Studio Visit

Pia Jane Bijkerk

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
29th of April 2011

Pages from Pia Jane Bijkerk's new book 'My Heart Wanders' - launching today!
Editorial styling and photography by Pia Jane Bijkerk
Editorial styling and photography by Pia Jane Bijkerk
Pia Jane Bijkerk, photographed by Olga Bennett

Pia Jane Bijkerk, is, I'm sure you'll agree, blog royalty.   The phrase 'cult following' is much overused these days I must admit, but I don't think it is any exaggeration here!  Pia's beautiful blog it is just tooooo delicious for words, and I am sure a large part of its immense appeal is the vicarious thrill of following Pia's personal journey from Sydney to a brand new life in Europe.  For the past 4 years, Pia's blog has documented her creative escapades living in Paris, then moving to a houseboat in Amsterdam (amazing!) - and very recently her loyal readers have followed her all the way home to Sydney, where Pia has decided to re-settle (for the time being anyway!).

But Pia isn't just a blogger.  She is seriously multi-skilled!  Pia is a published photographer, stylist and writer - with three books to her name.  In actual fact, TODAY marks the launch of Pia's much anticipated third book, 'My Heart Wanders'.  Whilst her previous books 'Paris : Made by Hand' and 'Amsterdam : Made by Hand' shared Pia's hidden secrets discovered whilst living in Europe, the new book is particularly special - and a little more personal.  Pia shares the journey and inspiration which led her to leave Sydney behind in the first place, following her heart to Paris, then Amsterdam with little forward planning - 'It seems magical when you look back and realise how certain events and occurrences lead you to where you are today, non?' says Pia!  'Back then, if someone had said to me that I would end up living on a houseboat in Amsterdam, with a French man, and be asked to write a book about it, I would have said “you’ve lost your marbles!”

If you, too, have followed Pia's blog from afar and wondered about this wide-eyed, creative Australian girl living so far from home... you may be excited to learn that you can MEET PIA THIS WEEKEND in Melbourne, because she'll be chatting to visitors and signing copies of her new book at Magnolia Square in Malvern TOMORROW!  OMIGOD I think there might be a stampede :)

Pia Jane Bijkerk at Magnolia Square! From 12 midday, Saturday April 30th. (Tomorrow!)

Malvern Town Hall Corner Malvern and Glenferrie rds Malvern

Pia is also having many appearances to promote her book Australia-wide - Sydney-siders MAY still be able to get in to see Pia TONIGHT at Ariel Books in Sydney (RSVP essential - info here), and next Saturday May 7th there is a Brisbane event hosted by Pia's good friend Kylie of Paper Boat Press (again you must RSVP - info here).

Pia's new book!  (More images here)

You can see more of Pia's work on her blog and brand new folio site.  Both should be bookmarked!  Huge thanks to Pia for her thoughtful responses below, offering a very special insight into her magical world... I hope to meet her tomorrow!

You’re a stylist, photographer, and you also have three published books to your name! Tell me a little about your background – what path led to styling originally, and how did the opportunity arise to publish your three beautiful books?

A very innocent conversation with a friend about 8 years ago led me straight into a career in styling: we were sitting on the end of a wharf in Sydney, enjoying some lunch and sunshine, chatting about life. I had just closed my homewares boutique after 4 years, and was pondering what to do next. My friend said “you should be a stylist” and I said, “a stylist, hmm, what’s that?” After a bit of research, lots of work experience and assistant styling jobs, I became a freelance interior and still life stylist.

As for the books, that came much later when I decided to start a blog. I loved the idea of being able to share my inspiration and work online in such an instantaneous way. One of the things I photographed and wrote about often was my love of handmade, and the amazing artisans and handmade boutiques in the backstreets of Paris (where I was living at the time). Not long after I began the blog, I was contacted by Angela, the publisher at The Little Bookroom in New York, who asked if I'd be interested to write and photograph a book about my finds. That became my first book, Paris: Made by Hand. Then came Amsterdam: Made by Hand. My third book, My Heart Wanders (which is released today) is published by Murdoch Books here in Sydney, and that connection happened in much the same way as the first. Yes, for those who want to be authors, I highly recommend starting a blog!

Pia's previous books 'Paris : Made by Hand' and 'Amsterdam : Made by Hand'
Pagespread from 'Amsterdam : Made by Hand' - oh my I want to visit this shop!

You’ve worked for some incredible magazines and clients in recent years – what has been one of your favourite shoots or clients?

When I returned to Sydney in February of this year, I was asked by Country Style editor Victoria Carey if I’d be interested to write a piece for their next issue about how inspired I’ve been personally Australian artist Greg Hyde’s home in Bathurst, and how a visit to his home was one of the key steps which lead me to follow my wandering heart overseas. Of course, my answer was “I’d love to”. The catch was that the issue deadline was only days away. Somehow it all came together, and before I knew it, photographer Sharyn Cairns and I were driving to Bathurst at 5am on a foggy Wednesday morning, headed for Greg’s home. It was wonderful to see Greg and his family again, and to once again be inspired by his gorgeous artwork and heart-filled home. After spending the day shooting Greg’s home, Sharyn and I drove to another great location in the countryside and shot and styled some more (of which all will be revealed in an upcoming issue of Country Style). Although an exhausting 2 days, the nature was amazing, the people were lovely, and we saw lots of wildlife including kangaroos – I thought, what a fabulous ‘welcome back’ to Australia! It was one of my favourite shoots for sure.

