"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
–William Morris

#11 - Wieteke Opmeer on why she stopped selling her most popular products

by Saskia de Feijter on February 11, 2021
In this episode, you’ll hear from Wieteke Opmeer. Wieteke is a multi talented artist that has nature as her main source of inspiration. She works in, with and around nature with the utmost respect and mindfulness. We talk about why she decided to stop selling her beautiful and immensely popular wood carved tools, her philosophy behind it is eye opening. She's building a house with hemp walls too so we get into that too. I'm so happy and proud to share with you the amazing Wieteke!⠀⠀
We mention these books:
Cal Newport - Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
and 
Mark Boyle - The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology
⠀⠀⠀⠀
find Wieteke here: http://wietekeopmeer.nl/ and on instagram @wietekeopmeer 

With this podcast I want to take you with me on my journey to discover the answers to these questions: What do we buy, Where do we buy, Who do we buy from… Or don’t we buy at all but use what we already have? And how relevant is my job as a yarn shop owner selling people stuff when we already have more than we need? How can I make my life as an entrepreneur and textile crafter smaller and more relevant to these times?

Have a question? Want to leave a message? Click the voicemail tab on the right, or scroll down to leave a text message. I'd love to hear from you!
Find me at www.ja-wol.com and @jawolrotterdam on instagram.
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In order to make the podcast available to as many people as possible, here's the transcription (it might have some weird sentences because of the software I use):

 

 

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, building, tree, living, life, talking, nature, saskia, crafts, thought, podcast, wood carving, teach, nice, forest, world, house, bit, piece, feel

 

 

Saskia de Feijter 

This is a smaller life podcast about making more conscious and more ethical choices within our crafts. Hosted by me Saskia de Feijter. I'm a small business owner who wants to grow by going smaller. Together with local makers, I make tools, yarns and accessories for knitters that want to buy less, buy better, make more and make it last, keeping away the overwhelm and all the ridiculousness of over consuming within our crafts. In the podcast, I endeavor to answer the question we ask ourselves before we start a project, what do we buy? Where do we buy? Who do we buy from? Or don't we buy it all, but use what we already have? Because when you think about what you do, you take more time and end up with less of everything. As a result, you'll get a smaller life. Hi, so good that you're here. Welcome to a smaller life. If you're new, I wish you a happy episode. Is that a thing you do? wishing people happy episodes? Well, it is what I do. And if you're a regular listener, I'm so glad that you came back. This time we're talking to Vika Amir. She is a Dutch artist and all around artists basically focusing on what she finds needs around her in nature. She makes her work mindful and with respect for nature. She was very popular with her woodcarvings. And in this conversation, we talked about why she stopped making them and her philosophy behind that. We also talk about her conscious lifestyle and her newly built house that has hemp wall panels. Oh my gosh. She's an amazing illustrator and a wonderful teacher and I'll be forever said that we didn't get to do our workshops in our city forest. But you never know what will be in the future. So please take your knitting or a nice cup of something and listen to Vika. Hello, Vika.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Hi.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Hi, nice to have you on the podcast.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I'm very happy that you asked me to be on your podcast. So you should

 

Saskia de Feijter 

have been like in the in the top three interviews because you're you will have so many interesting things to say about all the topics we love what you were busy, and I was busy in their houses in our lives houses being built. And there was lots going on. And I really had to practice first before we could have this interview. So I could have the right questions.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

It was all leading up to this moment. Yes.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

This is the moment! (Saskia sings)

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

loving it already here.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

So can you start by saying where you are at

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

the moment? Okay, um, I am in my barn on my piece of land where our house is being built next to it. So I'm sitting here next to a wood burning stove, which is currently not burning. So it's a little bit cold, but I'm a tough woman I can handle it.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Are you wearing wool?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, lots of it. Yes. Knit socks. Wool knitted socks, not by me. I've made them but I'm not wearing them. Right now. I have a wool vest on and a wool sweater. So yes.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I think it's about it should be about five degrees outside

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

that inside. It's about nine degrees here. But I'm used to it. So

 

