Since my teens I wished to work with my hands, though to realize this desire would take some time. However, after meeting budding potter Jan de Rooden at my twentieth, the choice was easily made. We would continue our lives together and start a pottery studio.
In 1957 we started our first small studio. Working with clay was a joy! I was fascinated by the fact that clay, a product of disintegration from stones, rocks, mountains, could be re-created into stone but now with my shape, colour, texture and meaning.
I learnt to throw and endlessly made glaze tests. The first products arrived, thrown and the larger ones handbuilt with fine brilliant glazes.
Both of us held the view that as a potter we should have a broad basis. We therefore explored glazes for low, medium and high temperatures fired in an electric kiln.
We hitchhiked to Denmark, France and Spain, sought out potters and saw their wares in museums and on markets. Folk ceramics became our great love from then on. An important event was the exhibition "6 Amsterdamse Pottenbakkers" in Museum Boymans in Rotterdam in 1962. The fact that such an important museum had confidence in us young people was an enormous stimulus for us to continue, and welcome too because economically speaking life was not easy.
After beaker shapes, vases and bowls new rectangular shapes appeared with two or more small openings, decorated with broad engobe strokes. These rectangular shapes widen somewhat at the base like being rooted in the earth.
This being rooted became a characteristic of my oeuvre.
Looking at my work now I find it austere, rather frugal and often subtle.
In 1966 these rectangular pieces won me an important prize in Faenza, Italy. The Swedish ceramic artist/designer/factory director Stig Lindberg was one of the jury members. I wrote to him that Jan and I would love to work in the Gustavsberg Factory for some time. His invitation came by return of mail!
In Sweden I for the first time made sculptural objects built out of slabs of clay. I felt completely free to explore a new field.
In the past I had made small sculptures of people and animals for friends, but now I was doing if fulltime. I also worked on prototypes of decorated tiles and flowerstones for production in the art department of the factory.
It was great to spend the winter in Gustavsberg. I intensely enjoyed the red-white houses, the dark greenery in the snow that luckily did not always cover the beautiful moss coated boulders.
In 1967 I was invited to participate in the IInd International Ceramics Symposium in Bechyne, then Czechoslovakia.
There I continued making sculptures. In Bechyne too it was special to work and relax in a rustic environment.
I realised that though being a city dweller I immensely enjoyed living in the countryside.
The white farmhouses were intriguing. Though different from all the greenery, they still seemed rooted in the earth.
In 1969 Jan and I spent nine months in America giving lectures and workshops at many universities, art schools and art centers. During the summer break I was at work in a studio at Davis University California resulting in a most succesful exhibition.
I noticed once again that I enjoyed the challenge of working with new clays, kilns and materials in a limited period of time.
Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" was published in 1962, in the Netherlands in 1963. It was a shock. Greater still was the impact on our lives of the "The Limits to Growth" report published by the Club of Rome in 1972. It was disturbing to realize that so much had been lost as a result of human action - it is unbelievable that all this seems to be completely forgotten and we appear to have to start from scratch.
But it greatly influenced our lives. It also became a theme in my work. I made "Monument for a tree", a staircase with on top a bare little tree. Animals too started appearing in my work; a tiger threatened by extinction, birds, cats, dogs and lizards.
In 1976 we established a second studio in Morra in the north of the Netherlands. Country life suited us. The rhythm of life, nature, the land, the vegetable garden, it was a new world. We built a salt kiln and a gas kiln. New firing techniques brought new works and fresh insights.
After Morra, 1984 onwards, came a time of long travels to India. We saw a lot of this intriguing country with all its contradictions. We spent months in Pondicherry where I made works for an exhibition whilst Jan worked tirelessly on the "Fired Mudbrick House" project with Ray Meeker who had invited him to join.
In Pondicherry I made my first masks inspirerd by the wild but not so dangerous dogs that one sees everywhere in India. Other animals too starred, like the cows, birds and monkeys that later also appeared in drawings and gouaches.
In 1992 after a journey to Bali and Lombok people became important in my works. Loving couples, serene and close, dancing women, fishermen and whole families on one piece that I named "Bali". Often birds appeared on a sculpture, as a messenger or as a symbol of freedom, other times a dog as a symbol of faithfulness. Houses too, dwellings. fused to the soil from which they have been built like I have seen in so many places. Sometimes a poem or a news item was my inspiration, but often too a memory.
In 1995 I journeyed to Madagascar, a desperately poor country. It was amazing and touching to see how notwithstanding their meager existence people spent all they had to erect a grave for their loved dead.
Now and then an abstract period appeared in my work, a period of rest one could say. I am fascinated by geometric patterns in all their variety whilst realizing that so many people from different cultures have been working with the same themes.
I have made drawings for many years and monoprints and especially after India many gouaches that harmonized with the clay works. They were exhibited too, in museums, galleries and at home during the studio exhibitions that we organized once every two or three years. Sometimes in conjunction with my ceramics, sometimes with Jan's works.
In 2006 Jan de Rooden and I closed down our studio's in the coachhouse where we lived and worked since 1987.
It was a tough decision.
All those years working with clay made me happy person.