Local entrepreneurs

Meet Prashant Shukla: the mind behind My clean city app

This time we arranged an interview with the co-founder of Savana solutions, Prashant Shukla. In 2016 he was the winner of the start-up in residence program with his idea to clean The Hague with an app, the My Clean City app. Read the full interview about Prashant Shukla below!

Why did you enter the Startup in Residence Program?

Well, I have been living in The Hague for nearly a decade and I wasn’t planning on staying for such a long period of time, however I fell in love and never left. When I learned about the Start-up in Residence program, I saw it as my chance to give something back to this wonderful city.

How did you come up with the idea of the My Clean City app?

The Start-up in Residence program published 9 challenging problems that the city was facing in 2016, one of them was regarding ‘ORAC bijplaatsingen’. Reading about the topic I realized it was about waste which is placed beside the underground containers by residents. A pile of this waste can attract vermin such as seagulls and rats, this can be a great annoyance for the residents, furthermore it is a hassle for the garbage disposal workers as the steel plate has to be material free for them to empty the container with the help of a crane.

This ‘challenging problem’ is caused by people and I wanted to come up with a solution which would motivate & inform residents to stop placing their waste beside the underground waste containers. Knowing if the ORAC are clogged or full before leaving your house to dispose of your waste, will deter residents from disposing their waste at that time. If a resident has a couch or a child’s bike that they are getting rid of, but it is still in good condition, they can share it with their community, allowing others the chance to come and fetch the goods before throwing them away or disposing the goods beside the containers (or calling 14070).
Moreover, as an added motivational factor, we enable the residents to collect points which they can redeem for themselves or collectively as a community. This can be a green reward (digitally imprinted tree in The Hague) or other.
My motto is, prevention is better than cure.

Why do you think the app will help?

I believe that there currently is somewhat of a gap between the residents and the municipality of The Hague. The My Clean City app will make it easier for the residents to communicate directly with the municipality. During the pilot, we will focus on smaller issues such as waste placed beside the ORAC, the underground waste containers, we will add more features later on.

Do you think my clean city app is also applicable in different cities?

Most definitely it is a scalable solution with a few technical adjustments it can be implemented in many areas.

Can the app be used for different purposes? Can other municipalities make use of the app?

The app can be applied in the same manner in different municipalities, but it will also be possible to tweak the app a little bit and use different features for different municipalities.

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured on this blog are unpaid. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

Painting and drawing like old masters. Passion for the crafts.

ExpatsTimes is pleased to share our interview with Olga Golubova and Anar Rasulov. The pair are co-owners of the foundation Traditional Art Technique Atelier (TATA) set up in 2016. TATA is dedicated to classical realistic painting and drawing techniques of the old masters.

Traditional Art Technique AtelierOlga Golubova is a PR and communications professional and her partner Anar Rasulov, an artist specialized in painting and drawing techniques of the old masters. Having both lived in The Netherlands for over 15 years, they also share a Russian speaking background. In their classes, hosted in Amsterdam and The Hague, they focus particularly on working with authentic materials and studying traditional oil painting techniques. Read their interview here.

Where did the idea of starting the foundation come from?

Olga: I have worked in various PR and communications functions at Dutch companies before I started my own freelance adventure in 2014. At the time when I met Anar, I was involved in several artistic projects. Soon after we decided to set up a project together and gradually our ideas evolved into a foundation that aims to promote and preserve traditional art techniques and knowledge about authentic materials. Art has always been my hobby, but stayed in the background, and now I can deepen my understanding through our foundation.

Tradition is not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame – G. Mahler.

Anar: The foundation aims to offer a unique knowledge that is not being taught at Dutch art academies anymore. As an artist, I want to contribute to passing on the knowledge about key materials such as oil paint, mediums and pigments. Today there is a lack of insight into materials with which the artists work, so we want to educate people closer to the traditions, spirit and techniques of the old masters. TATA is about going back to the basics: know your materials, study the old masters’ techniques and shed light on the time-tested ways of making things.

schilderen olieverf Amsterdamstilleven schilderen olieverf

In your opinion, what makes the drawing and painting techniques of the old masters unique?

Anar: I am inspired by the craftsmanship and the effective time-proven methods that were used by the great artists of the Golden Age. These techniques are timeless and I strongly believe that they provide the most efficient way to learn realistic drawing and painting. Skills and craftsmanship that had been used by the old masters can give people the tools needed to express their ideas and visions through the medium of realistic painting and drawing.

I have always admired the painting and drawing style of the artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens and Van Dyck, for their way of capturing the narrative with the use of certain materials and the story behind it. Also, the visual language that the old masters used differs from the approach in the modern art. We are teaching students about the materials that the great artists of the past have used and how you can apply this knowledge in a modern setting.

