24 December 2008

Prettige Feestdagen

Yesterday we received boxes from the Mather family, and look what we now have hanging on our Christmas Tree:

Hyland's dad, Jim, has been passionate about wood carving for some time now. His carvings are very beautiful and detailed with a great deal of character.

Here is our humble little Kerstboom. It is really typical to get a huge tree in the US, but here, where people frequently have flats instead of houses and bikes instead of cars, there are far more smallish Christmas Trees.

We swore a few years ago that we would never buy a cut tree again. Two years ago, Hyland's nutty crunchy side kicked in and we got a big, fake white Christmas tree and happily decked the halls with it for two Christmasses running.

This year, Hyland got into the Christmas Spirit early and went out on the town op fiets in search of a tree and came home with this guy. Now we are sweeping evergreen needles from the floor daily, and swearing we're never going to get a cut tree again. Still, it is nice and it smells all piney.

This is another kerstboom ornament that was given to us. Click the photo for the full story.

Prettige Feestdagen is the equivalent of Happy Holidays in the US. Kind of incorporates all of the Feestdagen (literally translated: party days) that are celebrated. The Dutch generally keep Christmas for Christ, and have Sinterklaas (Dec. 5) for all the secular gift-giving. Boxing Day is celebrated here too - that is the day after Christmas. I have been told that there has been a rise in Santa Claus appearances at homes in the Netherlands, but that it is not the overwhelming commercialized event that is typical in the US.

Addison has been wrapping his toys in whatever kind of wrapping paper he can find and deciding who to give them to. It is really a sweet gesture. All he has are his toys, so that is what he has been wrapping to give people. It's the most genuine kind of gift giving. Remember that story about the wife who sold her hair to buy her husband a watch band and the husband sold his watch to buy is wife a comb for her hair? It's selfless like that.

Prettige Feestdagen, Fijne Kerstmis, much love,


17 December 2008

Tiny Christmas Jumpers!

Ok, this is a double post, but not everyone here checks out my Diary of a Craft Fiend blog.

Here are my latest crafting exploits. Christmas jumper ornaments. (For all you Americans, jumper=sweater)

Happy Holidays

10 December 2008

Rossetti Wins!

Not that we announced a competition or anything, but the first Christmas Card sent to us from abroad came from my former employer, Rossetti!

Here it is nestled in between a Faile Bunny Boy sculpture and an OG Jarrod Stuhlsatz sculpture.

Rossetti is an Architecture firm in the States with several offices. The best thing about working with Rossetti was that, even though they are involved in some really high-level work, they still always felt very much like a family firm. Matt Rossetti, the President, always sends out Christmas cards that are designed by his sister, Miga Rossetti, and personally signs them.

I left the company 8 months ago, but I still got a Christmas Card from them, sent across the sea. Thanks everyone at Rossetti - you know who you are.


02 December 2008

Home Sweet Home

Warning: This one is personal.

Ok, so I'm an Army Brat. Army Brats, and other types of Brats (military, political, corporate) spend their young, developing years being carted around from place to place as their mother or father's job dictates. This means new schools, new friends, new houses every several years. This kind of constant re-establishing of my life has given me some basic personality traits that I personally find useful. I am generally outgoing, make friends easily, accept different kinds of people readily, etc. On the other hand, it has made me a little insecure about my roots, where I come from, and my lack of a close extended family. I am a little bit worldly, a little bit vagabond.

So this past weekend we took a trip to Heerlen in the south of Holland to attend the opening of the Evan Hecox show that Hyland installed at the Glaspaleis, an extraordinary center for culture.

Well, as it happens, I lived just outside of Heerlen as a child when my dad was stationed at AFCENT. Just two train stops past the center lies the sleepy little town of Schaesberg where I was fortunate enough to live for 6 years between the ages of 6 and 12. This is the longest I lived anywhere at one time before I moved to Colorado at the age of 17 and living here had a great and lasting effect on me. So, we took a little trip to my childhood home and I have the photos to prove it.

Here is my street: Brikkebekkerstraat. Isn't that the cutest name ever?!

Here is the street. I learned to ride a bike on this street. I kissed the boy that lived in the first house on the right and thought it was yucky. I played Barbies with the girl who lived there after that boy moved away. My best friend Diana and I kicked around the neighborhood playing, fighting and being girls.

