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Bead artist  Anja Schlotman
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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
                                                                                        Henry David Thoreau

That is the quote which often guided me to where I am today.

My name is Anja Schlotman. First before continuing on, I would like to thank Mrs. Zoya Gutina (who's work I greatly admire and respect) for asking me to write about my life. Zoya may be sorry as like with everything else I do, once I start, I tend to keep going. So here it is, almost four pages long written text about why I do what I do for those of you who are interested. I will try to answer a few of the questions I often receive while teaching classes. I usually do not share too much about my personal life as I try to get as much work done as we can in class. So now is the time for some of you to get to know me a little better.

My life had become complicated (yes, that word will return later). Our daughter married and moved to Canada. Some of my dearest friends lived in Europe and yet my life was here in California, US. How could I ever connect those points? I was directing the tourist office for the active San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and leading a special team of seven part time employees. I learned a lot and liked my work but something was missing.

I was not going confidently in the direction of my dreams and I knew it. It was time to do some serious soul searching and make the necessary changes. In 2007 I decided to travel for two months to Europe by myself. A dear Dutch friend took me to Paris where we visited the Rodin museum. Right there in the gardens I finally made up my mind.

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
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I still remember staring at "The Thinker", thinking about how Rodin was able to carve the marble into the shapes he envisioned, "If Rodin can manage to change the shape of that marble, I should be able to manage to change the direction of my life." No idea why that thought crossed my mind but it did and that day I started my brand-new journey. I had just discovered seed beads. I loved those little sparkly glass objects.

Upon my return to California I decided to start designing. That summer I was fortunate enough to meet Huib Petersen. Huib took me on as his apprentice and the rest is history. His generosity helped me find my way. I finished my first workshop design "Night Time in Jerusalem" on January 21, 2008. The beads got a serious hold of me. Now they pretty much direct my life as strange as that may sound, and yes, they do talk to me too.

I am fascinated by the fact that I can now say that I found that medium I was perhaps unconsciously always looking for. All of my life comes together in the projects which grow out of my heart, head and hands. I was four years young when my grandmother taught me how to crochet. I was left handed so everything took a little extra creative effort which was OK. I loved to crochet.

With my mother I cross-stitched every evening at eight o'clock during my later childhood years. In my early teens I learned how to sew. From there I tried every craft imaginable and could not wait to see something new come out. My mother also enrolled me in gymnastics at age four. I stayed committed until age twelve. I would have stayed longer but... The teacher proposed for me to join the Olympic team which she was leading in the Netherlands at the time. That was a great honor but...

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
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I was told everything else had to go. My life would totally have to be dedicated to the training. Well, after a couple of days of thinking about it, I decided that I could give up many things but not the drum corps of the local marching band. So I declined. The marching band was just hiring a new director and started to develop a great vision. We were starting to compete on a high level in the country and I was glad I remained.

I've been with them for fourteen years, even ultimately experiencing playing at the crowning of Queen Beatrix in Amsterdam in 1980. At that point our brass band had become the champion of the Netherlands. The band became my family. I have spent lots of time there and learned many life lasting lessons from the great mentors and other people around me.

During my late teen years I became a travel agent. The office I worked for also served as the local tourist office. I loved my position there and was able to travel the world. Once again I was fortunate to work under a great mentor, the owner of the travel agency who shared the business as well as his concern for a young girl traveling the world alone.

The reason I write all this here is because I am often asked, "Anja, how can you do all this? How do you come up with all these ideas working with so much detail?" Hard work and living life to the fullest would be my answer. Ever learning from those who are ahead of me and willing to guide and share experience. Staying focused and being willing besides the fun also to work hard on technique and other things which may not seem as exciting (I think for instance of constantly taking good notes while designing).

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
click to see gallery

Also not to forget those mentors as I become successful at what I do, realizing always that much of what I have and/or do came to me in some way through the lives of others. As Huib also mentioned to me before, what we do is not just encompassing the "now", it is our many years of life experiences we're giving to this. Perhaps the reason we don't connect with that is search for medium until the right moment in time is there.

You may have noticed that I did not mention much about school. It was my desire to go to an art school but that was not supported by my family. Art was a hobby, not a career. In order to get to experience more art it was therefore my desire to get through school as quickly as possible so I could go to work, earn money and travel to the many places which held my interest.

I was able to attend an evening school where I learned window decorating and worked for several businesses designing their windows on the side during the years I was working in the Netherlands. While living life and often traveling I met the most wonderful people. The world is so full of color and creativity, the different cultures out there have so much to share and give.

Yes, there is a lot of unrest as well but I still believe in all the good, I saw and experienced so much of it myself by just looking around. As I visited the many museums worldwide I became fascinated by the beauty people have given to the many handcrafted pieces now on display. I love the craftsmanship of fine jewelry. Classic designers such as Carl Faberge, Bulgari, Cartier, Lalique, just to name a few are a big part of my inspiration. My favorite periods are perhaps "Belle Epoque" and "Art Nouveau".

