Re//Store: Sisterhood – Atelier Neeltje Geurtsen
Atelier Neeltje Geurtsen is a beautifully curated lifestyle store in Arnhem, The Netherlands. I spent my student years in this city studying fashion at Artez, as did Neeltje so we go back many years. Her shop is an eclectic curation of stunning interior objects, handmade ceramics from her studio, textiles and objects sourced directly from the makers during her travels. Her strong sense of curation and beautiful ceramic hands caught my eye on Instagram and I decided to pay her a visit which resulted in a whole afternoon of energetic dialogue and delicious chai tea.
How would you describe your personal style?
I absolutely adore anything authentic and ethnical with an element of craftsmanship. I believe when something is made with love the item is capable of transporting this love and energy to the wearer.
Energy is everywhere, and as long as the product has this energy it will speak to me, this can range from clothes, to food, to home-ware, to a drawing by my little niece.
How would you describe the style of your brand?
Ethnic, pure, authentic, wabi-sabi, craftsmanship, serious and fun at the same time!
When and how did you find out you wanted to start your own Lifestyle store?
I had a stage in my life where I had to explore my identity and during this “journey of finding my true self” all creative juices were flowing. I got very productive and thoroughly was enjoying making and crafting objects with my hands.
Meanwhile I worked as a fashion and film stylist and also started working in lifestyle concept stores. I noticed that I was not convinced by the products I was selling. Very often the price point did not reflect the mass production process and I felt sad as this was going against the grain of my personal beliefs.
Meanwhile the sales of my own products and art objects were picking up and the demand for them kept on growing so I made the decision to work full time on my designs, art and curation. Simultaneously this turned out to be a holistic choice as I felt it was bringing me fulfilment, positivity and joy. I believe people always feel their best when they are following their heart, and this certainly applied to me.
Where do you get your inspiration for your home-ware and art objects?
I love the research process! My influences are diverse ranging from researching local tribes and their heritage, habits and their origins to historical stories, I find it interesting to tap into my own spirit but also get inspired by different crafts and their techniques.
The combination of these things gets carried over into the making process, very often unconsciously. As soon as I start working with my hands things go automatically. I work with my materials, shaping and moulding them and the objects appear very intuitively.
This is also the way I curate, whilst walking in the forest I can find shapes of wood on the ground that I find inspiring so will carry them back to the studio. Travelling is another go-to for inspiration, I always come back with lots of materials. My studio is filled with eclectic fabrics, ethnical jewellery, natural materials, paints, ceramics and metals and when I start creating the materials shape the design process..
What are your favourite elements of your job?
The collecting of materials, going to different markets or the beach, going through piles of stuff, I love it. Especially when I struck gold whilst going through these piles. I source lots of materials for my own work but during these searches I very often stumble upon gorgeous home-ware objects which I will also take home to sell in my shop and online.
Another element I love and find extremely satisfying is when an object or design gets to the finishing stage. When I see it taking its final shape it always feels to me like a puzzle that just got completed, it always makes sense.
Is your brand sustainable?
Yes, all objects are made by me out of natural materials and authentic objects I hand picked. When sourcing the home-ware I buy directly from the maker. I think it is important to meet the maker in person and do business directly without a middleman.
Where do you see Atelier Neeltje Geurtsen in the future, or sustainable design in general?
I hope that Atelier Neeltje Geurtsen will supply to more stores abroad and that I will get into the position to hire staff that can help with the production. I would also love to develop one of my ideas to work together with communities abroad to create design projects based on their local crafts and knowledge.
Regarding Sustainable Design, I foremost hope that this will be a trend that will continue to emerge and it coming from heart and soul and is motivated by the drive to create a better world around us, rather than it being a marketing strategy or temporary trend.
What role does yoga play in your life?
Whilst living in Amsterdam I practiced Hatha Yoga for many years. I noticed my body becoming more flexible but needed more to calm my mind so I decided to combine it with meditation within the tradition of Zen.
I have been meditating for 7 years now and love how it calms down my mind as it will always remain a challenge to control my busy mind throughout each day!
“Whilst living in Amsterdam I practiced Hatha Yoga for many years. I noticed my body becoming more flexible but needed more to calm my mind so I decided to combine it with Zen meditation”.
Do you practice mindfulness and in what way?
Mindfulness, meditation or Zen, to me it all comes down to the ability to live in the now. To be present whilst drinking my tea, consciously feel the wind whilst cycling, feel my feet during a walk. As they say in Zen Buddhism; When walking, walk. When eating, eat…
This sounds simple but proves to be so much more difficult then your think! This ‘being in the now’ practice is my daily challenge and I notice that when I succeed and am consciously involved and present with whatever it is I’m doing at that moment it makes me feel happy and calm.
What’s your favourite daily ritual?
To pick up our cat Mimoun who has a daily habit of running off to the local park. I take our dog for a walk whilst calling out our cat’s name, the cat will then, without fail, come running to us. Sometimes he appears from someones garden, a roof, the bushes or an alley way.
My dog and cat greet each other in a cat and dog way, (cat running towards dog, jumping against his head kind of thing) followed by a bit more walking before returning home where my partner will be preparing our dinner.
We must look funny the three us, me, the big dog and small cat, all walking home together every day around the same time.
What are your favourite spots around where you live?
I love the Veluwe in Arnhem, it is the second largest nature reserve of The Netherlands. If you would throw in some giraffes (in summer) it could pass for Africa.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city and I always love seeing the crooked houses along the canals with their flower pots in front, the ultimate ‘Hygge’ (Editors note; in Holland they have their own word too, ‘gezellig’, which translates like Hygge, which doesn’t translate to English according to the Danes 😉 …)
I also love the Museums in Amsterdam, currently there is a wonderful exhibition of the work of Jean Tinguely in The Stedelijk Amsterdam.
Music: The latest album by A Tribe Called Quest – “We got it from here…thank you for your service.”
Art: The art by Jean Tinguely. I love his philosophy that art does not need to fit in a frame but is more about the moment, the capturing of the moment of movement.
Personal Discovery: I am starting a course in welding and Raku firing, a Japanese technique to glaze ceramics.
Could you recommend an organic / local produce cafe / restaurant in your area?
My favourite spot in Arnhem is “Sugar Hill” It is a cafe / restaurant with a chilled out vibe, the food is organic and they are very kids and dog friendly.
Who would you like to see on here in the future?
Some brands and cafe currently on my radar are:
In Residence store London
Atelier Sukha Amsterdam
Ace and Jige – eco friendly clothing
Oerwoud Den Bosch – A great health café.
Block shop textiles – Block printed textiles.
Mirador – Ethically made ‘poetry’ to wear.
What is your favourite plant based / holistic / vegetarian recipe / drink?
Although my boyfriend’s spelt banana pancakes with cranberries are fantastic I would like to share the recipe for a Chai Tea I leant to make at the house of an Indian Lady.
Ingredients (for 4)
3 slices of fresh ginger
half a cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods, slightly bashed to release the flavours
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
4 fresh peppercorns
1 Tsp strong organic black tea
Add all the ingredients to 0.75L freshly boiled water. Let it simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on, or longer depending on your personal taste.
Add 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup (Or more if you like it sweeter)
Meanwhile heat up the milk in a pan, I love using rice-, oat- or coconut milk. Pour the milk into a cup, followed by the tea poured through a strainer. For a finishing touch I like to add a dash of raw cacao powder.
Thank you Neeltje for sharing all this with us! I really enjoyed our chat and loved spending time in your beautiful shop and house!
I will be back next week and will be sharing one of the Restore//Kitchen recipes.