This is me and Addison in front of my old house. One year for Christmas my mom decorated the window to look like an old curiosity shop and hung a bunch of candy canes and such in the window. The kids in the neighborhood asked us if the candy canes were for sale and my brothers and I sold them to them. I think we got a Guilder each, which was a lot of money for a candy cane.

I even remember that my mom threw my dad a 30th birthday party in the garage. I'm almost 4 years older than that now.

So, this was really nice for me. Many of you probably cringe when you think of your high school reunion, or delight in seeing all your friends that you have known since elementary school when you go home for holidays. This is about the closest I'll ever get to that, but it is nice nonetheless.

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me!

18 November 2008

Sinterkerst and Zwarte Piet, Addison the Fietser

Well, Addison has graduated to the 'no training wheels' era. He is now Eine geweldig Nederlands Fietser! Heel Goed! I don't have any photos of him riding without the training wheels yet, so
I'll just include a picture of the bakfiets loaded with artwork from the recent exhibition.

Hey 'fixed gear heads!', now this is a 'fixed gear' bike, yo.

Addison is also speaking such good Dutch now. In fact, so is Malia. I am definitely in last place with the learning Dutch thing. I saw my friend Jaromil yesterday, had some afternoon beers on the Gracht and went to an exhibit of his at the Netherlands Media Art Institute.

Meeting up with Jaro was a nice reminder of our time here and just how much we've really settled in over the last 7 months. Jaro was / is my first friend in Amsterdam, and he was a critical ally when we were moving.

Jaro is a real live 'squatter' and he and some other activist types squat a beautiful abandoned house here. Want to learn more about squatting in the Netherlands?

Squatting is just one of many many customs that you have to get used to here. Speaking of which, lately we have been inundated with tons of really wonderful / strange Dutch holiday traditions.

First, St Martin's Day . Sint Maarten is a Dutch / Germany tradition. It is celebrated on November 11th, which is also my mother's birthday.

It is something like the equivilent of Halloween in the States. Kids go from door to door singing songs and carrying a small paper lantern and at each house they get candy for their bags. It was very fun and funny.

Now it is time for Sinterklass, who is like Santa Claus but a bit different. Sinterklass has little helpers called Zwarte Piet, and believe me when I say, this would not fly in the States.

Zwarte Piet is Sinterklass black little 'helper'. This is a hard pill to swallow if you've grown up in a PC mindset (which actually breeds it's own kind of prejudism). Anyway, We've been to several parade's / landings of Sinterklass' boot. Sinterklass always arrives via boat here.

The kids are nuts about Zwarte Piet, mostly because Zwarte Piet always hands out the candy to the kids at the parades.

The Zwarte Pietjes basically seem like clowns, but instead of white face they have black face. It doesn't seem to offend the many different colored people who attend the festivals. I do imagine though that liberal do gooders somewhere are totally irate. Anyway, we even saw a band called the Pietels that just sang Sinterklass songs.

You cannot believe how many freaking folk songs are known by the entire Dutch population...
everyone was singing every word to these holiday gems.

I guess it is similar in the US, I know my mother knows about 50 Christmas songs.

Ok, so pretty soon, Addison will start leaving his shoes out on some nights during this season and Sinterklass comes and fills the shoes with candy and toys. Fun!

We do like our own traditions though too, so we'll have some Thanksgiving with some other Americans we know here, and of course Christmas is on the way.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy all the pictures. Here is a Sinterklass song

27 October 2008

Hecox Exhibition Thoughts and Tun Fun

Well, we've been pretty tired last couple days. Getting the Hecox exhibit here to Amsterdam and getting it hung in a single day and then having such a great opening...we're a little tired.

I had to go back to Denver for 6 days which was an eye opening and whirlwind experience. It was great to see friends and I had about 7 burritos, but not all at the same time. We dropped off our mail in ballot applications so hopefully everything will arrive in time for us to get our votes in for the critical upcoming election. The vibe is tense in the US with the financial crisis and the looming 5th of November.

The tenants at the Block Building seem to be doing well. FM magazine has just released their 3rd, crushingly solid issue. 1nventory is just as polished as ever. Tom has more artwork on consignment at Andenken than he could possibly know what to do with. Adam Sikorski has a cute new intern and the new guy Brian McFadden is a southern gentlemen. We do have mice in the building though, so I'll need to do something about that. FM also hosted a 'bang on' party at the Block Building while I was there, the theme...Michael Jackson .

