2011 Amsterdam Creatives | Joke Schole

Joke Schole creates ornate porcelain pieces.

She works on her top floor studio.
Grey light floods the space, which looks onto a canal lined with floating homes.

Amsterdam Creatives | Nolia Shakti

Nolia Shakti works with disposable Nespresso coffee capsules and gold. She sculpts the capsules into expressive necklaces and earrings.

In the center of Amsterdam, rain pangs on a glass roof. Nolia’s black dog rests in the corner beside a transparent bathroom wall.

Nolia moves gracefully.
She’s from Czech Republic and lived in London and India before traveling to Amsterdam to study at the Rietveld Academie.

Amsterdam Creative | Monika Auch

Monika Auch is a fiber artist. She works with a computerized loom creating 3D sculptures and textile prints in silk screen technique.
She lives outside Amsterdam in a village at the Ijsselmeer, a manmade lake separated by dykes from the North Sea.

Monika grew up in Germany, received her MD in Amsterdam and worked as a medical practitioner before moving on to the Arts.
“I love working with my hands and especially fine work like sewing or – suturing.” She is a graduate of the Rietveld Academy.

At the end of WW II the small German country town where Monika’s widowed grandmother, Emilie lived with her 5 young children was shelled by planes.
Their house was hit by a shell and her mother, a young girl, was thrown right through the house and survived with mere scratches.
Then the Americans came and one young soldier from Pennsylvania befriended the kids.

After the Americans had left, parcels with food and clothes from the US arrived at her grandmother’s house.
They were dumbfounded by the gifts and had to figure out that Fritz, the young soldier had sent them.
From then on Christmas cards were sent back and forth and in 1985, forty years later, Fritz and his wife, Lou visited Monika’s family.
Fritz then told his story of the war. He had worked as an communications officer and luckily had never seen any action but was devastated by what he had witnessed.  So he sent parcels to Emilie and the children.

Monika describes Emilie as an exceptional woman.
“She raised me, too since my mother was very young when I was born.”

In 1985, weeks after Fritz and Lou had returned to Pennsylvania, a parcel arrived containing clothes for Monika.
One piece was a lovely red-brown woolen coat from the Pennsylvania mills that Monika loved and “wore, until it was literally in shreds!”

Monika stayed in contact with the couple for many years and cherishes the memory of this kindhearted man.

Monika’s current artistic research project is ‘The biography of my hands.’
She investigates how dexterity shaped her family’s history and her own.
Her sensitivity for materials and dexterity come from her grandmother’s skills in handiwork, cooking and gardening.
In the last century these were essential survival qualities in rural areas.
She works on large scale silk screen prints, based on her father’s architectural photographs. After the war he was employed
as a steel construction worker and carried his small Leica camera everywhere, leaving his daughter a legacy of postwar
documents and an eye for strong lines.
In a fusion of weaving and graphic prints, Monika is crafting an installation of linen threads and a blue grey workman’s overall.
She is wearing a contemporary wearable version of the jacket, made of her architectural prints on Tyvek.
Monika’s mentor at the Rietveld was Helly Oestreicher.

Amsterdam Creatives | Christina Hallstrom at AGA

In a busy café steam buzzes behind the bar. The sun is busy on a September afternoon. A bio bread and vegetable market spreads along the square.
I wake at nine with stinging eyes. The previous day was a hurried mess of catching trains in between two-minute photo-shoots.

After the sky darkens, I walk along lonely canals in the back of Amsterdam’s busy, humming center to a neon-striped café with black walls and thumping music. There, Kristien and I drink white wine and discuss her previous life, driving a tour bus through Yemen, Latin America and Europe.

I sleep restlessly and wake with a heavy head. I guzzle strong coffee and watch a boy in blue type on a small computer.
In the evening a thunderstorm glitters the sky with lightening and hard rain.

A designer wears a pastoral flower suit in white and round spectacles. His tall, lanky body stems from a smooth, bald head.

