around the world next week.

As I’ve been collecting the shipping and adding the details in the spreadsheet, I’ve been receiving lovely little notes within the invoice payments, with inspiring and encouraging comments. It warms my heart so much, and encourages me to keep going.  I’m very thankful for the support, I would not be able to keep creating if it wasn’t for those of you who voice your cheer.

Laly is growing so much. Among so many skills she is mastering, she has just started to walk, and I’ve noticed how much she is uplifted by positive remarks and reassurance. Her face lights up when we say “Bravo!”, and “Well done!”, and if she stumbles through trying her new skill, it will be one of those remarks that encourages her to try again.

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Last night after Laly went to bed, I reflected on the words that she is hearing the most throughout every day. Other than “Maman” and “Papa”, I realised the words we are repeating the most every day are “cuddle”, “câlins” (french for cuddle), “snuggle”, “beautiful”, “love”, “bonjour”, “bravo”, “kisses”, “bisous” (french for kisses) and of course “Laly”. It got me thinking about how lovely that is, how much that must make a difference to someone’s life.

I had intentions to write a post about Laly’s first birthday, but as you may have gathered from Romain’s previous post, things happened. My health took a turn for the worse, and I’ve spent the last month building it back up. I’m not quite recovered, I understand now that getting Little Treasures to the insane deadline that we had created for it was detrimental, and not just for me but for my new little family. If I am not well I cannot look after my baby and that is incredibly scary. And I’ve understood that in the future, if I want to continue doing projects, that they will have to be spread out and take much, much longer, with as many helping hands as possible. It’s just not possible for me to do what I do and be a Mum at the same time.

I got very down for a while wondering why other new mums could work on their projects, write regular, extensive blog posts complete with photographs (knowing how long it takes me to compile such posts), earn money, and cook a meal. Seriously? I mean, seriously? I just don’t get how. Friends assured me that these mums have help from their parents, in laws and siblings, and that on top of that they must have nannies, cleaners, and possibly butlers. They reassured me that the difficult circumstances I have going on in my life at the moment are taking their toll on my health. But I just kept seeing that it was all a reflection of me being incapable. I’ve been taught to cope with whatever comes my way, no matter what.

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So not only has my little Laly been doing a lot of growing these past days, so have I. I don’t think I’ll ever write about all that has been going on lately here on the blog, I know there is still much for me to go through in the coming months and years and you know when you’re in the thick of something, it’s hard to stand back and take an observing eye to share it with the world. I notice that when I try to explain to people what has been happening, it is just a bunch of words, words that sound hollow for something so deep. But I sense that one day I may feel ready to write about it.

In this moment,  I thank you for being here, and for your understanding and for your love.

À bientôt, mes amis.

xx

PS I took these photos on Saturday, at Laly’s first easter egg hunt, a very special day created by my talented friend Tracey.

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