While embroidery indoors, the least interesting of all places, I think back of earlier parts in the world. I got instantly inspired and took my notebook; the benefits of indoors. The images are chosen because they remind me of the moments where everything was in tune, perhaps the environment wasn’t necessarily the most stunning but the moment was perfect. And when all comes together, embroidery is part of it, as it is an immediate outing of contentment.
I am not picking photo’s from only a beauty perspective, but really those ones where all was good. Often I stayed an extra night at such places.
A favorite place can only be so when all needs are met. Warmth or shade, comfort and energy, enough food and a tea. Automatically, when I am in a good mood I start to make photo’s and there it is: a selfie. It comes forth from wanting to tell a full story through images. But I do need to remind myself over and over again. Also, a good composition takes time, and often, I am not in for that, but spending good energy on the work I am holding in my hands.
1. Patagonia, Chile
2017: I loathed every single part of Patagonia, where I cycled in early winter. Every day was a battle against the cold rain. The nature surrounding me was of an incredible beauty yet I could not enjoy it, since fences kept me from camping anywhere but the immediate wayside. Close to freezing temperatures and hardly any person to be seen, I thought it okay to occupy an abandoned (hunters) cabin and start burning the already broken, wooden structure serving as a bed. With the warmth of a fire and the walls protecting me from rain, I suddenly got a bolt of extreme happiness, satisfaction and zest. Now, being in Patagonia was all right. I enjoyed, and embroidered on a piece where I used cacti needle and llama wool found in Argentina, for two full days.
2. The Chaco, Paraguay
2017: While cycling the Trans Chaco Highway, which is anything but a highway as you would imagine by reading the word highway, I took a left turn. I wanted to be away from traffic, how marginally it was in those forsaken parts of South Paraguay. Now I was on the road where I was a year earlier, as I was on my way to a Mennonite farm. This very spot I found back than and was eager to sleep again. I was able to find it again, though a fire had took place on this particular plot. The fence was fortified but apparently no cattle was roaming and so I ought it to be still the perfect camp spot for the Chaco. Mosquitoes and heat aside, under the tree behind my tent I would sit and embroider a few hours for two days.
3. National Park Auracania, Chile
2017: I met a German couple on my way cycling South America and when I asked them what I should not miss out on in Chile, they said: ‘the monkey puzzle trees,’ which was a puzzling answer to me. I mean, to see trees, what is so special about that? Nevertheless, I was inspired on the spot and made my goal the Monkey Puzzle trees, only at a certain altitude and only in those particular parts of the world. Off I was. And on the photo you can see, but only slightly, how beautiful it is. The pouch in front of my feet is bulging with material I found along the way, mostly animal fur and hairs and also cacti needle and pieces of leather. This particular spot was a bit higher in altitude and at night it was minus 10, the more happy I was with sunshine, so I could dry my damp sleeping bag while punching the needle through a piece of fabric found along the way, embellished with boar hairs I got my hands on in Paraguay.
4. Calpe, Spain
2018: My husband and I lived about a year in Spain. A beautiful country with rugged landscapes I love, but we both disliked the place we were dwelling, as it was situated at the touristy Costa Blanca. I have no connection with an ocean dotted with sail yachts, water-scooters and surf boards nor a beach front over-developed. The area is populated with an abundance of people from all over Europe and Russia, robbing much of the typical Spanish atmosphere. To top it off, we lived in a luxury mansion against a steep mountain slope. All the ingredients which I dislike were present, so I often fled off to the immediate surroundings to pitch my tent and spend the night in a more normal place, overlooking the circus below me. The fabric I am working with is ‘cerrito’ stitch I learned in Yataity, Paraguay and the embroidery technique there is called ao po’i.
2016: Cycling from Bolivia into Argentina I took a wrong turn and ended up at not the Ruta 40 from the very beginning but at a much ‘easier’ tarmac route. Since I am not a fan of planning I clearly could blame only myself, and decided to take a day of rest to plan a bit ahead so I would connect with the correct route eventually. This spot was simply marvelous. There was shade, beauty, no one around and I had sufficient water and food to stay an extra day. I worked on the first project I started since cycling South America and made a bit of progress in this camp. I am using wild boar hairs, wool from llama’s, alpaca’s and goat hairs, along with a cluster of deer tail. The boar hairs and deer tail were from an illegal hunt, in a country where no one really cares about the lawfulness of hunting. Can you spot my tent?