Four years ago you made the move from Sydney to Paris and Amsterdam… an incredible leap of faith, which has inspired your new book ‘My Heart Wanders’. What were the biggest challenges you faced after leaving Sydney to start a new life in Europe?

There were so many challenges - from dealing with cultural differences to recognising personal expectations. All of which I explore and discuss in My Heart Wanders. It was a wild adventure with lots of unknowns, but wonderfully exhilarating all the while.

Just last month you made another big move – returning to Sydney! It must have been very sad to say goodbye to your houseboat :( How has it been settling back in to life in Australia?

It was not sad leaving the boat, but it was sad to say goodbye to my friends. I made some wonderful friends while living in Amsterdam, and they are certainly what made me feel so at home over there. Our little green houseboat was an incredible place to live, but it was small, and we knew at some point we would need to move into a bigger place. For a while we knew that time was coming, we just didn’t know where and when. And here we are now, on the other side of the world. Settling into Sydney has been quite surreal – for the first two months it felt like we were just here for our annual ‘holiday’, but then once we found a house and moved in (just a month ago now), and all our boxes arrived from Amsterdam, then it started to sink in that this is now home.

Your beautiful blog has gathered a huge following and has become a window into your world for so many readers! I imagine also it has become an invaluable tool to promote your books and other creative projects! When did you first start your blog and did you ever expect it to gain the following it has today?

I started my blog a few years ago and no, I had no idea it would gain such a following. It has been amazing fun sharing my inspiration and work with people all over the world, and I love that I can take people with me when I travel or find new little shops and artisans wherever I happen to be.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Every day for me is so different, and depends largely on what project I am working on and in what capacity. Right now I am in the midst of book events, and am designing window displays for bookstores around Sydney and in Melbourne for my ‘wandering window display’ concept, to celebrate the release of My Heart Wanders. I get up, walk into my studio, check emails, and start drawing up plans and calling suppliers for props. Yesterday I spent the day with my friend and fellow stylist Jenni Booth, making paper flowers and paper props for the displays. Each day is unique!

Pia documents the amazing window displays she creates to launch each of her books!  Here is a beautiful window for 'Amsterdam : Made by Hand'

Where do you turn for creative inspiration when beginning a new creative project – books, blogs, magazines, travel, friends and family…?

Nature – all I have to do is go for a walk in the bush, forest, or along the beach or local park, and I come back energised and full of ideas, perhaps with a piece of bark or twig in hand. Then I might flick through some of my favourite photographic books, click on my blogroll, or look through a magazine or two – there is inspiration everywhere. But if I look at too much I get overwhelmed and my thoughts get muddled. I think there is a fine line, because I find that if you spend too much time ‘looking’ for inspiration, then you never end up creating anything.

Which other artists / designers / creative people do you admire?

So many, I wouldn’t even know where to start and where to end. I have an admiration for pretty much everyone I come into contact with - there is a story behind every face and every smile.

Still life styled and photographed by Pia

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

I love dreaming up, writing, and photographing books, so if I could keep doing so, then I’d be happy.

What are you looking forward to?

Feeling settled in Sydney -we’ve only been back for a few months, so perhaps I’m being a bit impatient. But yes, it would be great to feel settled.

Sydney / Amsterdam / Paris Questions

If you had to choose just ONE for each city, what would be your single favourite shop to visit in Sydney, in Paris and in Amsterdam?

For me, that’s a super difficult question – there is honestly not one shop I love, but several, which is why I wrote books about them all. But, if we reworked the questions to say, “If you were in Paris, Sydney, or Amsterdam for only 6 hours, which one shop would you go to?”, then I’d answer something like:

SydneyDoug Up on Bourke ParisAstier de Villate AmsterdamVivian Hann

Where was the last delicious meal you ate in...

SydneyLa Grande Bouffe, Rozelle. ParisCafé Louis Philippe, 4th arrondisment. AmsterdamPont 13 with my friend Leslie.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning, in...

Sydney – enjoying tea and toast, at home. Paris – tea and pain au chocolat, at home. Amsterdam – tea and coddled eggs, at home on the houseboat.

The best kept secret in...

Sydney – I’m just rediscovering the city now, I’ll let you know in a few months time! Paris – la rue des vinaigriers, 10th arrondisment: full of restaurants and artisans, right next to the canal st. martin. Amsterdam – frans halstraat in de pijp – it’s a beautiful leafy street filled with lots of fabulous restaurants.

Beautiful photos of Pia's European life!  These shots by Pia, taken from her blog.

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