Anar Rasulov sketch
Anar’s sketch of a horse with sanguine.
Anar Rasulov oil paintings
Left to right: Detail of Anar’s reconstruction of Frans Hals’ painting “The Lute Player” (1623).
“Imaginary view of Delft”, inspired by the Dutch painter Van Goyen (with handmade oil paint).
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” – a grisaille study.

Do you think visual art is important for the one’s general development? Why?

Anar: I think that visual art gives many useful perspectives in different aspects of life. Through the observation of life and nature around us we can develop a deeper understanding of it and come to see the world more as holistic rather than consisting of separate things. By looking at the nature that we paint or draw we can learn to become one with it. It can also help us understand ourselves and our behavior more. In my opinion, we would be happier and healthier if we paid more attention to developing our mind (skills, knowledge), body, and spirit. Art is a good means to achieving this balance.

drawing class Amsterdam old masters painting class Amsterdam

What is the difference between self-made oil paint and the oil paint from manufacturers?

Anar: Since ready-to-use oil paint from manufacturers is sometimes stored for long periods, stabilizers and preservatives are added to make it last longer. For this reason, some artists who want pure oil paint decide to make it themselves, in order to have total control over the creation process. By using only a few key materials you can make your own oil paint from scratch. It does feel different to paint with handmade oil paint, our students say. It also looks different because of the physical and optical abilities of natural raw materials that we use.
handmade oil paint  pigments oil paint

Is it possible for people who like art but have never tried to paint before, attend classes at TATA?

Anar: Our classes are suited for beginners up to intermediate and advanced artists who want to broaden their possibilities, gain more areas for experimenting and understanding the materials and learn new painting techniques. The classes are kept small to allow a more individual approach. sketching class Amsterdam art class Amsterdam

You also do museum tours and have cross-border cooperations. Can you elaborate further?

Olga: We are currently discussing plans with our partners – a private art school “Practicum”, which is connected to the Classical Art Academy in St. Petersburg (I. Repin). They have a gorgeous studio tailor-built inspired by the 17th-century atelier style. Ideally, we will organize cross-border art related activities, such as intensive tailored art courses and museum visits (e.g. in Amsterdam and St. Petersburg). We will be having a kick-off team meeting in Amsterdam soon, to dive into our plans further.

Studio Artist Atelier  Classical Academic Drawing

Would you like to say something to the people who might be interested in joining the world of art?

Anar: Art can help us experience life in a deeper sense; it means if you want to live fully, you can learn to do so by the means of art. It is also the language that all people can speak and is the medium to connect with the world and ourselves. In the modern world, we are disconnected with the nature and with ourselves. We tend to not see ourselves as part of the bigger picture anymore. This can make people unhappy and cause psychological and physical problems. Art is one of the ways to reconnect yourself, because through observation we understand more about the world.

Traditional Art Technique Atelier will host an introduction oil painting workshop on April 16th in Amsterdam. Feel free to join if you are interested, there are still a couple of places left. https://www.facebook.com/events/1239604042784784/


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured in this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

 

An attorney based in The Hague with a clear mission – Elena Deliran

Can my employment contract silently get prolonged? What are my rights as an employee? What are the legal consequences of marriage in the Netherlands? Am I protected as an expat by Dutch law? 

These are questions which Elena is frequently confronted with. Elena is a partner at Hofzicht Advocaten in The Hague. Elena has an international background and assists clients in Dutch, English, Persian and Spanish.

Elena will write expert blogs in which she lays the focus on legal issues expatriates encounters frequently in the Netherlands. We asked her a few questions, read more below.

What is your advice for internationals in The Netherlands?

“I think some basic knowledge of the Dutch Legal system is essential. In my practice, I often encounter clients who have no idea of the legal protection they enjoy. Dutch Law provides much protection to those who are considered to be the most vulnerable contracting party such as employees, tenants, and consumers.”

Elena also includes – “For instance, when working in the Netherlands, you should know the basic employee rights such as the protection from dismissal; what your rights and duties are during illness or pregnancy; that your right to holiday pay and holiday allowance derives from the Minimum Wage and Minimum Holiday Allowance Act and is not dependent on a clause in your employment contract.”

We receive frequent questions about prolonging of employment contracts. Is it possible to silently prolong an employment contract?

“Yes, that is possible even if no new contract is signed. It is important to realize that Dutch Law does not require written employment contracts. Basically, for the conclusion of an employment contract only an offer and its acceptance are required. Written contracts can help proving what was agreed. In the end, the circumstances of the case are decisive. The basic requirements of an employment agreement are that (1) one undertakes to (2) work for another (3) in exchange for remuneration.