Saskia de Feijter 

yeah, I was gonna say you're probably used to it and you're gonna wait until you get really cold before you heat up the stove.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, yeah, something like that. Sometimes when we really are like lazy then we start by putting on the woodburner straightaway. And when we started living here, we moved from an apartment in the city of the Hague towards our barn, which is only heated by one wood burning stove. And the first night that we slept here. We we got up in the morning, and it was nine degrees just like it is now. And we were so incredibly cold. We felt like we were in the Arctic or something. So we we got dressed and we put on our robes on top of it and wore our woolen hats . I can't imagine it right now. Because when we've been living here for two and a half years now in our barn, so we had like two winters already. So then you just it's a different feeling. Because you get used to things you can really get used to things like nine degrees. So yeah,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

so it's really funny because I do not I don't function well in heat. And people always say, well, it's just what you're used to. But I always think No, no, always gonna be melting. There's nothing going to be different about it. But I do think that when it comes to heat, I kind of understand that you just move slower. You You change your, the way. Well, basically the way you live the way you move, perhaps the way you eat even. And it's probably the same when it comes to cold. You are dressing cool. You have more tea?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yes, and it's one of the big lessons I've learned in the past two and a half years. And our house build hasn't been easy is that I read a quote somewhere that someone said, well, life isn't supposed to be easy. It isn't designed to be easy. And if you realize it, then it becomes more easy. So once I read that quote, and I thought like, Yeah, well, actually, it, it does have a point, when you just start realizing the birds are outside and they are cold. Yes, they are cold. We have chickens. They don't like the cold either. But they they live their life. And they accept that. It isn't always going to be 20 degrees. Exactly. And when you accept that then yeah, things become easier for for some reason. Yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

So do your chickens do anything to do they huddle up together? Or

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, they start running, or they all have their own characters. We have Zwartje here, which means Blackie and she lays green eggs, which is very special. It's really beautiful. And all of Green Eggs and we have Willem our Rooster and he protects his ladies, but he also has like he has like how do you call that in English een ochtend humor.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Oh, well, he's grumpy in the morning. And there's there's a word. Alison, the editor she can like overdub words that we don't know in English. Oh.

 

Alison 

Hi, yes. Saskia Allison here. The Dutch word 'ochtendhumeur' literally means morning mood. And we don't really have an exact English equivalent for that. Except maybe he got up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. But I guess in this case, it would be the wrong side of the roost. Hardy har. Anyway, Alison out.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Well, that's amazing. I have to have an editor in my life.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I know, modern technique.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Amazing. Yeah, yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

So well, we now know that you live in a barn while your house is being built and are getting used to living in colder temperatures. But what is it that your profession is and how come you ended up in a barn?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah. How come I ended up in a bar.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Let's start first. Where? Where did I meet you? And what were you doing at that time?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Oh, yeah. Where did we meet? Well, I think we met at your store, Ja, Wol in Rotterdam I believe.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Yeah. I think I met your stuff. First that in another store of a friend Lisa.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I saw what you made. And I totally fell in love with it. And perhaps you can tell me what it is that you made.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I made crochet Woodcarves from wood, and I made needles from forms of Hawthorns and I made knitting needles from pruning wood uproot trees with hazelnut endings, or walnut endings, and buttons from stones. Pebbles from the river. So all things which you can use to make stuff with craft. textiles.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Yes. And then there were like little pieces, little treasures from nature that were in the store. And I thought, Oh, my gosh, Lisa had a wonderful, wonderful store, but it was mainly focused on paper pens. illustrations, cards. Yeah. And then I talked to her and we decided that it was a good idea to have your stuff in my shop with all the knitting and crochet and sewing stuff. And that's when our professional and relationship and our friendship began. Yeah, yeah. I have always loved the ideas you have behind making your items. And you are such a what's the words? It's everything you have like a philosophy, and the aesthetics, the making something from what's already there and making it so valuable and stuff that you can use for the rest of your life. Yeah, it they are little treasures. And I obviously still have some of them and I really treasure them.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Oh, that's s nice of you.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

It's just you can totally tell how much love went into making them. And you got quite popular with with what you did with your hand carving? Yep. Yes,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I did. Yeah, unexpectedly, actually, because it all started when I lost my job. And I started wood carving, because I didn't have any money to buy beautiful materials, which were eco friendly. Because I started out as a designer educated at the Art School of Utrecht. And I specialized in an in a time that wasn't very popular yet to really get into ecologically friendly materials and designs. So I was a bit of a pioneer. And yes, when I lost my job, so I didn't have any money, I started to look around and try to find materials, which I could use them to make stuff. And it sounds really weird, but I never really liked wood carving.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

actually doesn't really sound weird, because I hear that a lot of writers don't like to write.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, that might be something. But what I did like was the opportunity will what my surroundings gave me the first crochet hook that I made, I made it really to be able to use something because I forgot something when I was camping with our camper van in the middle of the forest. And I was knitting socks. And when I wanted to weave in the ends, I sometimes use a small crochet because it is easier somehow. And I didn't bring it. So I was like, what now and then I looked around in the forest. And there were twigs everywhere. And there were knives in our little cutlary thing in our drawer. And I just tried my hand at it. And I thought, wow, this is like magic. And then once I saw it, I couldn't unsee it and a whole world started to unfold. And it was like I stepped into something so innately human, which is transforming your environment into something you can use without harming your environment. And I thought, well, let's try to discover how far this will go.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