There is something really awe inspiring and simultaneously irksome about the 20 something cool kids crowd and their sence of heady invincibility. They party really hard and with few taboos. The DJ's, particularly a dude name MUSA, were stellar.

But enough of the state side recap.

The Evan Hecox - Urban Abstract in Amsterdam exhibit, is underway at the Chiellerie, and the reception has been very very good.

All the work is available for sale at www.mathershop.com , and there are still a few of the prints available at www.andenken.com .

The show is just up here in Amsterdam for a few more days and then it is slated to arrive in Heerlen at the Glaspaleis in late November where it will stay on exhibit through 15th of February. This is quite a coup for us, to have our first curated show in the Netherlands traveling to a museum quality venue.

Yesterday was the last day of Addison's autumn school break. They have lots of breaks. It was raining cats and dogs all day, so we went to this amazing place called TunFun.

I've probably said it before, but if not, the Dutch are amazingly resourceful at using their limited space. TunFun is an undergound speilplaats (play place) for kinderen, built in a now defunct tunnel near Waterlouplein.

The city was planning to fill the tunnel, but apparently a playgound seemed like a better idea. The place is massive, duh, it was a tunnel for autos. This is like Chuck E Cheese on Hulk Juice, but without all the Uber fattening, somnabulent inducing deep dish pizza.

Also, again, here is a great example of the mentality of the Dutch with regards to Street Art / Graffiti.

The first step is in realizing that trying to stop Creative people from painting on stuff is impossible, so then you must ask the question, "How can we curb the destruction of private property and still allow for the painters to paint?" answer, Provide Public outlets. The entire interior of Tun Fun is covered with Graffiti. It looks awesome.

There is a slide in this place with about 6 feet of vert. Addi chickened out, adding the excuse after reading the sign, 'Deze slide is vor kinderen 7 jaar tot 12 jaar'. Yeah buddy, you can get by on that excuse for a few more months.

In Malia's last post there is a picture of the BakFiets we use to move big stuff around town. I love driving it, it is a real workout with a full load, but nothing makes you feel like an Amsterdamer like a giant work bike. I'll try to get some better pictures on Wednesday when the show comes down.

Anyway, that's it for now, here is an old Guided By Voices song.


26 October 2008

Q: How Do You...

...get more than thirty pieces of artwork to the gallery without a car?

A: With a bakfiets, of course!

The show was great, more pictures coming...


29 September 2008

Evan Hecox Show , Painting, Judo, and Booten

Many things are happening quickly for us right now here in Holland. First, and very important for our new business, the Evan Hecox show -Urban Abstract in Amsterdam- is opening at the Chiellerie on October 24th.

Evan is a designer that has worked with Volkswagon and Sony and Dwell Magazine to name a few, but is most widely known for his 1000's of skateboard designs over the last 10 years for Chocolate Skateboards.

This is our first show here and it is critical that it is received well. It is also a rare opportunity for us to be able to sell original Hecox paintings which are difficult to come by and don't last very long whenever we have them.

The show is getting good coverage so far. The local hipster zine here RELOAD put a 2 page full color story about the show in their latest issue and we've been frequenting the board sport and record shops with our fliers etc. There should also be a print released for this show, so be on the lookout. Press release is available here.

Recently, Addison and I painted his room. It came out awesome.

I really like creating with Addison, he has great ideas and he is helpful and patient for a 6 year old.

He and I are planning on having our own exhibit in April of 09, the room is a good primer for it.

We have also been making some other paintings together, which you can look at here: addi and daddy paintings .

They are each available for purchase, nicely framed in Birch, shipped complete to your address, for $250 or a set of 3 for $600. I've also been making a lot of my little guys paintings. You can see all of those here. All of this work should be available in our online shop soon. mathershop.com

Addison is also well into his Judo classes now.

He really really likes it. He also has a friend in his Judo class who is his same age and lives in our building. Hopefully they'll become best buds.

We took Addison on his first boat ride the other day. We needed to find a zwemvest before he could go out, and they are surprisingly expensive for a country covered in water.

Enjoy, and here is a great old Paul McCartney song.


Look at Addi driving the boat.

This smiley dude is our friend Manos.


13 September 2008

Sweet Things

When Hyland and I came to Amsterdam on a visit several years ago, we found this heavenly chocolate shop that had the most delectable chocolate bonbons. I bought some chocolates there for Addison that we brought back to Denver with us.