There is a distinction between a fixed-term and a permanent employment contract. Employees with a permanent employment contract enjoy dismissal protection while a fixed-term contract expires by operation of law at the agreed end date. It is not uncommon that parties draft a fixed-term employment contract, and after the end date the employee is still being expected to work and gets paid. If this happens, the first contract is deemed to be prolonged under the same conditions, for a maximum of a year.

A fixed-term contract, however, cannot be renewed endlessly. The law provides coercive limitations to that: the so-called “chain ruling” or “Ketenregeling” in Dutch.

In 2015, Dutch employment law was drastically changed. As far as it concerns the chain ruling, one should assess first whether the new law is applicable. Employment relations which started prior to 1 July 2015 between the same parties may be renewed three times for a maximum of 3 years, and a maximum of 3 months may lie between the consecutive contracts before the contract automatically is converted to a permanent one.

Employment contracts starting after 1 July 2015, fall within the working sphere of the new law and the fixed-term contract may be renewed 3 times within a maximum period of two years, with a maximum of 6 months in between for it to be converted to a permanent contract.

Please note that this rule might not apply to all employment contracts, as there is the possibility to deviate from it by collective agreement for some sectors and for agency workers.”

More about Elena Deliran

Elena is specialized in family law and employment law and she often deals with international cases. Elena grew up in many different countries and is fluent in Dutch, English, Persian and Spanish. Her intercultural background and language skills, together with her experience with international legal matters enable her to assist international clients and cases effectively. In her practice, Elena deals with various aspects of family law such as divorce proceedings, spouse and child alimony, custody and visitation rights and child protection matters. Elena also assists clients with employment issues such as suspension and employment termination proceedings, change of employment conditions, evaluation of employees and sickness.

You can contact Elena at deliran@hofzichtadvocaten.nl


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies featured in this blog are unpaid.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

Persistence is the key to success – Amal Ledrhem

My name is Thaisa Macriani and this is my first blog post published for ExpatsTimes. For this first article, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amal Ledrhem. Amal is a local entrepreneur and mother of two with Moroccan roots and is based in The Hague, in 2014 she founded her company specialized in authentic handcrafted handbags. Amal besides a businesswoman is also Malik and Elissa’s mother. Read more about her compelling story below.

How did you take the leap towards entrepreneurship?

Well, I went through a divorce 4 years ago and it got me thinking about what I wanted to do. Questions like “What is my passion? and What do I want to achieve?” ran through my mind.
And then it came to me, during a holiday in
Marrakesh. As my friend and I were admiring all the handcrafted leather goods which surrounded us and I started a chat with the shop owner where he told me, he could make any design I wanted. At that moment, I knew I wanted to start my own company – Amal Design.

You founded your company 4 years ago, do you have a background in fashion?

Yes, I have a fashion degree – MTS Mode & Kleding however, at the time of graduation, I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet and therefore, I started working for the Dutch government.

Are there any entrepreneurs in your family?

No, there are no other entrepreneurs in my family. I am the one who chose to follow this path but my parents have always encouraged me. Especially because they did not have the same opportunities. My parents came to the Netherlands as immigrants, with the idea of returning to their homeland.

How is the process of creating the bags? Where does the inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from everywhere and everything. It can be a color that I see and love or a shape in architecture (which I used in the Elissa line). That’s also a reason why I love to travel. Traveling gives me a lot of new perspectives and influences, but you need also an open mindset. When I get an inspiration I immediately write it down or start a sketch. First I started to sell bags that I designed and were handcrafted by the man I met in Marrakesh. Because I wanted to be a brand that would also mean something for society. Unfortunately, our cooperation did not work well and I had to find another supplier. I ended up in China and Portugal, which are still the countries where my designs are being manufactured.

What are the biggest challenges you face in business?

There are several great challenges in my business. First of all, it is to guess the needs and taste of my possible customers. Because as a designer, you design something you love, but your intention is also to sell it. So the crowd you are aiming at has to love it as well. Secondly, to know how to reach your target group. Another great challenge is maintaining the quality of my products, something that I really care about it. And finally, the last challenge for me as a designer is maintaining my creativity and renewing all the time because fashion is very dynamic. So you have to keep up with all the fashion developments.

What would your advice be for someone who is thinking about starting their own business?

My advice to someone who wants to start their own business is to “do it out of passion first” because it costs a lot of time. When you have your own business, then you are working on it 24/7. You can not sustain if your passion is not big enough. You have to know what you are aiming for and what the purpose of your company is. So I would say “yes, go for it” if that is what your passion is, then follow your heart. Just be aware of the steps you are making.