“Hello, hello, welcome in.” He greets incomers to his solo show at the door. “I have a small gift for you – just for coming!” He pins a tiny, charcoal sculptural piece to my shirt.

“Don’t worry, I’m gay – not trying to do anything fancy here.” He laughs, sending his head in a rocking, jovial sway.

“Welcome, welcome.”

The room is packed with black-clothed bodies.

“It’s like a sauna in here!” Maria exclaims.

I lift a flute of champagne from a tray carried by a balding boy in white. Large charcoal pins display on long black drapes that hang from the ceiling.

“Hallo! Hallo!”

Guests greet one another with three kisses – peck, peck, peck.

Christina Hallstrom creates enigmatic screenprints at Amsterdam Grafisch Ateliers.

Amsterdam Creatives | Annemieke Broenink

Annemieke Broenink creates shawls and jewelry out of plastic.

She works tirelessly in the back room studio of her home. Her husband sits in the dining room, eating “good Dutch cheese.”

The couple offer me white wine as we whirl around the studio, lined with black dots.

Yuen | Eschede Creative

Yuen cooks authentic Chinese food on a thin street that smells like warm bread and fresh stew.

He and his wife Charlotte opened Yuen’s Asian Cuisine after Yuen perfected his Chinese cooking. Charlotte grew up in Enschede. She dated a Spaniard and “gained lots of weight” from his cooking. When she met Yuen, she lost pounds easily.

“He loves cooking. It’s his passion. He waked me up at four in the morning and says, ‘c’mon, let’s try a new dish’.”

Yuen cooks for Sophie and I as we watch.
“What do you like? Beef? Tofu? Fish? Curry?”

He races through the kitchen, throwing oil in a deep iron wok and flipping the colorful concoctions with ease.”

We sit with Yuen and Charlotte when the work is done and eat family style —
Tofu with black bean sauce, steamed filet, beef with curry and organic white wine.

Leipzig | Gold Notes

I drink toxic white wine. Ruby carpets cover the tables. The sky is clear, the wind biting and the bar empty, but for a sole white-haired man in navy blue.

I consume the concoction too quickly and watch pigeons trying to find their way among cyclists speeding down dark cobblestone streets.

Louis Armstrong bellows. Rain falls along the window panes, covered with white doily lace curtains.

            Just a jackknife… on the sidewalk, Sunday morning… someone’s sneaking around the corner… that someone is the jackknife.


A long tram carries us to the sauna.

“The one in Cologne is better,” Heather admits, “but this one is nice. Tim and I spend all day here.”

Heather tours me through me the sauna-club on a Wednesday afternoon. She and her partner, Tim, travel to the spa just outside Leipzig’s city center once a month. Heather has become well acquainted with the huge wellness center, consisting of luke warm jacuzzi’s, large swimming pools, numerous themed sauna’s, a water-bed napping room, cold showers and an uninviting cardboard-wood bar. We leave our bathing suits in wooden cubby cubes and enter the sauna area, armed with just reading material and large towels. Old white men stride along, towels draped over their thick shoulders, penis’ available for show.

Everyone is nude.

“I never get used to seeing so many penis’s.” Heather admits.

Most women are more reserved. They wear towels wrapped closely to the body until entering a sauna or pool.

Heather and I leave our belongings on reclining chairs in a silent room surrounded by windows. Outside, a scene from a Gaugin forest paints the glass. Thin branches of green, leafy trees gnarl around a sterile jungle that fences in the baby blue pools and white lawn chairs.

“This is the eucalyptus sauna.” Heather gives a comprehensive tour. “It smells really good. Here is the bio (organic) sauna. And here is the really hot sauna. I never go in there.”
We walk around whirlpools to the opposite side of the large gymnasium. A large glass oculus opens the sunlit space to the sky.