6. Florida, USA
2020: Recently, in the start of Corona in Florida, my husband and I were camping in the woods. We started to travel with a new sort of transport, the kickbike. A kickbike needs, simply said, two feet to get propelled and because of this new intense way of transporting ourselves, both ankles got inflamed and we had to stop. It took 4 weeks to heal properly but by the time we could have gone further, the Corona limitations hit Florida. I kept myself occupied well, especially since I had asked my beloved husband to quickly go to the Hobby Lobby and buy me a few pieces of material. The next day the shop had to close. I loved being in the woods, as there is much hidden life going on. The light is a spectacle to witness and the sounds are pleasant, though the crashing trees less so. The piece of cloth is decorated with a stitch I came to know in Paraguay. I had tried this stitch before but failed miserably, as I started with the outline instead of counting the stitches from which the pattern is made up.
7. Atacama desert, Chile
2017: To cycle the full length of Atacama desert was high on my wish-list. I’d made detailed planning of where to get water and food and apart from a few closed-down establishments, pretty much worked out well for me. The total distance measures 1100 kilometers/700 miles and each and every day was a true enlightened experience. To end such day I would embroider after I made a chai on my gasoline stove. The notion that one can sustain oneself by the mere possessions carried on a bicycle made me extremely happy. The fact that no one wanders in to the desert, except myself and the total absence of sounds, with a one million or more stars flickering high above, yet so close made this journey one never to forget. I was inspired by a piece of native art in a museum in Peru and without having a loop with me to stretch the fabric, I managed to get a decent image of an imaginary animal in a simple chain stitch. I kept working on this piece while my dad visited me. We’d sit in buses through Chile, Peru and Bolivia and did receive a few appreciating looks from locals, especially in Bolivia.
8. Filadelfia, Paraguay
2018: When I was mentally done with cycling, I came to a halt at a farm in the Mennonite community of Filadelfia. I made arrangements with Marilyn, who’d became my friend a year earlier. I could start working 5 hours a day for 5 days a week, on a Work Away base. There were two more Germans working on the farm on this very same basis. Until they arrived, I had this little cottage for myself, far removed from the clatter of the main house and I loved spending my ‘free time’ here. I would sit against the wall, under the tin roof, make a fire in the hobo stove and drink a chai, prepared with the fresh cow milk from the farm. I’d embroider for an hour before I would walk parts of the countless hectares, with or without goat Emma. What lays blurred in the front of the photo is the project I’m working on, the small leafage around the cottage functioned as patterns.
9. Parque Nacional Las Vicunas, Chile
2019: My husband and I are above 4000 meter/13,300 feet, though arrived here with a motorbike does not necessarily means that it was an easy ride. Especially not because it was a 150cc rather powerless Chinese made machine. Without wanting to speak lowly about our Kenton, since it is in fact a very trustworthy motorbike, it did bring us to one of the most beautiful natural reserves in Chile. I savored every second of being in this place, perhaps especially since I knew my husband was suffering altitude sickness and in a rush to get back down. I could have stayed here longer, just enjoy a camp fire, a tea and my embroidery work. The good thing about embroidery is that you don’t need inspiration and it can be done everywhere. That’s beneficial because in places like this, inspiration would overflow. The brown knitted pouch laying near I found in an abandoned farm house on our way. I had plans to incorporate my own embroidery around this one, but I unfortunately lost it.
2017: I’d cycled too long in the cold of Patagonia, switching constantly between Argentina and Chile. It was early winter, chances to find dry sunny weather were slim. I decided to turn around, again into Argentina, on to a big town at the other side of the country. After that I would rest 10 days at a Facebook friend his friend’s house. I would take a 3 day truck ride before I was in warmer parts of Argentina. And here, I finally came to a more comfortable place. It was already spring in these parts of the world and although not soaring with beauty, I had to cross fences each day to place my tent somewhere, but hey… I could make fires and warm myself in the sun. I could take my embroidery out and start working out of pleasure instead of frustration. I liked being in less interesting parts of Argentina, because it gave me a chance to do what I love doing, instead of doing what others find ‘epic’.
And now, we are off again, to do what we need to do and then, finally, we can settle. I can start a whole new chapter, to which I look very much forward: dyeing fabrics and yarn from natural material. Not only that, I hope I can do all this in my own little atelier…