Amal Design store is located at De Herenstraat 136 in Voorburg and you can also buy online.


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The company that appeared in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Thaisa Macriani. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by Amal-Design and other companies featured.

Our full disclaimer can be found here.

 

Ginger bread houses and wedding photography

Passion for storytelling about ginger bread houses and wedding photography

Silvia Falcomer is an Amsterdam based “destination” or travel photographer, Italian by birth and a cultural anthropologist by education. Silvia’s passion for storytelling through photography has caused her to move to The Netherlands a few years ago, and that is how her adventures as an expat began. I met her for a Q&A session, and below you can read more about her story and perhaps get inspired.

  

Where did your passion for photography start and how did your career begin?

The passion for photography started when I was very little, my mum used to work in a photo lab and both of my parents loved photography. I was playing around with their Minolta camera and the idea of becoming a photographer was always in the back of my mind. It was not easy for me though to make the decision to step into the freelance world, but one day I decided to give my dream a try no matter what and I did it in The Netherlands.

And even though that I’m an impatient person I’ve learned to give time to myself, my work, my life. Everything comes into the right place if you trust your path and you work hard for it.

Can you tell us about your decision to move to Amsterdam?

The love for the city started four years ago when I visited Amsterdam just for a weekend, I rented a bike and got around the city. While biking I was thinking that one day I will be living here in a ginger bread house and I will get around with my own bike. Two years later I made it happen. I developed a passion for the visual storytelling and in weddings I saw the best realization of what I had in mind. I wanted to combine my passion for photography and my love for Amsterdam, so I moved, and after two years I’m still here enjoying my job and my life.

What are the main challenges that you are facing on your path?

The main struggle is being a foreigner, since I communicate only in English and so far I don’t have a knowledge of Dutch and it’s difficult to get approached by locals, because I’m still little known in Holland. I started here from scratch, I didn’t know anyone when I came here. Now my work is growing, and even though that I’m an impatient person I’ve learned to give time to myself, my work, my life. Everything comes into the right place if you trust your path and you work hard for it.

 

I stopped looking at other photographers or Instagram. I found that it was disturbing and too overwhelming for my creativity.

What are the main differences between working in your home country and The Netherlands?

I see differences in the weddings style of course, due to the different cultures, but working here is basically the same as working in Italy because of the same approach. I actually do both, I shoot weddings in Holland and Italy and sometimes I travel to other international destinations.

What was your photography education: school/workshops/self-taught?

I’m completely self-taught, in the beginning I shot every single day, I was shooting everyone and everything at every time of the day, that way I learned how to handle light and composition.

I’m a cosmopolitan and a gipsy at heart.

Can you tell us what your job means to you? What do you desire to express with your photos?

I studied anthropology and now I see that my studies fit in my actual work. Being a destination wedding photographer allows me to step into different kind of cultures. I like to capture emotions, that’s what my work is all about. I like simplicity, beautiful light but also moody settings.

 

What is the biggest source of inspiration in your work?

I find inspiration in my travels and in people I meet. But mainly inspiration comes from inside – what makes my heart beat faster. For instance, I stopped looking at other photographers or Instagram. I found that it was disturbing and too overwhelming for my creativity. I’d rather spend more time in the nature, doing things I like.

Please tell us what you like to do when you aren’t shooting?

When I’m not working you can find me exploring Amsterdam or Holland in general. I love drinking coffee with my friends and traveling. Every time I have few days off I book a flight to new destinations, it makes me feel so alive.

Do you have any advice for beginning photographers and other entrepreneurs?

The only advice that I can give it’s to start. You will always think “I’m not ready, I’m not good enough”. We will never be, just start and practice, practice, practice. And love. You must love every single minute of your work, because sometimes it can be pretty hard, but very rewarding in the end.

Where/what is home to you?

There is no single “home” for me, because home is where my heart is and my heart is everywhere. I feel like Amsterdam is home but also my hometown because of my family and friends. I’m a cosmopolitan and a gipsy at heart.

As a destination photographer, what are your favorite locations and where are you looking forward to shooting next?

I’m going to shoot a beautiful wedding in the USA, and cannot wait for it! All the weddings I’m going to shoot are beautiful, different and special on their own. I’m already in love with all my couples.


Silvia’s most up-to-date photography portfolio can be found on her website www.silviafalcomer.com.


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Olga Golubova. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by www.artona.eu and other companies featured. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

This is our final instalment of interviews and suggestions with regards to buying locally available gifts during this festive season.