So, this week, when I crocheted these Amigurumi Chocolates for a friend's birthday, and needed a box from a proper chocolate shop to showcase them, I of course thought of the shop that I had visited years ago and set out with Addison to find it. Being just a stone's throw from the hotel where we had stayed, it didn't take long to find and soon Addison and I were eating delicious chocolate goodness outside of the shop, and I had the box in hand.

It was this wonderful moment for me because I had thought of Addison when I first discovered the Chocolaterie, and now here we were staring together at rows of chocolate bonbons.

Things remind me of circles a lot lately.


22 August 2008

12 Differences between Here and There

So, I talked to our preacher, Joe Lusi, the other day on the phone and he asked an

interesting question: -What is the single biggest difference you've noticed since moving to Holland?-

I couldn't narrow it, so I decided to go with the classic 'top 10' list, but it ran a little long.

1. Bicycle Culture - I keep saying it but it's a pretty amazing concept that you can live in the western world in the 21st century and have little or no use for a car. There are bike paths everywhere in the city and the country.

2. Language - We don't speak Dutch fluently yet, and of course it is a barrier. One nice fringe benefit of our barrier is the complete omission from constant complaining and bickering we can't understand.

3. Proximity - Instead of everything being spread out as far as possible everything here is more compact. We are 2 blocks from School, 2 blocks from the grocery, 20 blocks from Central Station, 15 blocks from the library, 5 blocks from the hardware store, 2km from the art supply store, 20 blocks from the computer store...In Colorado, I had to drive to I-25 and Colorado Blvd.to get a new harddrive, approx 20 miles away.

4. Health Insurance - they actually aren't just trying to screw you over month to month with high premiums and then completely abandon you as soon as you need help. Addison got a black eye a few months ago and about half a dozen people asked if we had seen the physician yet! As if.

5. Pace - I'm sure it isn't true for everyone here, but our pace has slowed considerably, with more time for family, reading, painting, plinking, fietsen, socializing, cooking at home...

6. Boating Life - Canals and Grachts - Boating is a huge part of the culture. I take about 10 ferries per week. I cannot wait to get a little canal boat. I think it will be the next major purchase.

7. Open spaces. Even though Holland is a tiny country, it has large expanses of open space and farmland even very close to Amsterdam. Within 15 minutes of riding my bike either straight east or east and north, I'm in farmland, met schapen, koeien, paarden and vogels.

8. No Guns - Ok, so the Politie have guns, but no one else does. It is illegal to buy guns here! Can you believe that, totally illegal. Maybe the revolutionary thinks this is a bad idea, but as far as the day to day peace goes, it is an amazing relief. The teenagers here are not shooting each other, which is nice.

9. Quiet. The culture here is remarkably quiet considering that this is a major metropolis. You rarely even hear sirens. In the morning there is sometimes the pounding of giant steel girders being planted very deep into the sandy soil for construction.

10. Architecture. This is the most beautiful city I've ever seen. Hardly any skyline, no really tall buildings to speak of, but many very old and beautiful buildings, towers, kirks, palaces. The oude buildings are coupled with many niewe contemporary architectural examples in a very tasteful way. The main building materials menu includes, steel, glass, and brick.

11. Less Corporate B.S. - As far as the shopping goes there are far less (i.e. hardly any) giant boxstores and shopping malls. There are far more small businesses in Amsterdam than I'm used to seeing. Don't misunderstand there are huge companies here, Nuon is our Energy supplier, Waternet is the city water supplier, they have IKEA...etc. However, by and large it feels much less like the entire nation is under the thumb of corporate presence.

12. No Mexican Food - If there is one thing that I miss it's Burritos. There is just not much that is really spicy here. As a red blooded American I have eaten about 10 to 20 thousand burritos and I sorely miss the eye watering spice easily available in the States. The comparable cuisine is the Donor Kabobs. Essentially, Holland has as many Gyro stands as the States have Burrito shops. Turkish Pizza Baby! It's pretty tasty.

Pictures here are of the zoo Artis, and of a longer ride we took with Addison along the Rhine - Canal. It goes from here all the way to Germany if you please. Addison's friend is Ferris, and the other father is Dishwasher Pete. Naturlijk we didn't get any pictures of animals at the zoo.

We were very lucky to get a snap of the ghost of Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, so I thought I'd do a Stones Classic