So yeah, and you're saying two things like it's innately human, and without harming the environment? I think it's innately human, but most of us have, like moved away from that idea so far. I just talked to somebody yesterday and I said the only thing you really need is a sheep and a fruit bearing tree. Yeah, if you think about it, that's all you need. You don't have meat. You have milk providing you are not a vegetarian. But hey, we're talking survival here.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Well, there's horns for you can do lots of things with horns. There's there's the tree with the wood. There's the fruit. Yeah, it's it's you don't it's really easy to say these things when you're in a house that's heated. And you're living in th first world, I really know that. But it's also good to think about these things that you just need to stick a stick in a knife and they end some time. Time and skill.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, yes. And the eye for it.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I bet there's a lot of people that wouldn't make a crochet hook.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Like, it's a way of looking at the world that once you see it, then it's like riding a bike. We're Dutch people. If you once you learn to ride a bike, then you know for the rest of your life. What to do to ride a bike, you never unlearn it, except for when something serious happens when you have an accident or something. But normally speaking, you can always ride a bike, you never forget. And I think that if you look to your surroundings in a certain way you discover something, then you cannot not see. It's just there. It's like How could I forget? Yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

And how does that translate to Your day to day life. Do you go into the into the forest? And will you start finding mushrooms? Do you do stuff like that? or? Yeah, I

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

  1. Mushrooms? I'm a little bit careful. I just recognized two or three of them which are edible. Yeah, no, I just keep it to those three that I can really determine. Because otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you right now. Yeah, yeah, it's always a question. Like, if I walk into the forest, I sometimes just very positively, do not take any bags or anything with me. I always, always find something on the way. It's like, I can't just some people can do that. Just walk through nature and just walk through it. Like going from A to B. But when I walk through nature, it's like, I walk through a supermarket, and I'm spiritually hungry. So I'm like, Oh, my God, I could do this with that. Oh, did you see the color of those knees? I need to just keep it in mind. Or Oh, my God does twigs are really the perfect shape for bladiebla? So it's like, I can't really turn it off. I tried. But I always end up with my husband carrying big logs to our car.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I See it, I totaly see that. What do you pick up most like tree twigs. But do you have other examples of things you collect?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

skeleton leafs are always beautiful. If you see a leaf has like, red, and those things are the only thing that is left. So you see, like, almost like a lacy leaf. And when you pick it up, you can see through it. It's beautiful. So yeah, then I live next to forest which has a certain kind of tree, which has natural skeleton leaves. So I I bring home too much. And I always have a plan and I would never do anything with them. So, so beautiful. Yeah, yeah, and food, of course, food. Everything is like hazelnuts and walnuts when it's the right season. And I've recently started to make my own ointments from all kinds of natural things. So I always have an eye out for things I can use

 

Saskia de Feijter 

always come so natural to you. I think a lot of people I know, well, at least in our little worlds are now focused on these things. And it's kind of a trend to go into the forest and to collect things. But I have never known you any different. And you've always been very careful what to take and how to take it. And could you give people some pointers on what not to do when you're in nature and collecting things? Yeah,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I think that when you see something really pretty like a flower or berries or something that you want to take home, that's okay, but do you see a lot, then you can take some if you see, not so many trees, don't take it, just take a picture, it's good enough, we will all have our smartphones on us. And you can admire it and take a mental picture, if you forgot it, let's try to be careful about what you take. And also think about that nature isn't always as friendly as we think it is. Because some things are really poisonous. So it'll be a little bit careful. And also, don't break off living things. Like if you want a twig, which is in a perfect shape, just don't break it off. Because that makes a wound in a tree or a shrub, and it will infect very easily if it's broken. So try to see it as the cupboard of your neighbor and you're just not rummaging around it and not asking. Can we just take take everything? No, just be mindful of what you do. I think it's maybe it also is a little bit about trying to connect a little bit with your inner compass of what is right. Try to connect with that. Because a lot of people, they look at social media and they say, Oh, yeah, you can make needles out of out of thorns. Okay, great. I'll walk you through the woods and outbreak of thorns and I'll make it. Yeah, but if you wouldn't have seen it on social media and think that it's okay to do that, then you would have approached it differently. And if you go about it with your inner compass, so not from what's the next trend or what is good looking or something but what is useful and what feels right. And you have to sometimes the voice that says this is right or this is wrong or you should approach it differently. It's very soft. This voice We need to learn how to listen to it again, because we're very into social media into what has everyone else done in their lives. So I can do it too. There is something in us, which is a line of generation to generation to generation all the way back to the hunters or collectors. Yeah, hunters and collectors, it's all still in us. We have the same pieces of information inside us. But we need to learn to listen to it again. And we need to learn to trust that we can make the right decision if we base it on the right information from ourselves, we can remember stuff, not literally, but we that's why people I think, are really touched by the things that I made. It feels like they connect to something that they know. And it's something from long ago. And I think that everyone has the same feeling about it. It's the core of something. And I think we all have it, it's not a case of all I need to buy it. It's something that you carry inside of yourself.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I think that's beautifully put. And I feel that's exactly what it is. That connection that we've lost and the the loud world that we live in, and the way you explain that the voice is silent, and you really have to listen to it. It also feels to me as a parent, like I should parent myself a little bit better sometimes. And at the same time, when we walk in nature with our family, I want to tell my kids not to scream and not to like, take sticks and do things with them. But then I'm like, if they can do it here, where else can they do it, but there's little differences, right? If you feel like it's a piece of the forest that's really quiet, and there's a lot of animals hiding. Or if it's more of a walking path where more people are, there's different ways and different decisions you can make at different times. And obviously kids can play but they can also learn how to do it with respect for their environment. Yeah, as a parent, you are there to help that voice be a little louder in the next generation. And I think that's actually really what we need right now is that the next generation has more respect for and more of a connection to nature, even though actually some of us are not so connected anymore. So it's it's, it's building a bridge. That's actually it's a pretty big bridge to build. But at least we're getting more.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