We were on the look-out for local businesses who offered “different” and “unique” products, and boy were we blessed by what we found! The Hague and its surroundings has an amazing mix of entrepreneurs, do-ers and makers. With your support and encouragement, our local small businesses will thrive!

Some of the companies featured are start-ups and have a fascinating journey ahead of them. Other businesses have been established on the local market for a longer time. As always, we urge you to support your local businesses throughout the whole year, not only during the festive seasons.

This process has been an inspiring and engaging journey, one that we learnt a lot from!

We wish you and yours a fantastic Christmas and an exciting 2017. We will be back with more interviews, and local tips & tricks in the new year.

Alicja Wieczorek is the owner of Artona and this is her story

Alicja is a Polish artist who has settled in The Hague. Are you on the look-out for someone who can create portraits of your loved ones and your family pets? Do not look anywhere else! Alicja is the portrait artist you need! Portraits can be made with a variety of techniques; for example: aquarelle, pencil, ink, and these techniques can also be combines. Alicja is also able to help you become a pro at painting and offers different group classes at her studio in Voorburg. Visit Alicja’s website here to find out more about her services and her precious works of art.

How did The Hague become home to you?

As a student, I completed my last year of studies in The Netherlands in 2002. I was studying architecture and urban planning, which I graduated with a double diploma. After my graduation, I went back to Poland, but it was very difficult to find a job and with an MBA in my pocket! Since I had received my Dutch diploma, I thought I would try and see if I would be able to find a job in The Netherlands during 2004, the rest, as they say, is history!

What do you enjoy most about living in The Netherlands?

In the beginning I would have mentioned the safe cycling routes, the different nationalities, and people being open minded. After a number of years in The Netherlands, I would add the support and stimulation small businesses receive here. I feel very secure in being able to own my own business here. As a person, I also feel very safe in The Netherlands.

Are there any difficulties to living in The Netherlands?

I find that the rules and regulations seem to change here a lot, and are sometimes so detailed that it makes life a bit more difficult. They also, sometimes, seem to work against each other.

If you could take one aspect of each country (that you’ve lived in) to make your ultimate home, what would you take?

From Poland, I would take the characteristic of those that are humble. I would also add the nature and the diverse landscapes. From The Netherlands, I would take the variety of different nationalities and cultures.

How did you business ~ Artona ~ come about?

Creating, painting and art is a true passion of mine. I’ve been painting since I was 2! Following my career in a different field let me to realise that I actually wanted to do something that I was passionate about. Something I would carry out with real authenticity and love for my art. People really do notice when you create something out of love and passion, it touches others! Drawing and painting was always my first love. It is not incorporated in my art and interior/architecture/design businesses. I want people to feel better by offering them beautiful surroundings and art!

Describe to us what it was like ~ setting up a business in The Netherlands

For me personally, I found setting up my first company quite challenging. Keeping myself disciplined and achieving my business goals was quite difficult. I love that there is so much information on offer, tips on how to created and set up your business etc. you will find that government bodies are there to support you when setting up a business. I own 2 companies, once I set up the first one, the start-up of the second one went event better!

What does your company offer? What are your favourite aspects of your business?

Artona offers portraits, and other works of art upon request. I also offer a variety of different painting and drawing courses & workshops. Children can attend fun and interesting workshops with me as well. The favourite part of my business is that I can create something artistically which I am devoted to and passionate about, whilst making my clients happy!

What are you favourite memories and/or traditions that make your Christmas special?

Being able to spend the time with my loved ones, and seeing the rainbow of lights and decorations on a Christmas tree that smell absolutely divine too! I’ve not been able to accomplish it yet, but traditionally there are 12 specific dishes during Christmas in Poland, which I am looking forward to as well!

Some more local, unique and inspiring companies are featured below with great gift ideas!


We can’t even begin to describe the cuteness that is encapsulated in these handmade bookmarks. Yes, there are those amongst us who still read an actual physical paperback! The smell and crack of the spine of a new book is like no other experience! Intrigue, education and imagination all lie ahead! There’s nothing worse that losing your place in a book when you have to answer the door, or someone distracts you. These little bundles of joy and practicality will solve your dilemma and keep you on the right page! Contact WYWA for further information!


So your kids are asking you for something cool, and different, but you have no idea what to get them? Enter Cool8trendy. They have the funkiest of LED products on offer. We are sure that your kids (and the big kids amongst us) will love the LED shoes that are available at cool8trendy. Cool8trendy believe in offering products that make us, of any age happy, and will bring a smile to our faces. You can also check out their Facebook page here.


