Friday, 12 August 2011

France Month: Interview with Pia Jane Bijkerk

Pia Jane Bijkerk at Shearer's
Hi Pia, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Let's start with an easy one, what are you reading at the moment?
Last year my partner introduced me to author Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy. I've never been that interested in fantasy until I started reading the first book in the trilogy,  Assasin's Apprentice, and since then I haven't been able to put Robin's books down - I've read the Farseer Trilogy, then Tawny Man, and am now reading the second trilogy in the series  - the Liveship Traders. She's a fabulous writer.

Can you tell me about the time you spent in Paris? Why did you go and what did you do there?

I followed my heart to Paris and have been back and forth every year for the last 5 years, spending 8 months full time there back in 2007.  My latest book, My Heart Wanders, is all about my time there, why I went, what I experienced, and my adventures getting to know the culture and lifestyle.

From your perspective in design, what is it about Paris that makes it such a fascinating place?

I think it's the history of the city that makes it so fascinating for me. I love the oldness of everything - the bridges, the stone buildings, the wooden parquetry floors, the antique fireplaces. There is no escaping the history of the place - it's so present, so alive, and for me I find that incredibly inspiring. I love old things, old design.

Photo courtesy of Pia Jane Bijkerk

Whereabouts in the city were your favourite haunts?
I have many, most of which are in my first book Paris: Made by Hand which is a guide book with chapters defined as 'wanders'  - in each wander I feature a number of boutiques and studios specialising in unique pieces made by hand, and I also mention some of the lovely little caf├ęs and restaurants you might find along the way.

One of my favourite wanders these past couple of years has been in the 10th arrondissement - around Canal St Martin. It has a great vibe, there are lots of new, interesting shops and bars opening up all the time.

There are some beautiful posts on your blog where you describe weekends and visits in Paris, what would the ultimate-one-weekend-only Pia Jane tour of Paris be?
Thank you. My ultimate-one-weekend-only 'tour' changes all the time, according to new boutiques and cafes I've heard or read about and want to explore further. For me, I think the ultimate is to combine a bit of history, a lot of eating, and a bit of window shopping. My partner and I often revolve our weekend trips in Paris around restaurants we like or want to try out - so if there is one in Montmatre we'll spend the afternoon in the area, wandering toward our food destination. At the moment I don't have an ultimate weekend there, but my favourite arrondissements are the 10th, the 18th, the 6th and the 3rd.
Photo courtesy of Pia Jane Bijkerk

Do you think you will ever live in Paris again?
Who knows what the future holds, it might happen, although at the moment I'm more in love with the idea of living in the French countryside as I love being surrounded by nature, and I love french food - it would be nice to live amongst the fields.

You've released several books including Paris: Made by Hand, Amsterdam: Made by Hand and My Heart Wanders, is there one that is especially meaningful for you?
My Heart Wanders is such a personal, intimate story about my journey to follow my heart. It took me a couple of years to write, photograph and design the book, which makes it especially meaningful for me. But I have put my heart and soul into each book, so each one holds a special place in my heart - Paris: Made by Hand was my first ever book, and travelling around Paris, visiting each of the artisans, photographing their creations and interviewing them was an incredible experience. Researching and writing Amsterdam: Made by Hand was very special because although it's a foreign city, I felt I could call it home the moment I moved there at the end of 2007.

What materials do you find yourself most comfortable working with?
I think the camera is the most comfortable for me - as soon as I pick it up and have my subject in front of me, I enter a world slightly separate from this one… it makes me feel very much in the present, like nothing else matters. Pen and paper do the same thing, I can be completely absorbed in the present moment while I write.
Photo courtesy of Pia Jane Bijkerk

What are the biggest creative challenges you face when working on a project?
Time management! The creative parts are always the easiest, most free flowing parts of a project, but since I often do lots of different jobs for any one project - from writing, to research, to photographing, styling, and crafting, I find it hard to juggle each role and dedicate the time I want to each element as there is always a looming deadline. Somehow I manage, but it takes its toll on my everyday life.
Pia made a beautiful window display for us.

What are you working on next?
I have a few projects in the early research phases at this moment, but I won't persue anything until next year - I need this year to rejuvenate my creative energy.

Thanks for your time!
Thank you for having me!

My Heart Wanders, Paris: Made by Hand and Amsterdam: Made by Hand are all available now. You can visit Pia's blog here.

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