New Beginnings

And here it is, a new beginning. 

My big draw in life since very young has always been freedom. The freedom of space, of exploring, of nature. The freedom of dreaming, and believing in myself, not being led by anybody, and growing on my own terms. It took me to Argentina, where I lived for some time. The vastness of the Pampas and the everchanging skies inspired me with their colours and textures. The traditional lifestyle of the gauchos and the roots of the tango deepened my interest in history and heritage. I came back to Belgium with an open mind and an open heart, and the conviction that the world was my oyster. 

In the years that followed I carefully began to mould my adult life and professional career, unrestricted by expectations and with a boundless zest for life and entrepreneurship. I took my first steps in creating interiors for others, sourcing unique pieces, learning about art, antiques and craftsmanship. I opened up a small concept store in the city centre of Ghent, Belgium, and traded all over Europe in vintage furniture and antiques. Times were fun, exciting and a bit wild as well.

But slowly, after a few years, I started to feel restless, and I felt the need to return to nature. City life was consuming me. I needed to breathe the fresh air of crisp dewy mornings, to be still and to listen to the birds, the rustle of the leaves in the trees. To be inspired by its complex forms, structures and colours. It was time for change and I started to prepare for a move to southern Europe.

Meanwhile I travelled to Africa. I had never been there and had always been attracted by the wildness of it, and the romance of safari and bygone days. During these travels, by fortunate luck  (if that even exists at all), I met a Dutch farmer on the slopes of the Kilimanjaro. We fell madly in love and within that year I moved to Africa, Tanzania was my new home. We lived in the bush, deep in Maasai land, farming life was romantic and tough at the same time.

Wanting to create a nice home, and with no options of ready-made furniture or decoration in Tanzania, I began making my own pieces, with very little resources and a local craftsman. I enjoyed the process of creating, working with what nature had to offer, challenging the contours of restriction, and bending them out of limitation. 

Soon, the word got round and orders came pouring in. Artisan Interiors was born.

Over the next years I gathered a dedicated team of craftsmen, carpenters, welders, weavers and carvers, whom I trained and guided to create bespoke furniture and interiors. I threw myself into extremely challenging projects in the bush, everything from construction to finishing, from custom-made sofas to the handwoven rugs on the floor. We were a golden team. The marriage of their skills and my creativity was boundless, the opportunities limitless. But it also required a lot of work, demanded incredible patience and at times, risks were taken. Times were often challenging, but I felt very free in creating, close to this wild and raw beauty of the country.

Africa, it`s land that you learn to love very slowly. You begin to understand its people, its rhythm, its rains,… the freedom, and the solitude. But once you grasp an understanding of her, you start to love her. They say nothing good comes easy, and I believe that to be true. You do not grow on a secure path. In order to conquer something in life, you need to be there, at the edge of uncertainty.

And so the road leads me to a new adventure:                Artisan Traders.
This urge to share the African beauty, the traditional craftsmanship, the story woven into each basket and sung through each braided rug. A hope, that a story from a far-off place may find safe harbour in your homes.

Thank you, for sharing this journey with me.


1 comment

  • Nadine Vanmanshoven

    Afrika aan de Noordzee in ODK , Oostduinkerke. ‘22
    What a treasure to meet Jolien here , with her collection of handmade artisanal goods , baskets, bracelets, bags and a sunny smile. It makes you longing for faraway places , traveling and freedom so in attendance of traveling , I bought a few pieces and wear them with a smile . Thanks Joline .

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