Lady Africa is a wonderful shop on the Denneweg that offers, amongst other products, the most fabulous necklaces for women. The colours, textures and sights in this shop are gorgeous, and is a must visit. Lady Africa was set up by Irene Hin, who wanted to bridge the gap between her African and Dutch roots. Irene was touched by the beauty and appearances of the women she saw during a trip to Ghana, whether the women had funds or not, their appearance was always stunning. The fabric designs, and one off brands were too gorgeous not to share, and Irene decided to support and feature these products at Lady Africa. You can visit Lady Africa’s website here.

Completely our fault, we weren’t able to contact Lady Africa by the time of going to press – we are crossing our fingers that they do not mind being featured, as we love their products!


 We would once again like to thank the following for allowing us to write about them throughout this series of festive articles, if you’ve not visited their websites or other forms of social media yet, we urge you to do so!


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Claudia Adams. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by www.artona.eu and other companies featured. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

May your days be merry and bright!

We are back with our second instalment of interviews and further suggestions of where to buy different and unique gifts during this festive season. As in the previous post, we strived to find local businesses who have either just launched onto the market, or have been around for a while.

As previously mentioned, we were not supposed to feature interviews, this came about organically when our editor was speaking to various local companies and became inspired by their stories and how their businesses came about.

This is Angie Hickson’s story

Angie is a British artist and expat based in The Hague. Using The Hague as her muse, Angie creates gorgeous and ever lasting memories of The Hague and its surroundings. Angie also offers a “bespoke” service, incorporating your own wishes and ideas, making a blank canvas come alive. Prices typically range from 200-600 euros. Angie’s art has been exhibited in the UK, in galleries and at art events. To find out more about Angie, her beautiful art work and services on offer, see here.

Why did you end up living in The Netherlands?

My husband and I were living in Asia when a work opportunity came up for my husband here in The Hague, 7 years and 2 children later and we are well settled into life here.

What do you enjoy most about living in The Netherlands?

It has to be the cycling! It’s great being able to do the school run by bike and my kids really enjoy it too! I have always loved The Netherlands and since moving here we have enjoyed the nature as well as the beautiful Dutch cities. The architecture is fantastic and it makes me feel very inspired to paint! Since having children in The Netherlands, I really appreciate the country for how child friendly it is. We live in The Hague and enjoy both the city and the beautiful greenery that is found throughout the city.

Are there any difficulties with living in The Netherlands?

The Netherlands has been a great place to make our home, especially as parents. Any difficulties we experience is usually to do with being an expat, such as not having family near-by and language difficulties, but I find that the expat community is large in The Hague, which has given us lots of support and friendship.

How did your business come about?

After graduating textile design at university, I set up a small business creating bespoke textile products. I realised that my favourite part of the business was painting the designs. The business stopped once we moved to The Netherlands but I continued my love of painting. The art that I created received a really good response and I got commissions to make bespoke paintings. Over the last year along with ordered work, I have created a series of paintings based on areas of The Hague.

What does your company offer?

By working with the customer I offer personalised, bespoke paintings. The customer sends me images or ideas of what they would like and I begin the process of painting the desired art work for them. I love being able to add personal details to the image that I know the customer will cherish. I am currently creating a painting of a person’s childhood home adding personal details, such as a tree house and the family cat! I send updated images throughout the process to ensure the result is perfect. Past projects have also included wall murals, for example children’s bedrooms. If a customer has an idea, I try my best to create the art for them.

What are the favourite aspects of your art?

I really enjoy creating detail in my paintings, I love intricate patterns and incorporate these in my work. My style of painting and drawing is varied and I love using black illustrations to add definition to my work.

What are your favourite memories/traditions that make your Christmas special?

I love Christmas Eve, and the anticipation of a wonderful Christmas day. Since having children we have made some lovely traditions, the most recent one being elf on a shelf! I enjoy making Christmas crafts with the children for the Christmas tree and for their grandparents. The winter here makes it an ideal time for hibernating, eating festive food, and enjoy being at home.


More unique & individual gift ideas


 
We love a local company with a story behind them! Purchase products from this business born in Scheveningen, and you’ll be sponsoring the Orangutan Rescue Foundation. What is not to love about that? Check out FLMGO’s website here. The surfer chicks and dudes in your life will thank you!

FLMGO currently have a €10 discount on their sweaters via their website, using the code FLMGO XMAS.


If you’re looking for gifts for the home, check out a new idea on bed linen, bath robes and even cleaning articles! All the products are hypo-allergenic and durable! Optidee gives you an overview of what is on offer. If you are local to The Hague, delivery will be personal and to your door! The contact person in The Hague is ~ Sandra Guerrouche-van Koppen Tel: 06-57835858. Get in touch with Sandra for further information.



