This March marks the 12.5 year anniversary of my first drawing. So much has happened. Great things, fantastic things, challenging things and more great things. What started out as a hobby became a passion and a full business. I’ve had so many people look at me as if I was crazy when I said that I made and sold pillows with my illustrations. Even I hadn’t expected that line of business for myself before. But I did, and then it became more. Here’s a timeline of my journey.
It was a spring day in 2008 whenI decided I wanted to draw birds. After holidays abroad and seeing wildlife in other countries I thought our own country’s wildlife deserved a closer look, and I dove into the bird world. The Kingfisher was the first to draw.
I started selling prints of all the birds I drew. I worked in the fashion industry as a designer, but I wanted to focus more on nature and draw more. I hadn’t worked this detailed before and after years of being creative, I found my own style: I work realistic with thousands of pen strokes and many different colours.
I kept on drawing. Stemmed from my love for textiles I decided to make pillows from my illustrations. I knew that the fabrics I used had to be better than the ones that are used in fashion, be organic!
I couldn’t love nature and damage it too. The first years I sewn all the pillows myself, until I had done 1000 in one year and I decided to find people who could help me.
When I got featured in a magazine, things went very fast. Big retailers wanted to sell my pillows. I could hardly keep up and I was sold out constantly.
The whole project was getting so big so I could quit my job and work full time.
I did everything myself. From website design to marketing and photography. I needed a bigger workspace than my own attic.
So I moved all my things to a large studio in hip Strijp-S where I could ship out all orders with the help of staff.
My studio and my garden are equally important. From my studio I drew many birds and reached out to many people who loved birds and nature. I noticed that people had a strong connection with nature, just like I did.
Each meeting with a bird creates a fond memory. And each drawing is a dedication to nature and the subject in particular.
I expanded in textiles, and designed oven mitts, tea towels and more small items to get more nature in the lives and homes of the people who loved it so much too.
I attended fairs and met loads of lovely people who felt my story too. Their love for nature was the same as mine.
The focus used to be on international customers and I was fairly unknown in my own country. But when celebs picked up my work locally and my work spread in the Netherlands to.
Wall stickers were added to the collection so with a small budget you could have more nature in your home too. I learnt that the love for nature was well understood by people who love nature, but not so much by most shop owners.
I decided to focus on the people who love nature rather than the shops. I saw the landscape change, and shop owners with unique shops close due to high rents eventhough the need for small businesses run with heart grew. Nature lovers were not served by the big retailes. (They still aren’t)
The passion that started my company was disappearing because I was doing things on a daily basis that didn’t make me happy. I had to get back to the things that made me happy.
And that was nature, and creating things and developing my designs. I learnt how to decorate porcelain. I found people that helped me develop my new ideas and went from mostly fabric items to porcelain.
I was back at what I wanted to do. We improved our website and reduced our number of stockists.
I expanded my portfolio from only birds to a mix with animals. Squirrels, foxes, owls or blackbirds; they all give me the same wonderful connection with nature.
If you think being an independent entrepeneur and all round creative is easy, you’re wrong. It is VERY HARD. You’ll meet a lot of people who want to take advantage of you. Bigger companies that crush you. People that work without a conscience.
I worked with people who I had a contract with that simply breached it. I did work and never got paid. When you’re small you often have to choose between justice and moving on. You’ll toughen up after the disappointment. I had to focus back on nature.
Seeing birds and connecting with nature helped me through it, as well as a partner who understood what I was going through and comforted me whenever things got tough. Still, you have to decide for yourself if you carry on. I did.
But if you hang in there and soldier on, it will be all right. This is not a dead hummingbird by the way. It’s unconscious and it woke up minutes later in my hand. It’s now part of the many encounters I had with birds that I cherish.
I added a couple more products to the collection. For instance the aprons and napkins.
The jewellery was also something completely new. I worked with people who made the mold after my drawings. The journals all made of FSC paper were also a highlight.
Finding new suppliers is always a challenge. Will they deliver as expected, and will they be consistent. I was always looking for environmentally friendly products
Developing new items was often done with the help of my customers. I am very thankful of all the preorders of my designs that were made in complete trust that I would deliver. Of course I did, but it is an honour that so many people helped out!
Because I wanted to draw more and connect more, I started to look for partners to work with. They have the right facilities to produce and supply items and I will draw nature and design products. I needed more cooperations like that.
Zazous was one of the first companies that approached me and we made a set of beautiful cards that are produced and sold in France.
In 2019 I was asked to draw a set of Christmas cards for Dutch organisation Natuurmonumenten. And in 2020 another set with new illustrations will be published!
Corona hit the world spring 2020 and as people looked for ways to make their home cozier and connect with nature more, we decided to expand the collection we’ve had since 2012 with more birds and animals to make people happier.
The biggest step I’ve made recently is my cooperation with Vivara. I will be designing loads of items with them.
I am very happy with this because the well being of nature is very important to them too.
We’ve made cards and mugs. The first designs are currently available and we’re expanding rapidly.
Vivara has shops all over Europe and people who love nature find them to buy bird food, nest boxes and of course now also our products!
What started with prints, pillows and a will to do something different, to share my love for nature became a company of 12.5 years now. If you want to realise your dream make sure you have the stamina and patience, then you’ll get there, I promise!
Over the years I’ve made 60+ drawings and supplied 100.000+ items to people who love nature across the world.
Thank you for being part of this! I can’t wait to continue this journey for many years to come.