Outside the sauna arena lies a large swimming pool devoid of participants in the cold air. Lawn chairs spread around a neatly cropped lawn. Two log cabin sauna’s bookend the space. We lie in the far end sauna. Hot stones consist of a centerpiece stove.

I rest in the heat for moments before my mind begins to race.

“I’ll see you.” I head toward the door.

Heather remains peaceful. “OK, see you around.”

I lie in the “Bio” sauna where birds chirp and water trickles down a stream over invisible speakers. Afterwards I am exhausted and opt for a long nap on a water-bed in a glass enclosed room for what feels like hours.

I wrap my pastel purple towel closely around my goosebump body and walk fearlessly to the hot sauna. I think about the Finnish man who died in a sauna competition a year earlier. He sat in a steaming space for more than a few seconds and lost consciousness.

A clock outside the door reads 5pm. It is ten minutes until five. Not knowing the mysterious 5pm occurrence, I enter with a plan – stay five minutes and then run to the luke warm whirlpool. I climb to the top-level of a three-pronged wooden stair space and lie on my towel. Moments later, naked bodies begin to fill the dark room. After minutes, I lift myself to see a fence of nudity. A few women scatter between a large number of old white men. They are closely packed together, waiting. I rise and sit on my towel. People park themselves closely beside. Five more minutes pass. I am hot, sweating, ready to leave. More people pile in.

“Hallo!” a woman greets the room. She strips off her towel and sits beside an old, bald man hunched over draping folds of belly fat.

Five more minutes pass. My breathing is heavy. It feels like it may stop.

“I’m going to die here,” I think. “In this room with all these old white men.” I panic. “I am going to die here. This will be the most absurd way to go.”

A young, hairless man enters and closes the door with a wooden latch. He pours water over stones and creates more steam. He makes comments in German. Everyone laughs and jokes. The young man wets a cloth and whips it around the dense air. The room is a thousand degrees farenheit. My mind sinks  further down into an illogical state. “He’s going to attack us with that wet towel.” I am now forcing breath. The air is so intense, I could climb on it, over the bodies.

“SORRY!” I scream.

Rather than scale the air, I stumble over countless nakedness. Clutching shoulders and bare heads, I make my way to the door.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry” Is all I can utter.

Mumbling ensues.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” a lumpy white man with thick eyebrows mocks.

The air outside feels like life.  Seconds later a hefty Turkish stumbles out the wooden door.

“Too hot!”

Gold City | Amsterdam

A slate blue cloud consumes the sky. It towers over red brick buildings. In the early morning, the studio becomes black.

I drink hot foamed milk and strong coffee before biking to the central market where a grey-haired man will bellow the day’s deals.

A kilo of cherries for a euro! Kilo of tomatoes a euro! Crochets, 1.50!

At night a stage sets out on the canal along Prinsengracht. Red lights illuminate the black sky. On a velvet set, an opera singer rehearses before a white haired pianist and line of musicians. A violinist sets the steady pace of “Amsterdam!”

A producer races across the stage. He wears blue jeans and a grey tweed jacket. His long hair hangs around his leather face in loose strands. The band deliberates for long minutes between each performance. A crowd gathers on all sides of the canal, along the bridges and from apartment windows. Elderly couples sing along. Boats pass, carrying late night soirees of wine and cheese. A high-spirited group of men entertain the growing audience as they sail along. “Oh Amsterdam! Oh Amsterdam!” They balance bottles of beer in their hands and wail their arms back and forth, shaking their hips. “Oh, oh, Amsterdam!” The crowd cheers.  Laughter and applause follows them down the waterway, following their drunken beats. “Oh, Oh, Amsterdam!!”

A formal outdoor concert performs the following night. The opera singer is fully costumed in an elegant gown. The streets are alive with cyclists, cars and hoards of partying. Boats team through the canals. They fill the liquid roads with beer and colorful scarves.