My I am. I'm sorry to interrupt you. But I think I have a beautiful story about what you just told. And I think that the connection that a lot of generations have lost already. I think it starts with curiosity, before it becomes suspect. Because when you want to learn something, then when you get curious when you get excited, and then you want to protect it. And when people say you need to protect it, all of a sudden it becomes another energy. And you don't feel the innate nature that you want to protect something. And when it comes doesn't come from within, then it feels like someone is telling you what to do. And that really is not really helping. I have another straighting story about that. I lived in an apartment in The Hague, and I looked out to a field of growth for the future shrubs, elderflower, and some other trees. And yeah, there were a lot of people living there of low income. And that means that both parents need to work to make a living to be able to afford their shitty apartment, because it was a shooting neighborhood. And so the kids, they're all were playing outside, which sounds really amazing. But they were not really saying in a peaceful way. But they were hanging from branches in the trees trying to break it. And that was because there was no guidance. There was no one there to say, well, let's not do this. Why do you want to break them? So when they broke off a very large branch of an elder tree, something inside me because I was living on the first floor? So I saw it all from above. And I thought, Oh, no, I have to do something. I'm living in a city and I should choose. A lot of people are just turning around their heads, but I can't look at it. Just seeing the violence in those kids trying to really break this living tree with no meaning. So in an instance, I just put on my boots and has walked down and ran to them and I said what what

 

Saskia de Feijter 

are you It's my podcast, you can do that. Go ahead.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I said, What are you doing? Who is doing this? And then the, the ones that were breaking off the branches, they were running away. And I said, No, no, come back, I need to talk to you. And I said, we need to write a letter to the person who manages this plot, that we say that we're sorry, because this is a very special tree. And they were like, yes. Special. Yes, of course. I said, you can make lemonade out of this tree. lemonade. And they were like lemonade. I said, Yes, lemonade. He can make jam. He can make jelly. They can make even make champagne out of the flowers, you can make syrup. And they were like, No, I said, Yes. So you just broke off a large, large chunk of it. I said, we need to make sure that how this is broken up, it will make the tree die because you broke it off. And I said, I will get a shot. And I will teach you how to show it off properly. And I will teach you how to make jam. So I ran ran up. And I thought when I'm down there, those kids who will be running away, and they will not be there anymore. Because I just told them off. So very, very much in the beginning, I thought I scared them all. And I came down with with two types of sores and and then there were more children. And I said, Okay, who has ever worked with a saw no one, no one, I said, Okay, I'm going to teach you how to work with the soul properly. And then a group of children got really empowered to solve down the broken piece. So we've got a smooth surface. And I said, Okay, we need to break it down into smaller pieces, the branch that you took off. So they started doing that. And they were having fun, they were doing a group thing. And I gave an assignment to the other children by writing a letter to the to the person who was doing the maintenance of this plot. I'm sorry, but someone broke off the branch and we are going to fix it. And when it was all done, so it was all the small branches. Were somewhere in the bushes to become compost and all those kind of things. And everything was looking neat. And it was all good. The children just stood there staring at me. And I said, Okay, we just fix it now. And they were like, Yeah, but when can we make jam? And when can we you know what? I said? Yes, that's good out in the summer. And they were like, yes. Oh, this is great. And then you turn something around, because you make them curious, you take what interests them into why they should protect something. And that is so powerful, because those children, I could just tell them off and just shout at them and say, You shouldn't be doing that. And they would run off. And that's it. And, yeah, when you make it into something they can learn from they learned how to saw they were very really, really proud of themselves. Like, wow, do you look at how thick this branch was? And I, I cut it and then said, Okay, now you teach it to the younger one, you know, how should he be doing that safely? And then you become more of a group and it wasn't shouting to each other anymore. It was really helping each other. So the whole energy can be different. Absolutely. lovely story. Yeah, yeah, it's really and it really is true, because it really hasn't been.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Did you also make the gem in the end? Ah, no,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

no, because I moved

 

