WOMEN OF NOTE:
Pien Barendregt | Pien Studios
After a stint in New York working for a fashion label, Pien Barendregt rebelled against the high paced wheel of fast fashion and moved home to begin her own label, giving a voice to enduring craftmanship with a “we knit slow” axiom. Pien started Pien Studios, a small independent brand based in Amsterdam exhibiting a gallery of woven objects in a synthesis of art and fashion.
Communicating through colours and textures, Pien finds inspiration in unlikely materials – netted fruit bags, thrifted textiles and used plastics. Limiting herself to recycled resources, Pien prospers in the challenge creating useful items that celebrate the unique and hand made. “I often hope for that little mistake that happens to make the piece more special”.
Dressed in our organic hemp cotton jersey separates in bone, Pien shares with us where her love for weaving began and how she finds comfort and balance.
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Where are you from and where are you now?
I was born and raised in a small farm town in the North of the Netherlands. At the moment I am living in Amsterdam.
Can you tell us a little about your heritage?
I grew up in a small farm town in the North of the Netherlands, in a forest with my mom and dad. They still live in the same house, and as I get older, I love going there because it feels like a little escape from the city life in Amsterdam. As a child I only played outside, building tree houses with my neighbors. We pretended the whole forest was our backyard, so we could be away for hours without our parents stressing about where we were. Everything felt very free.
Do you prefer mornings or evenings?
For me this changes during summer and winter. Winters in the Netherlands are quite dark, it takes a while before the sun comes up, and it goes down early again. Waking up in the winter is quite difficult for me. The summers here are the opposite. I love to wake up early and to be outside with my dog before the city wakes up. During those hours (and only then), Amsterdam feels so much like a village.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I wash my face with cold water and put on some comfy clothes and clogs, and walk my dog. During the walk, I often treat myself with a coffee, a croissant and some fresh flowers which I get somewhere on the way.
Can you describe where you live and the view from your bedroom?
I’m living in a very old, typical Amsterdam house, with steep stairs that lead to my apartment on the 3rd, 4th and 5th floor. I sleep on the top floor, which feels like an old school attic with wooden beams. I can just fit under the beams, but some of my taller friends (the Dutch tend to be quite tall) have to bend while walking around. It feels perfect for my bedroom. When I look out of my window, I see the small street I am living in with the typical Amsterdam facades. The house I am living in is located in the city center, but in a very small street with only residential housing and therefore it stays very quiet.
You create beautiful objects through knitting and weaving. What drew you to working with these
In school I started to discover and develop my own creative identity. I realized I was better at explaining concepts by using materials instead of using words. I have never felt confident in text, but I do when it comes to materials. They say so much - they give a feeling when you touch them, a color can bring you in a certain mood. It became my way of ‘’expressing myself’’. First it started with finding beautiful fabrics in thrift and antique stores or collecting materials from food packaging such as netted fruit bags. At some point I wanted to start making my own. Having a little hand weaving loom at home for me, is what reading a book means for others. I bring it on holidays, it calms my mind, and I often start weaving very intuitively. While I like to coordinate a nice combination of yarns, I often hope for that little mistake that happens to make the piece more special.
Where did knitting begin for you?
The mother of a friend of mine taught me how to knit while I was living in New York. She gave me my first knitting needles and some beautiful yarn for Christmas to make my own hat. The yarn was from the store ’Purl Soho’ in New York, a must go if you’re into yarns.
Once I got the basics, I couldn’t stop exploring new techniques and playing with any kind of material, especially material which isn’t necessarily made for knitting. I love to find ways to make knitting feel less tradition, to give it a surprising effect. Like adding big beads for example, or using plastic or ultra thick yarns.
You studied at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and worked in fashion in New York City. Can you
explain your love for fashion and textiles?
I find it difficult to be in an industry which is one of the most polluting industries in the world. However, fashion is so much more than just pieces of clothes. It’s the way you can express yourself, and express your style, your personality even. In a city like Amsterdam, people aren’t the most outgoing in the way they look. Especially not when comparing it to New York or Paris for example. I like to create bold pieces, which can work as an eye catcher to finalize your outfit. Like mentioned earlier, I feel more comfortable expressing myself with materials than with words. With everything I do, I strive to work with the most sustainable products and production process there is.
As an artist who creates wearable pieces, what is your approach to dressing?
To be honest, I can be a very boring dresser. Since my work is very much with my hands, and often I also get myself dirty when I experiment with new materials, I dress very basic. Usually dark jeans with a grey or navy sweater, white t-shirts and clogs. The only thing I try to be a bit fun with are some colorful or lace socks. My work is way more colorful than the way I dress myself. However, I do like a twist, something surprising, maybe that's why I like to add a bag that is wearable and tunes up my whole outfit. I want to make things that people can use.
Who, what or where do you turn to for inspiration?
My friends are my biggest inspiration. We all work within the creative industry and most of us have our own (small) business growing at the moment. We complement and help each other and brainstorm together. Sometimes one of my friends comes over for what we call a day of ‘’playing’’ wherein she’s actually helping me with some art direction. However, we leave a lot of room for experimenting and spontaneous ideas.
What is your approach to choosing materials, and what materials bring you the most joy?
