Today I am happy to begin sharing more of the conversations I have had with the wonderful, creative women I have met during my travels over the past few months. In all, I've interviewed 16 talented women in five European countries, who were kind enough to take the time to meet me where they live and work.
I'll start with Dana Komjaty, a delightful, charming Dutch artist living in Amsterdam, who runs two Etsy shops - Leililaloo and Dana Komjaty - and who has a warm, entertaining blog as well.
Dana and I have had email contact for quite some time. In May 2009, I did an in-depth interview with Dana for my artists who blog series here, and she interviewed me for her Balancing series on her own blog here! When I decided that I would be visiting Amsterdam, I knew immediately that I wanted to meet Dana and include her in my 12 Countries in 12 Months interview project.
We met on a rainy day in a local Amsterdam cafe and had a lively talk over fresh mint tea and coffee. I asked Dana to tell me a little about her background and here is what she had to say:
"I was born in a small town in the South of Holland, but I have been in Amsterdam for 15 years. Amsterdam is the only city where I can imagine living in Holland now. I like the relaxed, open atmosphere and the international, multi-cultural aspect. People are accepted here.
I studied art and fashion design in Breda, and I worked in surface and textile design for a while, but I found it very isolating. I started wondering about the meaning behind my art... What was I giving back to the world?
So I stopped textile design, and I made an extreme job switch. I worked with refugee children here in Amsterdam as a social worker. Most children were asylum seekers from Angola and orphans and I worked 24 hour shifts. Then, because of political changes here in Holland, the children's home was closed.
For a while I worked doing backstage help with the theater for the National Ballet, but I needed a steady job. I did training to be a home healthcare midwife, who helps women after the birth of their children. It is an exhausting job, but always rewarding."
These days Dana also runs two online shops, and she is very productive making handmade artwork, jewelry, and textiles. She also has two young children, and is a single mom. Amazing!
I asked Dana why she started blogging and she told me that it all started for her when she discovered Rosa Pomar's blog. (I also interviewed Rosa in Lisbon, so you'll be hearing from her later on!)
Dana explained, "After I saw Rosa's blog, I started discovering how the creative world of the Internet works. I researched everything for about 2 years before I got the courage to begin blogging myself. When I started my own blog in 2008, Rosa's blog was the compass for me.
I looked at Etsy and at first, I didn't really understand what it was all about. It has grown so much now, and so many people are blogging and so many have Etsy shops."
Dana went on to say, "I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now without the Internet. I even named my daughter Indie Mae - 'Indie' for the movement in the US, and 'Mae' as her second name was suggested to me on my blog. Faythe Levine's book and movie 'Handmade Nation' are a great inspiration for me."
One of Dana's dreams for the future is to give workshops where women could come together and make creative things collectively. For instance, she loves what she sees happening at the Teahouse Studio in San Francisco, and especially the artwork and classes of artist Mati Rose McDonough.
When I asked Dana what she loves about the city of Amsterdam, she told me, "The creative side, the way people dress and the crazy combinations they come up with. There is a special 'Pippi Longstocking style' among some women - with braids and rain boots on their bikes... What I dislike are the stereotypes with windmills and wooden shoes, also the drug problems in the city.
My favorite day of the year in Amsterdam is Queen's Day on April 30th. There is a fun, funky atmosphere and it is a flea market paradise on that day!"
It was a real treat to meet Dana in person. She has such a great sense of humor and a warm heart. My daughters were so enchanted by the beautiful pillow I brought back from Dana's workshop in Amsterdam, we now have a family of five original, handmade Leililaloo pillows!
In case you are wondering where the name Leililaloo comes from, Dana's son Leilani came up with it as he was trying to pronounce his name at age one. What a cute and unique story.
Be sure to visit Dana at her Leililaloo shop and on her lovely blog :)
Thank you Dana for being a such a kind, generous host and for sharing your thoughts and artwork with us in Amsterdam! I'm wishing you a wonderful 2012!