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
click to see gallery

Another question I am often asked is, "Anja, why did you choose jewelry, there is already so much out there..." Well, I am not sure but one thing I do know, jewelry and I have become best friends. Perhaps we are born into the situation we are born into for a reason. If there is truth to that, for me I suppose the destiny in that case may have been that I was given to a mother who worked during nine years of her life for a very kind and humble Baroness.

The Baroness became a dear friend to our family and made frequent visits to our home. So growing up, my mother often spoke of the Queen and other Royalty as the Baroness was often acquainted in one way or another with many. I was frequently shown pictures of different well known individuals and my mother would often speak of the beautiful clothing and jewelry the ladies would wear during the dinners my mother attended while working for the Baron and Baroness.

At the time I did not think much of it. It was what I grew up with pretty much on a daily basis and simply seemed part of life. Now I look back and realize that was not an average way of gathering experiences while growing up and wonder how much of it influenced me all those years. I love to visit palaces and study carefully pictures of jewelry worn by royalty connected personalities.

What is interesting is that I have come to a totally different place recently when it comes to diamonds and gold. I did resent both for many years. I grew up in the country which is largely responsible for apartheid. A very dark page in our history. I just could never believe that people could do things like that to other people and did not want to have any part in supporting that.

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
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I still do not like to buy new diamond or gemstone related jewelry knowing just too much about the mining situation. The few pieces I own are pretty much second hand bought. However what I do see now is the incredible craftsmanship of the stones and the jewelry. I greatly admire the eye for detail and hours of time often given to a single piece.

The other question I frequently receive is, "How did you get so good with color?" Well, the answer to that is, I am still learning. Color is a true art all its own. I am fascinated by it but am not a natural. I study it a lot. I tend to look a lot at paintings of my favorite artists. I once read in a book, "Color is a voice inside of us, made up of past memories." I knew for me that held truth.

At the time I read it, I had just bought my first collection of beads and sure enough, there it was. Almost all related to recent travels in the Middle-East where I was fascinated by buildings like the "Dome of the Rock" and Byzantine era decor. I should also mention that I am fascinated by the architecture of many of the old buildings all over Europe (the word Byzantine brought that to mind). I guess I am not so much directly inspired by nature. It's architecture which draws in more of my attention.

Back to my complicated designs. I think what I love to do with my beads is built. Besides the classic designers, I have also learned that often my favorite jewelry of today is created by artists living in or somehow connected with Israel. It is kind of strange but I think I understand some of it. There is a lot of detail in that work. It's also mosaic like.

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
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I should perhaps mention that my very favorite beadwork out there is created by the accomplished bead artist Maggie Meister. Those of you who are familiar with her work, will understand why I mention her name here, Maggie and the ancient mosaics are very connected. My work tends to become more and more 3D.

I was really honored when a most lovely young woman from Austria by the name of Svetlana wrote me the kindest email, complimenting me and my work. She actually gave me part of my vision. She wrote, "You are not really a bead weaver, you are more of a bead jeweler." I think of that whenever I design. The standard I look up to is definitely high-end jewelry. I hope that I can relay some of the beauty I find in those incredible pieces through my work. This leads me to stop writing a moment about me as it reminds me to never forget to be thankful.

Thankful for all the wonderful people I have known, I have read about, I do know now, my close friends, you reading this article, opportunities given (thank you Kiowa Rose, Creative Castle, Joy of Beading, Kandra's, Perlen Poesie, Hamburg's Perlen Kunst Messe and Leane Creatief for the interest in publishing my books "Beaded Treasures" and "Beaded Nostalgia"), private studios, private individuals and any other bead related event organizers as without all these experiences, my work would not exist the way it does today... I do receive many compliments but realize that a part of those compliments belongs definitely to everyone who has in one way or another contributed to my life.

The last question I will write about is "Where are you going with all this? Will you take it to Beverly Hills or Hollywood, why don't you approach the movie stars?" Well, that leads me to another woman I have come to greatly respect; Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. I am thankful that my work to those who ask that question resembles elements of beauty and elegance. I am not opposed naturally to movie stars wearing my work but...

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
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Is there really a difference why they should wear my pieces verses the women around my table in the classes I teach? A big part of my satisfaction is that the pieces come into the hands of women who will love to wear it. As they are the ones that will make it shine and live its journey. I do not like that to be exclusive to fortune and fame. I greatly admire the fact that Coco Chanel brought costume jewelry to all of us and would like to move forward in her way of thinking in that respect.

Would I like to get connected with fortune and fame? Well, only partly due to my vision. If I dream out loud, my vision is still a vision I developed when I was only twelve years old. My hometown is the geographic center of the Netherlands. A place located in a beautiful part of the country near the woods. A place where many come to relax, vacation and regain strength.