Let’s see if these 2 words will grab your attention ~ personalised shoes!

Yes personalised hand painted shoes are available, and they are swoon worthy! Although Shadan Design is based elsewhere in The Netherlands, we had to feature their products because of the personalised service & individual products. Contact the designer and they will try their best to accommodate you. They truly tick our “different” and “unique” boxes! Shadan Design’s website can be found here.

Our last instalment of interviews and gift suggestions will be published soon! Watch this space!

All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed by our editor Claudia Adams. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All art featured supplied by www.angiehickson.com and other companies featured. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

It’s looking a lot like Christmas!

We’ve been racking our brains, trying to come up with new and exciting ideas of where to buy gifts this festive season. Our search criteria was that we wanted to buy local, and that the products we found and what was suggested to us, should be different and unique.

During the run up to Christmas, in a series of interviews, we will be showcasing some local companies who offer that little something different. Some are start ups and have exciting times ahead of them, others have been on the local scene for a while. We weren’t supposed to feature interviews! They just happened organically, after being in contact with some of the business owners and becoming interested in their stories, and what this time of year meant to them!

We encourage you all to support your local businesses throughout the year! 

We are pleased to be publishing our first interview below, along with other suggestions of where to find some interesting, and unusual locally available gifts.

This is Jelena’s story

Jelena is from Serbia, and has now made The Hague her home. Jelena offers handmade cookies and cupcakes, from ordinary to extraordinary! Jelena’s artistic imagination shows no bounds, give her an idea and let her run with it! You’ll be amazed with the beautiful and delicious cupcakes and cookies Jelena has to offer. Jelena offers themes for different sorts of events, seasons and festivities. You can contact Jelena via her Facebook page, which features past and present projects.

Jelena is from Serbia, and has now made The Hague her home. Jelena offers handmade cookies and cupcakes, from ordinary to extraordinary! Jelena’s artistic imagination shows no bounds, give her an idea and let her run with it! You’ll be amazed with the beautiful and delicious cupcakes and cookies Jelena has to offer. Jelena offers themes for different sorts of events, seasons and festivities. You can contact Jelena via her Facebook page, which features past and present projects.

Why did you end up living in The Netherlands?

I followed my heart! My fiancé (now my husband) was offered a job here in The Hague. We had both never lived abroad, it was a completely new and exciting opportunity for us.

What do you enjoy most about living in The Netherlands?

I used to live in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia. It is quite a big city which brings a specific lifestyle to it – people are mostly in a rush and don’t have time to relax and see the world around them. But, The Hague is something completely different! I find everything peaceful and well organised here. People are very open and friendly. Before I moved here, I can honestly say that I had some prejudice with regards to living here, thinking that a colder climate may make the Dutch people “colder”. It did not take me long to realise how wrong I was! The fact that so many different nationalities and religions have made The Netherlands their home, made me understand that the Dutch are open minded and their hearts are open too. I’ve made friends with people from many different countries since living here, which has made my life very vivid and interesting! Since I’m a devoted artist and produce hand made products, I love the fact that these kind of products are appreciated in The Netherlands.

Are there any difficulties to living in The Netherlands?

I’m learning Dutch to break the language barrier, but so many people speak English here that communication is very easy. I get homesick at times, and miss my mother, family members and friends in Serbia very much.

If you could take one aspect of each country (that you’ve lived in) to make your ultimate home, what would you take?

That’s easy! Serbian food and Dutch organisation!

How did your business come about?

I wanted to contribute financially to the family income, and tried to figure out what the best way would be to use my artistic talents and earn some money. As an artist, I found it quite difficult to make a living here. Then I had a lightbulb moment! I realised that most of us have a sweet tooth, and I could still express myself artistically, just in a different way!

Describe to us what it was like ~ setting up a business in The Netherlands?

Right now, my business is still quite small. It all really started as something to keep me busy and my mind active. I set up my Facebook page to show friends and family what I was making. It gained momentum from there, people started placing orders, were satisfied with my products, and word spread! As a small business owner, never underestimate word of mouth! So far I’ve not had any problems with setting up my business here, ask me again in a year when I have (hopefully) expanded the business!

What does your company offer? What are your favourite aspects of your business?

I make cookies, cupcakes and cakes. I can decorate them how you choose ….. just use your imagination, explain something to me or send a photo of what you have in mind. I will then make it a reality! My favourite products to make are royal icing sugar cookies, cupcakes with butter cream and toppers, cake pops and cakes with 3D characters. Children love my cakes with 3D characters!

What are your favourite memories and/or traditions that make your Christmas special?