Sunday morning is silent. Silverware clangs from apartment windows, resounding down thin thruways. A beer can lies next to a red mushroom in a kindergarten courtyard. Wine bottles stand empty on dirty newspaper mats. A warm breeze dances down the canal. The stage has disappeared.

Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier | Amsterdam Creatives

Maria meets me at the train station entrance. Her fiery magenta hair gleams through the glass window.

“I forgot how many tourists there are this time of year!” She looks overwhelmed by the nonstop stream of backpackers and families rolling dark suitcases over uneven stone.

We walk through the Jordaan, passed women wearing huge sunglasses, drinking white wine along the canals. The sun is hot and the city air dense with summer celebration.

Amsterdams Grafisch Ateliers is at the end of Laurierstraat, a thin passageway lined with quaint apartments and corner-side bars. The organization spans the block in a school building stretching from Prinsengracht. A clutter of rusty black bikes rest alongside green ivy that scales up red brick. My suitcase drops from my tired arm and I ring the bell. A woman with curly brown hair and perfect-circle spectacles greets me.

“Hallo?” Print chemicals hang in the air of the entrance hall.

“Hello, I am here to see Kristien. I am the resident artist?” I pose this as a question, without reason.

“Uhh, moment.” The woman runs up a winding metal staircase and returns, motioning for me to follow.

The director, Kristien models an olive green skirt, sleek side-zippered black top, and short sandy blonde hair set freely across her slim face. She has tan, sun-stroked skin and a disarming manner. She walks me to the small resident room, which consists of a bed, table, small refrigerator and empty bookshelves. At the end of the room, glass doors open up to a long garden where mint, chives and thyme grow. The bathroom and shower are down a hall, lined with workstation sinks upon which inks and roller brushes rest. Just outside my thin wing is the large, open printing studio. Member artists share the space, filled with print-exposure units, old iron print presses, drying racks and worktables. The smell of grass flows through the open window to blend with an ink chemical cloud.

Kristien is working hard to keep AGA afloat. She directs the space, which is at the whim of the government’s recent cuts in the arts. Karen Anthony, a quick-paced artist and volunteer from Manchester devotes extra time to helping maintain the center.

“I don’t want AGA to disappear. I am a printmaker and want to keep my facilities here in Amsterdam to work!” She divulges her insight over strong lattes at a nearby artist’s café. Black expressions blotch along the long white wall.

“AGA is in a hard place, like all other artist centers in Holland. They may not receive the amount of funding that they did in the past. Here in Holland, we don’t have private funders the way you do in the States. We have a lot of taxes and are dependent on our government services. This has included the arts sector, until now.”

She takes a sip of foamy milk coffee.

“Holland’s government is conservative – it’s vastly different than it was before. My husband and I have been traveling here for the past twelve years. We see how it’s changed. People are being fed anti-immigrant, awful propaganda. Friends of mine make astonishing comments – people I have known for years! I can’t believe some of the stuff I hear.”

At night the streets clutter with tourists and scarved cyclists, racing through blocks surrounded by clock towers. English resounds from checkered cheese shops and dark wine bars where candle light flickers through high windows. I eat spicy peanut stew and watch a boy with thick dreads stumble by.

I wake with heavy eyes in a dark room. After three alarm rings I tumble from the bed and open the curtain. Green ivy climbs up the gardens brick wall gate. The scene looks like a photo-realist painting pasted to the window.


A woman with thick, grey pigtail braids bursts into the bathroom.

“Ugh, hello?” I utter with tired effort.

“I am Afra!” She extends her hands. “Wonderful to meet you!”

Afra wears a red sweater and blue jeans. Tight wrinkles pencil-line her childlike face on which spreads a jovial smile. She wears the same red sweater and blue jeans the following day.

“You just woke?” She increases the tone on the final note.

“Ugh, yah.”

“Welcome! I just have to pee.” She races by me toward the women’s stall.

