Every Sunday morning, my parents would strap me and my brother into the family Peugeot. With Dutch cheese sandwiches and hardboiled eggs packed for lunch, we would drive all over The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to visit flea markets and little antique shops. Some of my favorite memories are of strolling Belgian boulevards for miles and miles searching for that one special item I couldn’t leave without.
My Oma lived in a wonderful home that was filled with treasures from all over the world. My Opa sailed ocean liners to faraway places like India in the early 1920s. He always returned home with magical and wondrous items. Long after my Opa was gone, I spent my summers with my Oma. I would be amazed by all the incredible items in her home. This is where my love of all things cultural, antique and colorful began.
Fast-forward three decades to Colorado 2020. The entire country and world were on lockdown, my job as a substitute teacher ended abruptly and I was now at home with nothing to do. I started taking on small home improvement projects like painting. We had lived in our Colorado home on ten acres for 8 years, and I had never found the time to make the house our own. All my treasures and collections had been packed up in our barn for years. I realized this was the time to get things done.
I was an avid scrapbooker in the early 2000s, and with five children, I had amassed close to 300 scrapbooks. They were taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my second-story loft-turned-studio. I had been wanting to paint the cabinet they were stored in for years, and this was the right time to get it done. I relocated my scrapbooks to a storage room, where they were safe from sunlight, and painted my cabinet white. This was the beginning of my studio and museum.
The new white studio shelves were the perfect home for the collections I had in storage. After a lot of unpacking, my little museum slowly came to life. Seeing all the color and joy radiating from the white shelves made my heart skip a beat. I noticed my collections mainly consisted of colorful and fun vintage items, like toys, board games and dolls with beautifully patterned dresses.
My studio space is now the perfect location to work on new projects. The luxury to be able to spend all day sewing and organizing my fabric collection was something that I had never had before. I started making bags, buntings, pillows, journals and Christmas stockings for my children. I quickly realized that keeping all my fabrics in bins on the floor wasn’t an ideal situation. Having an open studio space meant my creative mess was always visible, so I realized I needed a separate studio for fabric arts.
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” — Michael Scott
Our basement has a large family room that was unused. Growing up in a small Dutch home, I never quite understood the need to have two living rooms; however, I could understand the need for two studios! Soon, I was ripping out carpets and painting walls and floors. I moved unused, thrifted cabinets from the barn, and a new, second studio came to life. I had worked as the Display Coordinator at my local Anthropologie and had experience with creating new spaces and building new furniture to fit. This studio was the perfect blank canvas for me. Finally, I had a space in which I could create, make a mess, display more collections and store all of my fabrics.
With the creation of a second studio, my first loft studio became known as “Mom’s Museum.” My kids didn’t understand how and why I amassed collections of whimsical and wondrous items. They weren’t fans of creepy dolls and Victorian-era taxidermy squirrels in dresses, but to each their own. To me, my studio museum became a magical room where I spent hours and hours looking at vintage children’s toys and books. As a family photographer, I use this space to edit photo sessions. I spend long days editing at my desk, with Lemonade the cat snuggled up on a cozy old quilt. It’s a treat to be surrounded by my most precious belongings while I work. My small German terra cotta gnome family sits on one side of my desk, looking at me curiously and wondering what I am doing. On the other side, I display a large group of Mexican bells made from clay. The bells are shaped into birds with hats, bulls with bowties and women carrying baskets filled with flowers and blankets. I’ve collected many of these items on my travels to other states and countries, but most of what I have is collected from local thrift stores. I began to call my special loft studio space “The Museum of Whimsy and Wonder.”
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
— Edgar Degas
I fell in love with thrifting. I started thrifting years ago, when I searched for clothing to dress my family. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized anything you need or could want can be found at a thrift store. In fact, my entire art studio is filled with thrifted supplies. I have tins and drawers filled with embroidery thread, stacks of suitcases containing yarn, and a vintage green school locker piled with fabrics, old curtains, linens and tablecloths. I love creating pillows using different vintage fabrics and old clothing. Sometimes I use buttons from a thrifted sweater to decorate my handmade Christmas stockings, or Winter Socks, as I have named them.
If you ask me what kind of artist I am, I would say that I am a fiber artist, as fabric and sewing notions have my heart. I love many mediums. I graduated college with a dual-degree in Art and Art Education. When I was a student, I spent many hours painting, illustrating and building miniature mock-ups of projects I was working on. My love for all art mediums exists still today, as I love painting and decorating vintage furniture. My next project involves painting the white walls of my studios and other living spaces and infusing these areas with color.
As an artist, an art enthusiast and a collector, I am always inspired by others’ collections and crafts. With prompting from an artist-friend, I founded the Whimsy and Wonder Art Club at the beginning of 2022. Every week, I pick an item from my museum or studio shelves and inspire other artists to recreate it in their chosen medium. When I started the club, I had no clue how much joy it would bring me. Seeing over 200 artists from around the world participate each week and create from a photo of a thrifted doll or a toy I’ve had since childhood, has been amazing and incredibly rewarding!
The greatest joy in my life and work is when I’m able to inspire others and make people smile. You would be surprised by how often I receive a message from someone who notices an old toy on my museum shelves, bringing back a happy memory. When I am in my art studio or museum, surrounded by all the items that bring me so much joy, I can’t help but smile and think of the miles I walked with my mom, dad and brother looking for all of those special treasures I couldn’t live without.