Finding Your Authentic Self with Marijn Westmijze-Steemers

Finding Your Authentic Self with Marijn Westmijze-Steemers

Thanks so much, Marijn, for taking the time to speak with us about your artistic journey! 

Could you please tell us a little bit about your personal history that led you on this particular artistic path? How did you first discover your love for getting out into nature, creating illustrations, and making dolls?

I’ve loved creating and nature for as long as I can remember. As a little girl my dream was to become a children’s book illustrator and also to be a witch - a wise woman connected to nature. I’m not so sure about the ‘wise’ part, but I do feel like I’m living my dreams now. Of course it took quite a bit of winding road to get there.

Although I was always drawing and painting as a little girl, I never wanted to go on a painters course to enhance my skills. I felt my painting abilities (style and chosen objects) were very much my own. My own space where I could be totally me and totally free, without being told what to do, how to do it. So I’ve always cherished my capability to create and I wanted to keep it ‘safe’ from outside influence. My creation flows from the source within, is very intuitive and I'm happy to have created my own imperfect but authentic style. Writing this down makes me realize this says very much about the way I'm living my life in general nowadays. ;) Although I am an autodidact, I did learn a lot from my very creative family (from whom I also inherited a huge love for nature and I guess a critical view on society).

Being a creator, a painter, seems to be part of our DNA. My parents own their own restauration atelier (restoration workshop) where they work with wood and pigments to restore Dutch heritage. My mother and brother paint in their free time, and there are many more. When I finished high school I moved to the city to attend University to study the law. I felt there was so much about the world/the system I didn’t know and I suppose I wanted to be less ‘naive’. I ended up working a full-time job and also following a postgraduate study to be able to bear even more responsibilities. There was always friction, it never really felt like ‘me’ and yet I carried on.

I painted in my spare time to really be myself. To let my creativity flow, to feel free. Painting was a way to escape. In these years I also started writing and illustrating the children's book that I now read to my daughter, how special is that! (it wasn't published though, who knows in the future...)

Years and years later, a phrase appeared in my head and in the depths within me: ‘I want to go home’ it kept saying. I lost my SELF in a life that wasn’t mine, not only my chosen profession but also running around, always feeling guilty not to be able to give enough to our daughter. I lost myself and my soul wanted to go home.

Some time later the Universe hit me – literally- on the head. I suffered a severe concussion and burn-out. And after years of using my head/mind too much I couldn’t use it at all. Which was although hard and painful, also a gift. And so the transformation began...

I am eternally grateful for that. With a lot of support from the people around me, I let go of my old life and embraced the new. After some time life’s energy/creativity started to flow again. I started creating again. Mother Earth, my guides and ancestors, the moon, the herbs, the trees, they all help me on my path. My husband truly understood my process and supported me while giving me all the room I needed to do the things that must be done. Or for that matter do absolutely nothing (which is important too!).

Our connection as a family to our healing and remembering Earth, to the sacredness of growing our own food, to other people, to living a more grounded life, to create space for rest, contemplation, meditation, to live cyclically and in gratitude fills our hearts and souls. It nourishes us. We are all our own HOME. I hope I never forget that again. Of course we have to work on the way we want to live our lives on a regular basis. It is not easy in the world today and it requires perseverance, flexibility, the ability to look at your own habits in a critical way. And to be honest... enough finances to buy biological, regional and artisanal products that are made with care and integrity.

I started making dolls for our daughter to play with. After some people [suggested] I could run my own little shop for the things I make I finally took that step. I really love making dolls to play with, for the seasonal table or the altar so I knew that was what I wanted to do. And of course make illustrations. That was the birth of Earthly Dolls.

I read about the symbolic meaning of dolls in Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés life changing book Woman Who Run With the Wolves: [The doll] “is a small and radiant copy of the original Self”. “Within the dolls there’s -in reduced form- the voice of the old La Que Sabe, She Who Knows” “This way the doll represents the inner spirit of us women; the voice of inner reason, the inner sight and inner consciousness.” This is also how I feel about dolls. Furthermore they invite you to play, to tell stories and fairytales – which are in my opinion very important things to do!

What life experiences have affected your art the most?

I think my life’s journey, my spiritual journey, my connection to my loved ones and to Mother Earth really all inspire my art. Living life is an artwork in itself and my art is an expression of how I experience that.

When did you first decide to try natural pigments, and why? Was it related to health worries, ethical issues, or eco-conscious concerns?

I first decided to try natural pigments when I was collecting natural materials for Earthly Dolls. Luckily I found Natural Earth Paint, which is perfect for me. It is all natural, has vibrant colours, is really easy to use and I really love the earthly touch it gives my work. As my work is an expression of my love for mother Earth and life itself it seems only natural to me to use beautiful natural materials to create. Also I want my dolls to be touched, felt, maybe it will be even put in the mouth by a toddler occasionally. So it should be safe.

What art supplies do you use now in your practice?

In my practice I use Natural Earth Paint, wool felt, wood, biological fabrics, ribbons, eco-friendly glue, natural oil and occasionally some gold, silver or bronze in acrylic.

How has using Natural Earth Paint supplies changed your practice?

Before I discovered Natural Earth Paint I used acrylic paint for dolls and all different kinds of colours for my personal art varying from oil paint, ecoline, acrylic paint, water colour, pencils and chalk: of course every material has a very different feel to it. Using Natural Earth Paint my work has become more earthly. It really deepens the experience of my creation process that draws so [much] inspiration from the sacredness of our natural world and my love for it. Also on a practical note it is a lot easier to use because I can store the mixed pigments away very easily to use later on. And it doesn’t have an unnatural odor so I can paint at the dining table while our 5-year old makes her own art. (we paint a lot together- she loves to mix the pigments!)

Do you have any tips for artists who want to live more connected to the earth like you do? What were the challenges you faced when you started? What made the process easier?

Know thyself. This of course is important for all humans and especially for artists. This will probably take a lifetime of dedication, practice and a whole lot of falling down and standing up again. But what else are we here for if not for living purposefully, in harmony with our light and our dark to spread the love that is... All really. Realize you ARE nature, and therefore a cyclical being. Slow down, meditate, connect to (your inner) Source/the Universe/ God/ the Goddess/ the Gods. (If you can) tend to the land like our ancestors did, celebrate life, the seasons, spread love, honour and give thanks. Feel responsible, take responsibility and work to live the life that brings you to your own nature. If we could all try this, maybe bit by bit, we could change the world. And change is what this world needs.

Where can our audience purchase your work?

Instagram: @earthly_dolls

Facebook: @earthlydolls 

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