Saskia de Feijter 

out of this memory. I mean, I'm sure I would definitely have remembered that that happened in my life when I was a kid. So like the attention from a stranger and teaching you things that's really special. So yeah, lots of karma points for you.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I think that if people approach each other in a more positive way even even when things happen because they're that a lot of shit things happen to us to each other, you know, you see things happening and which are not nice and sometimes I'm also I don't want to be confronted with it or something. I'm not always a perfect person, but in a lot of ways you can make so much difference for yourself also that it makes the world a little bit more positive for yourself.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Mostly think there's a nice saying that about lemonade, right? Oh, yeah,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

yeah.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

If life hands you lemons, If life hands you an elderflower tree, make them yeah. make lemonade. Yeah, yeah. And talking about teaching, we talked about your hands, your wood carving, but you are also a teacher in many ways. Are you not? Yeah, yeah.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I currently am painting teacher for people with aphasia. So those are people who had like a stroke or who had an accident, which made them have brain damage to which they cannot communicate really well anymore. So for those people, I teach painting lessons and creativity lessons, so they can express themselves in a different way. So that is one thing I do. And I started illustrating a lot more. And I really had a long time of teaching a lot of workshops. Yeah, what not? I have done a lot.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Yeah, I we have so many fun workshops planned before COVID happens. And who knows what happens in the future. But I'm so curious. Who are your teachers? Who did you learn all these skills from?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

My husband? The wood carving, I had a wonderful teacher, which taught me the basics at the Art Academy, and that young harmsen but I'm not sure but he is a wonderful man. And he still teaches wood carving. So that's really nice. I, I was privileged to be taught the basics of wood carving, and the rest I really did myself actually. And painting. Yes, my, my mother can paint very beautifully. So I I did get it a little bit from home. And yeah, cuz you Your dad is also connected to nature. Yes. My father had the profession of three surgeon. So he, he worked for the municipality of Georgia for a long time where he was like the tree surgeon of the city. And so that was his job. He and my mother both share a big plot of land where they grow their own vegetables, they still do. And yeah, they they really got me fascinated with nature in a young age. So that's where that came from. My father is also very creative in writing, and he has a large imagination. And my mother has textile crafts and my sisters, he writes a lot. So yeah, we have quite creative, a versatile family.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

That's a lot of creative soil to grow up on. So there's kind of no way for you to get around that. And now you're transforming your home. Also, the place where you live is not in an apartment in the city anymore. But you are building a house yourself, right?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, we've we've bought a plot of land, which is actually just agricultural land, and we had to prepare it for buildings. So we didn't really buy a plot that was ready for building. But we really started from scratch. So we live next to a mirror, which is a city in the Netherlands in one of the youngest provinces, flavor lands, which is regained from the sea, which is also very amazing. And there is a plot of land, an area which is an experiment in the Netherlands, so you can build whatever you like. But you need to comply to a few game rules, as they call it. They call it Stutzman bow, which is city agricultural agriculture. So it really focuses on families and small communities and individuals who love to grow vegetables, and to knit off the land and to have sheep and to build their own house. So this whole area is filled with people just like us. And, yeah, so we bought a flat plot of land here, and we decided to start it. And that was around, I think five years ago.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Big endeavor, isn't it?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah. And yeah, we got some setbacks. So we are a little bit longer on this road than the average person doing this project. But we're still here. We're still together and we're still doing this. And we're happy with chickens. With chickens. Yes. And your own vegetables and flowers? Yes, yes. Definitely. Yeah. And a little

 

Saskia de Feijter 

going to be so beautiful. I visited Vika. How long ago, a year, a year and a half ago. It's an amazing place and it's so not Dutch because Dutch people Like things in order. And they're really nice houses there. It's it's not like Christiania, or like in Copenhagen where everything is built from pieces of wood that you had left over or anything, that it's actually really nice buildings. But a lot of people with different ideas. So it's the future. And not everything is straights. And like the plots of land and the houses are, I don't know, it feels like they're sprinkled on more than laden lines. And I loved it, even though it wasn't definitely nowhere near finished. But I could see where this was going. The vibe, there was so nice. And I'm I'm thinking most of the building that people are doing there, including yourselves, you probably make conscious decisions about everything, right? Well, yeah.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