I always make sure it’s at least a sustainable solution, either second hand, recycled or organic. For my weaves I find most of the yarn in thrift shops. Having a small amount of one color creates limitations. By having limited options, I challenge myself to create something exciting.
What does a day in your studio look like at the moment?
It’s a combination of working on the bags and making time to “play’’. The latter is the hardest, since the bags have become the foundation of the brand. They are the reason why I can keep doing the other things, but they ask for a lot of time. It can be challenging being my own boss, managing the women who help with the knitting, and knitting myself. Sometimes it takes me a while before I actually make time to create/play again. The epiphany can for example come from finding an amazing material that sparks my brain (in Dutch: “gives me ‘prikkels’”) for new ideas.
How would you describe your creative process?
I always start with the material, and see what kind of structure or texture can be made with it. Once a kind of textile is developed, I try to envision what the product could become. I have a lot of small pieces of textile laying around in my studio. Often when friends come over, they start playing with or using the materials in a certain way, which gives them a purpose which I perhaps didn’t think of myself. This can give me a lot of inspiration for new ideas, like the wooden beaded coasters for example. Most people probably work the other way around.
What does the future hold for Pien Studios?
I hope to be working with many beautiful people who carry a lot of knowledge in the craftsmanship of textile design. The dream is to have my own knitting and weaving studio and team, with traditional knowledge, but with an experimental approach. I hope to keep creating my own products, but at the same time doing collaborations with other brands.
Has there been a significant moment of your past that has informed where you are today?
During the year I lived in New York City, I worked for a small fashion label, which gave me a lot of confidence in myself as a creative. While I was living there, I also spent a lot of time upstate New York in the house of friends of mine. The combination of being in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and being in a very remote place in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful nature, gave me inspiration on how to live my professional and personal life.
Three words that describe you.
Playful, intuitive and a little bit impulsive.
What is your approach to dressing each day and what is your go-to attire?
My clogs, white socks, jeans and a big wool sweater or a cotton hoodie. I dress quite boyish, but I do have a few ‘extra’ items in the closet, since I love to dress up for a party or dinner with my friends.
When you have downtime, where do you spend it and what do you do there?
Amsterdam is a city that never gets boring. I love to walk around, go to the farmers market and do my grocery shopping there. A long day of walking usually ends at one of the many brown bars for a beer and ‘bitterballen’. On a rainy Sunday (which happens quite often in the Netherlands) I love to watch a good movie or an exciting show with my friends on the couch with tea and a lot of good snacks.
What are you reading, watching, or listening to?
So often I wish I was a reader. The only thing I crave reading every year (it comes out once a year) is the magazine Vestoj. Vestoj examines people’s relationship to their clothes and fashion’s relationship to identity. The team behind Vestoj expresses complex ideas in a straightforward manner, and shows that fashion is not only about objects, but rather a mindset and approach to identity, culture and life. The last issue is called ‘on doubts’, and I would highly recommend reading it, even if you aren’t working within the fashion industry.
Do you have a favourite recipe on rotation you could share with us?
YES! It’s called Pissaladiere, it’s a French onion tart with ansjovis and black olives. The trick is to make it with Filo dough instead of normal pizza dough. My friend Maxime, who always inspires me in the kitchen, has introduced me to this dish, and since then it’s my go to on the weekend with just a fresh salad on the side. Another new fave dish, introduced by my friend Liv, is Rigatoni pasta with pumpkin and burrata from Frederike Bille Brahe.
How do you find comfort?
Comfort is for me something that depends so much on the state of mind. Sometimes I get stressed out because I feel like I am too much in my comfort zone. It can feel like I am standing still in life. Therefore I need to push myself to try out new things. When I find myself experimenting and playing with new materials, I immediately feel more relaxed and comfortable. As being creative is such a big part of my life, that’s where I find comfort.
When do you feel most yourself?
When I’m in upstate New York, surrounded by beautiful nature, in the house of my friends where it feels like the time has stood still for over a 100 years. Where we boil water on the woodstove, and barely have service with our phones. When I’m there, I feel so free and more in touch with nature but also more inspired to create. In the village nearby, there are a lot of antique and thrift shops and many yard sales. I found a lot of secondhand beads there, which inspired me to make new creations.
What brings you joy?
During springtime, I spent time at the farm near my parents house, hanging in the field with little lambs on my lap. There is something with animals that I actually only discovered a few years ago. They ground me. They make life simple and they bring me back to the essence. I therefore see myself living out in nature with a few goats and dogs sometime in the future. :)
How do you stay grounded?
By finding balance in social life and me-time, by balancing nature with the city. It’s hard sometimes, especially the me-time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it’s hard these days with so many people doing amazing things, which leads to inspiration but sometimes it can also feel like a competition.
For me, having a cold room, a heavy duvet and freshly washed sheets is one of my favorite things ever. The whole day, I can look forward to getting into my bed, putting on my soft silk sleeping mask and snuggling into the duvet like a little burrito. I recently bought a very simple but beautiful nightgown in a lace store in Belgium, which honestly makes going to bed even more fun. Since I have my dog Tako, I have to go for an evening walk before going to bed. After the walk I try not to be on my phone anymore to keep my mind at ease.
What do you dream of while you sleep?
All the things I want to do in life, the things I haven’t done yet. And about my loved ones.