Each morning I walk past print sinks toward the communal bathroom. Light slides through the huge windows. Ink hangs like a veil along the way. Text block prints display along the walls. At night Kristien and a platinum-blonde-haired woman paint the studio loft space.

“We need to improve the space and we have no money – so we are working here tonight.” They eat white beans and green salad in the garden and then work, sanding the walls in preparation for a new coat of white.

“We are in trouble in the Arts here in Holland,” Kristien explains later in the evening while cleaning the night’s work.

“Are you and artist yourself?” I ask.

“No, no, I am a manager, trained in administration and directing.”

Kristien is posed with an interesting challenge – keep the center alive. Like numerous arts organizations, AGA faces financial trouble and the threat of closure. Their rent has been raised by 70% over the past few years.

“In Holland we have such high taxes,” she explains, “so everyone is used to government services to provide necessities and this includes the arts. We are not accustomed to support from private businesses. It is very different from in the U.S. I support high taxes, but don’t want to see our arts resources go away.”

“It seems like the private sector will have to start giving to the arts, sponsoring, donating and buying more.”

“Yeah, well, that will take time. It will be gradual. We don’t think that way here.”

Everyone discusses the crisis. I meet designers and artists employed by operas and museums. Institutions will lose support, jobs will disappear across the artistic community. Everyone is worried about the coming year.

The following night I meet with Lydia, an accomplished Dutch artist who has taught at University, traveled throughout the world with her successful commercial gallery and worked as a resident artist and prestigious institutions, including P.S.1 in New York.

“There is no work.”

Brilliant red lipstick paints across her lips below ruby-rimmed glasses. A neon pink raincoat cover her button-down blouse decorated in bright orange lines. The lipstick sinks into slight wrinkles mapping her long face. She weaves her long fingers beneath her chin and sips mint tea.

“This government has turned our society against the arts. They are trying to somehow make the arts sound wrong – a waste of money for a meaningless practice. Holland is becoming even more of a practical, service country. Everyone wants to be a banker and make money. Arts and culture are portrayed as a societal weight. We will lose our intellectuals and become like robots.”

A Dutch couple sits at our long table, on the other side of a metal partition where a small green plant sprouts. The man wears a khaki jacket and drinks endless glasses of PALM beer. The sky turns black at ten and the man smokes a bitter smelling pipe.

Lydia studied art in Rotterdam after getting a degree as a medical technician. She supported herself through art school, working in cardiac research.

“What brought you to Amsterdam?”

“A man.” She smiles.

“Where do you live?”

“On a house boat at the edge of the city.”



“Is it like a real home, or more like a boat?”

“It’s more like a boat.”

“Wow, is he an artist as well?”

“He’s a musician. He plays with orchestras – travels to China a lot.”

“That sounds great.”

“Yah, it’s different here than in Rotterdam. It’s a good base.”

Her thick red lips bend upward into a smile. She takes a sip of mint tea. A neat red imprint remains on the glass rim.

Andrea Wagner & Maaike Roozenburg | Amsterdam Creatives

Andrea Wagner redesigned her Amsterdam home. She lives below and works above, crafting unique jewels.

She moved to Amsterdam years ago to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

She previously lived in Canada and Germany and speaks with a graceful, European flair.

She drinks hot tea from a porcelain white cup and sketches the design for a silver ring.

“The idea for this ring came from – oh, what is it called – the plastic lift you take off milk and juice cartons.”

Sun floods into the room. Along her wall hangs a card reading, “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”

On the opposite end of the city, Maaike Roozenburg works in a massive warehouse.

“This used to be a bakery.” She leads me into the three story studio. “It smelled like flour and baked goods.”

A baby dog whines on the second floor. We walk passed him, up to the top level. Maaike serves ginger cookies and shows me her collection of root vegetable ornaments.

She used to be a dancer and moves with grace.

Maaike delicately sets porcelain tiles on a mold. The air is cold. Rain pounds on the skylights.