What is possible within our budget? And what is possible within the rules, of course, because when you are doing this for so, so long, five years, and the money is, is going downhill quickly. Building is a is a very expensive thing. Even if you do a lot of things yourself. It's like you never know how much it's going to cost eventually. That's a big thing. Yeah, a lot of things are very conscious decisions. Yes,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I remember, do you have walls that are filled with? What was it something?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yes, they are made with hempcrete, which is a combination of hemp fibers with non chocolate lime. And mixed with water, when you mix it with a certain amount of this uncertain mindset, then you get the perfect mix, which is stomped into a forum or just found it so it really comes back, then it hardens out and it becomes lightweight, and environmentally friendly. concrete. And it and it keeps breathing because of the crappier workings of the stems of the water is still transported from one side to the other, and heat also. And also in the summer. It is very hot outside during the day, it doesn't really go into your houses quickly because we have thick walls made from these hempcrete walls. And so a lot of the heat from outside stays outside during the day. But when it cools down, then the heat travels inside. So when it cools down, then you have a better climate inside. And it also works the same with moisture, lack of moisture in the summer. transport it really is a beautiful material.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

There's lots of things you can do with him. Right, like, knit with it, you can build walls with it. And obviously all the other things and suppressing like a joke. And I'm just not gonna make it because it's the type of joke. I was wondering if you if you will sleep better?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Oh, yeah, well, it smells a little bit now because it's still drying. Um,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I wanted to talk to you because you are a big example of a person that lives a holistic lifestyle connected to nature. So the building of your house, the job that you have the the artist in you, everything feels like connected. What would you say is your main focus right now? for work?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, for work, the main thing now is that I have quit wood carving that's off the table completely. And many people will be like, no. Okay, let's start with

 

Saskia de Feijter 

let's start with that.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, why is it off the table? Why? Well, let me tell you, I stopped because I became a slave of my own ideas. And a lot of people will say, well, then you just have to scale up and you have to hire people to do that. And why don't you want to get rich from this. That was never my intention. I never wanted to get rich from this. I started it from another point of view. I started it from fashion and other people start things from fashion but I wanted to keep my core values pure. And a lot of a lot of factors made me essentially decide to stop woodworking thing was when I carve thorns from tree into needles that you can work with. That's something very beautiful and it really is there are needles Are thorns from the woods next to my house, so that's beautiful. But I sold most of them to people abroad and abroad abroad. So America, Australia is another thing, you name it, I sold it. And I would send it there. And, and it was really popular and people send me the most beautiful stories and what they did with it. And it was beautiful. But it was almost the opposite of what I was doing. So I would take a thorn from that bush next to my house, I would carve it into a needle. And then I would pack it and photograph it, I would place it on a website, and I would send it across the world to do something with it. And then I thought, okay, yeah, the demand was high. It grew very fast. And eventually I couldn't, I did a shop update for Etsy, for example. And then I would be sold out within 24 hours, everything was so loud, which was which I would carve  for a month, or something. Yeah, months of work, you get it sold out in 24 hours, and people would would say, Wow, that's amazing. And the first three times that that happened, I really felt, yes, this is amazing. This is so beautiful. My message gets across, it's beautiful. But then it really became demanding, too, you know, it's quite daunting to see everything disappear, that you just took hours and hours and hours to make.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Can I ask, how long would it take to make a needle?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Well, it's very difficult to know.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I know it's a shitty question, because it depends on a lot of things. But let me rephrase that. Let me ask you, if you sell out, like a month of work within 24 hours, were you able to earn a month's income?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

No. No, that's the difficult thing. Because when you make something with your hands, it's very difficult to put a price on it, which is something realistic, because how much will people pay for a needle? And how much do I want them to pay for needles, because I wanted to convey the beauty of nature to everyone. And I wanted people to see in such a way to be a part of the story. So that's why I chose to keep the costs low. I did raise the price a little bit by a little bit. But then I came across like a border, which I thought well, this is something that I wouldn't want to ask for. You know, it's like

 