In my younger years as a child I played with children from Belfast. They came to us to rest from the war. I just could not imagine that. We could not speak because of the different languages but my mind sure was thinking. I just hated to see them have to go back into a war torn country. At age fifteen I became pen-pals with a girl about my age from Uganda. She grew up under dictatorship of Idi Amin. The stories she shared were shocking and heart wrenching.

All this experience had a big impact on my life. I learned about poverty and during my travel agent years I decided to travel to some of the poorest places in the world to see if what I heard about those places was actually real. Well, it was real. So from a fairly young age on, I was willing to strive towards peace and wished I could feed and clothe the hungry. The poem which became a foundation to live by for my life was written by Saint Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace..."

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
click to see gallery

I am not really belonging to any church or religious movements but do hold my faith very dear as it is part of my journey, very personal and meaningful. I have always desired to come to a place where I could be a bridge from the rich to the poor and vice versa because I learned that there are also many riches among the poor. So if my jewelry in one way or another someday could serve as just that, that would be wonderful.

You may have noticed that I am not selling online yet or mass market what I do. That is partly also because I am still developing my vision. I would love to find a small team in the future and work together under something like the "House of 'Anja S' Bead Design" dedicated to serving as that bridge. Will that ever happen, well nobody knows. If you are interested in perhaps one day working towards a future goal like this with me, don't hesitate to send me an email.

I have a special file where I keep information like that just in case. I am slowly gathering information and if it seems to be the right thing in the future, the time will come that that too will materialize... I just recently made a small start in that direction by joining two visual artists in renting a studio space. I realize that whenever we try to accomplish bigger things in this life, we cannot do it alone. I was fortunate to find Janice and Kim.

We hold weekly meetings as we all dream of the old European salon where artists gathered, debated and discussed their life, work and I am sure their art. If you are interested to see what it is that Kim and Janice are up to you can visit their websites and take a look. I am very thankful we met and love their works in and in Our "Atelier 708" is located in Paso Robles. It is mostly just a working space for now, although I have started to teach a few classes there and may organize a retreat or two in the future as this region is becoming a destination in itself, well known for its wines.

Beadwork by Anja Schlotman
click to see gallery

My focus really has been on developing and cultivating my workshops. I developed my own method of teaching and I give high priority to details in my patterns. This has made it so people tend to return to my classes. My classes start at intermediate and are not for everyone. The women and occasionally men who like a challenge really connect with my work. If you were to take a look at my schedule on my website, you will see that I keep going back regularly to the same places. This has been very rewarding and has made it so that I can continue to develop more detailed designs as many of my students have started to follow along in my way of thinking and continue to support me and my work.

They now come to class, open the pattern, lay out the beads and start weaving which is very rewarding. It is also them who have allowed me to move forward without any marketing as they have been my walking PR. They will go to bead stores wearing my designs and give my name to the bead store owners which has been very special. Next thing you know, I receive an email with the request to teach.

Something I also really enjoy is the occasional person who tells me she could never make anything so beautiful like me. I love it when I can help those ladies understand that actually they can. I see their confidence go up during the first few classes and love to see their smile when they come to class with their newly finished pieces. It may take a little time but where there is a will, there often is a way and they are very surprised that at some point their piece really looks different from mine. To me it is all about building relationships in this life and it is very special that one can become acquainted with so many nice people through bead weaving.

OK, time to stop writing, it's turning into a book. Thank you for your time. If you are interested in learning more about me and my work, you are welcome to visit my website; I also have a Facebook page under "Anja S Bead Design", however you will discover that I am not very active there. Most of my time I spend with my beads. Every piece I design tells a story. It is the way I give meaning to what I do. I do not really plan ahead or design on paper first. I start with a subject of value to me.

Beaded Nostalgia Book by Anja Schlotman
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From there the journey begins behind my beading table. It is a special process in which I completely give myself to spending time with my beads almost in a meditation like fashion. The process takes time, I never know beforehand how long. What I do know is when it's done it's ready to become a pattern to share with those who are ready to receive it. It's almost like giving birth to something via my head and heart through my hands, breathing life and blessings into the piece at the end for the new life it will begin once launched into the world.

I believe we connect with each other and each other's art through empathy. Life is a special journey... I believe in trying to make the best of it... May be our paths will cross one day... I would also love to teach in Saint Petersburg, Russia and in the Middle East one day... I hope for now you will at least join me in going confidently in the direction of YOUR dreams...

What a gift we found in these little beads as they take us places we may not have gone otherwise. Happy Beading! Oh, and please, support your local bead stores and Czech glass... Many families in the Czech Republic gave us years of beautiful things. With all the competition coming from other places, they can use your support! I am so thankful that just recently they have started to design some of the most wonderful new and unique shapes. Make them part of your collection! Thanks!

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About author:

Anja Schlotman, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Facebook:Anja S Bead-Design

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