I get really excited about decorating our home and the Christmas tree! I love preparing all of the traditional Christmas dishes, and celebrating with my husband and our daughter.


SOME MORE UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS 


Do you have a budding musician in your life, and have no idea what to get them? How about a gift certificate from Virtuosi, they offer lessons for a different number of musical instruments. You can contact the school, and decide what you would like the gift certificate to feature.


Kado om de hoek was suggested to us over and over again. We know it well ourselves, and are in full agreement with how others described the shop and its owner. “The owner treats everyone like royalty”. “The gift wrapping is amazing”. “Must visit”. Visit Kado om de hoek for first class service and some fantastic gift ideas.


For something completely different, visit their Instagram. The 2nd Layer is a young company that creates one of a kind products by combining graphic design, laser cutting and engraving techniques. Since all of their creations are hand made, each item has their own personal and unique look. You can also visit their Etsy page here.


Beyond arte with love caught our eye since they offer (amongst many items) gluten free cakes, and gifts in a jar, all handmade with a lot of love!. Beyond Arte was set up to go beyond plastic and mass produced products. Visit Beyond Arte’s Facebook page here


Our next instalment of interviews and gift suggestions will be published soon! Watch this space!

All details correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed by our editor Claudia Adams. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

 

Noomi – Creating light within refugee camps

 

Suzanne Ros, Derisa Chiu, Emilie Langlois and Roxana Macovei are 3rd year Industrial Design Engineering students at The Hague University with the vision to create light for children in refugee camps. These young and bright minds have developed an egg-shaped product, Noomi,  which stores energy through movement. It enables children to kick and throw the Noomi around and afterwards it can be switched on to function as a light source.

Help them get funded by voting for them through the following link. This competition is held by the municipality of The Hague and has closed.

We had the chance to interview one of the founders of Noomi, Suzanne Ros, read more about Noomi below.

Why did you choose to name your creation as Noomi and how would you describe it to a layman?

Noomi started as a university design project with the topic of bringing renewable energy into refugee camps, which don’t have access to constant electricity. And so, people use kerosene lamps and candles for light which in turn bring risks such as respiratory diseases and fire hazards.

Our answer to these problems is Noomi –  a toy that generates energy through play (thus being user powered), which is stored inside in a battery which can later be used as a light. This serves as an entertainment to children and also as a source of light.

The name for Noomi came through the idea of the moon.  No matter where you are in the world, the moon is always constant and shines.  Because we are designing for another world, we flipped moon, so, ‘noom’. And then the ‘I’ symbolises the individual user; the focus. And so, Noomi!

Why an unconventional design of the toy?

The process of Noomi to come to its design and shape is the result of integrating the feedback from user tests and design.  Because Noomi is designed to be more than just a toy, there are features such as the geometric surface for improved grip.  The abstract shape came from a test that we found our target group (age 6-9) like to be challenged, the abstract shape of Noomi brings a challenge in uncertainty in what direction it will bounce.  Some may say that Noomi resembled some sort of dinosaur egg or a pomegranate seed form; this can be seen as a symbol for good hope, new life.

How do you think this will help in the longer run and how do you see yourself take this forward?

Noomi is a simple concept that has the potential to create a big impact.  In the long run, we feel that Noomi can bring psychological benefits for the children, and provide an activity that also has reward.  Eventually, the hope is that Noomi can grow and develop. We want to continue with social design and bring products or services that make a difference in the lives of people and/or the environment.

Tell us a little about your team and how easy or difficult was it to translate thought into action, especially in the Netherlands.

The Noomi team started with the four of us; Suzanne, Roxana, Derisa and Emilie, all coming from all over the world (Netherlands, Romania, Taiwan and Mauritius).

The great thing about The Hague is the international aspect.  English is spoken almost everywhere.  Studying in English and having one Dutch member in the group meant that in all communication areas, there were no issues.


Noomi is currently in a competition organised by the Hague government called the Hague innovators 2017.  Here, Noomi is competing against two other student projects with a prize of €10,000.  On top of this, there is a public prize award for one of the nine teams which has the most votes on the page.  For all readers to come together and support Noomi by voting, liking them on Facebook and even sharing Noomi.  The more people that know about Noomi and support the project is a big step towards success.

If there is anyone who wants to support Noomi further regarding business inquiries or advice/comments, you can contact them through their Facebook page or email.


All details were correct at time of going to press. No responsibility can be held for any omissions or errors contained herein. The companies that appear in this article were interviewed or featured by our editor Vatsalya Balasubramaniam. They & their adverts appear in this article for free. All images are supplied by Noomi. Our full disclaimer can be found here.

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