Saskia de Feijter 

it's so hard. I once sent once skein of what's the word, linen to the exact opposite of the world's where I am like New Caledonia. It was crazy. Like, don't they have it there? It was, and I think it was the brand that was the factor. And you have become a brand as well. Right?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah. Yeah. How did you feel? They weren't Yeah, I don't know. Actually, it was at first, it felt really nice to be able to be successful at something to be like the person to go to for something like that. And it was beautiful, because my message was coming across, and people were really positive. And the demand grew and grew and grew. And that was beautiful. But in the end, I want to convey something and and once told you that, eventuially it felt like I was pointing at the moon, trying to, to bring people to see and feel that you can transform your own natural environment. This is something you can use on a daily basis with just your hands and a mountain or something. It's so innately human. And I thought that I was conveying that message. But eventually I realized that I felt like I was pointing with my finger to the moon. And everyone was looking at my finger. Yes. And they didn't grasp the concept of what the moon was. So I thought, why don't I start teaching? or Why won't I start writing a book about it about the thought behind it? I was so in between what to do because I had a whole whole bunch of people following me for the right reasons because I had something I wanted to share and people wanted to listen They were prepared to pay money for it. But I wanted to keep it pure,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I don't know how to explain it, it's really hard to explain it's like it's your pulled in all kinds of directions. If you're a mix, if you're an artist that wants to make a living from what you do, it's one of the hardest places to be in. And when you're in crafts even more, if you do manual labor, in arts and crafts, that's usually a very long process. And the hours are very hard to get to get paid according to what you do. And then the whole idea behind it and the concept, and it's layers upon layers upon layers. And I'm now talking from my perspective, at a certain point here, like this story, can I maybe not keep it at just a story and talk to people about the thing that I want to teach them, instead of also offering them? This, in my case, hand dyed local yarn. The thing is, you you really want to do well. But there's so many layers, and at a certain point, you have to also take care of yourself and your business and, and make decisions. And I think you made a very, very brave decision, because you were you had such a great and still do great name, you are such a talented maker, and you still decided this is not my path. I'm going to take a little a turn. Yeah. And it's a brave and really hard thing to do. And, yeah, I really applaud you for it. Because you you are staying true to your core values. And the story is the same, but you're using other tools.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, yeah. And I think, I think it's, it's very easy. Once you have success in this world, where social media and where you constantly can get attention or validation for your work. Once you become successful, it's very easy to try to stay there, try to keep it because we all learn that the only way is up, you need to grow, you need to go up, you need to go further on with the same thing that that made you successful.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Our past is we talk about growing by going smaller. So what I mean by that is also there, is it growing your soul by going smaller as a business? Or can you grow your business by going smaller and offering less things or to a smaller group? Or there's different ways you can look at it. Do you think it's it's doable? Do you have examples of makers that you think are really successful in what they're doing while still maintaining their core values? When it comes to like, respect for animals, nature, people, the environment? Is there any one that you would say? I think they're doing a great job.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

You are I am not saying that because you say you would hire me. But

 

Saskia de Feijter 

this is why I started the podcast. And then they could say

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

no, but I I really admire you. We were We were once we talked to each other some time ago, and I remember it very vividly. We were sitting sitting in a cafe and you are like, yes, this store feels like it's keeping me from what my real purpose is, at the time, it was a too big of a step to take to lose the store. And I say lose, but it isn't losing. It's letting go. And I thought, well, you might consider it try to keep a little space in your mind that you don't have to lock yourself in a store to be able to communicate what you need to communicate. And I think it's one of the most powerful things that people can do is to to walk the unwalked path, be a pioneer, why otherwise do things to us? Why do we need to be successful? What is the gain in it? Yes, I know that we are people that are wired to be to be wanting to be accepted to be able to fit in a group but yeah, I

 

Saskia de Feijter 

remember that. I really remember that conversation and at that time, it felt like such a big step.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

thing is that I realized also is that I really have difficulty with letting people go, because they are so nice and they are so beautiful. And what you have is so beautiful when it's even with customers, the most beautiful people connect with you because you made something that they want. But that doesn't mean that they need to stay on your path forever. And

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I think everything that we've been doing, and I think in that respect, we have similar paths. We just happen upon things we learn from it. And then we take a decision and we philosophize, a philosophize, that even a word. Sounds good. We like to think things through. And also we follow our hearts. And in the end, I'm sailing on not on the stars, but like, on what my heart tells me to, but I have to keep my eyes open. And I think there's a big, big difference between what's a hobby and what's your job. And, obviously, if there's nothing better in life than to be able to make the thing you love into your job, even though that will shift your, your feeling. But at the same time, I don't want to do another 10,12 years of pouring myself into something that's not like... it has to be sustainable as well, you know, as a living. It's It's a weird balance. It's Is it a choice choosing for what is soul fulfilling? And what is bank filling?

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

No, I don't want to think it needs to be a choice. There's always a way to, to be able to live off it. And I think it's a lot of people think those are two different things. And for some people, it is more healthy to just have a job where you can make your money and then go home and relax and do something that you love. And that's that's also something that's just as good as trying to combine those two. But I think you and me, Saskia, we are people that yes, when we do something we go so full in then you better make a living. There's nothing left of your life.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Exactly. You better get some money in return.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah. Yeah. And I think I always struggled to have a hobby, because once I had a hobby and I became good at something, then I saw something in it that I could share with others and others who would want a piece of it. Yeah,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I think this is making the compensation full circle. I think this is exactly what it's about. If If you find something that is so valuable, and I think for you to say ensure that your connection with nature. For me, that's a connection with making something and transforming something. And so you get called and and feel feel better about yourself and your mental health. These things, if you find the balance and sharing and teaching and the thing we have learned to be so important and so valuable to us. We want to share it with other people. And we're finding new ways and new tools to do so. And I'm using the podcasts and the online community and working with people in the conscious knitting club to actually work as a group to find ways to make our practice more conscious and more, more better, more better, but you are very gifted and talented in drawing. And you have such a nice story to tell. Do you want to share more or? Yeah,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, I really loved drawing and, and illustrating and I was trying to find a form for trying to convey the message the one about the moon, not literally the moon, but my fascination for nature, nature and our relationship to it. And that way, if we listen to ourselves, and we pay attention to our surroundings, our natural surroundings and then we can find something in ourselves that we will realize that we did not lost, lose anything about ourselves. We just need to loosen again to be open. So yeah, there is hopefully a book coming, but no guarantees yet

 

Saskia de Feijter 

And now and it's going to be a long process anyway. So but um, yeah, it's nice to know that you have find found a new way to tell your story and I'm hoping, hoping hoping the book will get there because I will definitely get it and get it for people in my, in my family and my friends to share with everybody. Yeah.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I shared a little bit people already Yeah. It will probably be for children. It will be in Dutch. Firstly. But yeah,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

if you want to, you can send me some pictures you want to share of the chickens and everything. And we can put them in the show notes so people can see a little bit of you and maybe your work. And do you want to share your where people can find

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

you? Yeah, they can find me on Instagram. @wietekeopmeer. And that will probably also be in show notes. And on my website; wietekeopmeer.nl. And I am not very active on social media presence. But that's conscious. Because, yeah, trying to find my story trying to live my life consciously. And that me ans not always posting about my chickens.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

How do you like people to contact you? Because I know I like a good old old fashioned postcard. I like a letter. I like an email even you can you can just say if you want to contact me about what I'm doing. send me a postcard through Saskia because I'll share my address or something, whatever. But we don't necessarily have to do the things that other people are doing right? If you I'm also thinking about like drastically, posting less on Instagram and making it into a really big thing. But then I won't find people on Instagram. I'll find them through the podcast. That's fine.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah, it for me, it comes a little bit in waves. Sometimes I feel like yes, I want to share with the world what I'm doing right now. But sometimes I'm like, Okay, I'm just here now building my house. I have to label some wires that are going through the house. Okay. I don't need to share anything right now. It's just, it's my life. And yeah, everything is good. You can send me an email, you can

 

Saskia de Feijter 

just shout really loudly.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Hey, Sup? Yo.

 

 

I just,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I just want to share this thing with you. I googled, this is so funny. I can't believe I did it. I can't believe that I'm sharing it. But I googled, can you have a business without social media? And you can and guess what, you do exactly what I did when I started working, because then we didn't have social media. So you can still do, like, do all the things we used to do. But then obviously, you know, reaching people all over the world, you reaching people that are closer to you. So it's a choice, we can make this choice, I can say My message is just for people in Rotterdam. And obviously I have to start talking another language in my podcast. But um,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

yeah. But there is a good book. I have a book tip for people who who are fascinated by doing less social media or anything. Tell me. book by Mark Boyle, and it's back home, something like that. I will look it up.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

I'll put a link. I'll put the link down there.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

Yeah. And it's about him going off grid completely. He built his own home. And he just says okay, I'm not going to use any technology for a year. And let's see how I feel about it then and wrote a book by hand about it. It's little snippets of his life and what he's doing without social media without email without a bank card without anything. Just not even running water, just the house that he built in Ireland.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

That sounds amazing. And if you think that's a little too much, then the book digital minimalism is also a good one to start then it's just then you'll learn how to like cut out a lot of your digital things. Okay,

 

 

obviously,

 

Saskia de Feijter 

the hours full I my words are gone. Thank you so much visa for sharing your life, your lifestyle, your work. You Message your everything with us. You've been very generous with your stories. And hopefully I can come visit the chickens again soon. Of course of course.

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

I'll give you some eggs when you go home. Yay.

 

Saskia de Feijter 

Thank you so much. Okay,

 

Wieteke Opmeer 

thank you. Saskia.

 

 


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