Sjak Zwier – guitar builder (I)

When leaving Greece in 1999 I got as present from my Greek colleagues an old bouzouki. We love Greek music and we have been to many Greek concerts in Athens, but also in Holland and Belgium. The bouzouki has a great emotional value for us, it reminds us of the precious years that we lived and worked in Greece.

During our international removals the bouzouki was damaged, and we wanted to have it repaired. On the internet we found an address in Vlissingen. Zwier Guitar Construction we learned is a well-known address when it comes to service and repairs to (antique) stringed instruments. Guitars, basses, double basses, mandolins, banjos, dobros, ukulele’s, cithers… “You name it and we’ve had it in our workshop” was mentioned on the website.

The Zeeland guitar maker Sjak Zwier builds guitars for artists all over the world such as Steve Vai, Brian May and the members of Bløf. This week I visited his cozy shop and workshop in Vlissingen to bring our bouzouki and I asked him if I could make some photos. It was no problem and so I did. When the bouzouki is ready, I hope to finish this small photo project with more close-up photos of the guitar building / repair process and of the builder himself. In other words, to be continued!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highland cattle at the Westerschelde river

Highland cattle

The Westerschelde river is very close to our house, in fact it is at the end of the small rural road along which we live. There is a kind of inlet next to the river which is a paradise for birds, sheep and since a few years there is a herd of Highland cattle that is grazing there. The Highland is a Scottish breed of rustic cattle. It originated in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides islands. We walk along the Westerschelde almost every morning with our dogs and we love to see and greet our Scottish friends. They are always there, summer and winter. The hair on Highland cattle gives protection during cold winters. This spring many calves have been born. During this difficult Corona time it is a joy to see the cattle and in particular how the cows take care of their calves. Although we are a bit sad that we cannot travel abroad this year, we are happy that we live in Zeeland and still can enjoy nature so close to our house.

In 2016 there was a small cattle with a lighter hair colour. One day they were regretfully gone and did not come back.

 

Cities of the Hanseatic League

Deventer

The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe. Growing from a few North German towns in the late 1100s, the league came to dominate Baltic maritime trade for three centuries along the coasts of Northern Europe. Hansa territories stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages, and diminished slowly after 1450.

Hanse, later spelled as Hansa, was the Old High German word for a convoy, and this word was applied to bands of merchants traveling between the Hanseatic cities — whether by land or by sea.

Merchant circles established the league to protect the guilds’ economic interests and diplomatic privileges in their affiliated cities and countries, as well as along the trade routes which the merchants used. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and operated their own armies for mutual protection and aid. Despite this, the organization was not a state, nor could it be called a confederation of city-states; only a very small number of the cities within the league enjoyed autonomy and liberties comparable to those of a free imperial city.

In the Netherlands we have quite many cities that were member of the Hanseatic League. The cities are beautiful most of them small. We have started to visit the cities in the Netherlands and capture the atmosphere and architecture of these cities. In 2019 we visited Deventer, Kampen and Hattum. We intend to visit more in 2020.

Here below a selection of our photos of Deventer. More photos can be found on SmugMug (please click here).

Story “The Westergren family”

Art in Denmark – The Westergren Family

On our latest journey in Denmark we suddenly came across a group of sculptures on a hill. It was raining, but the sculptures intrigued us, and I started to make some photos. An elderly man, standing next to the sculptures, invited us to come on the hill and see the sculptures more closely. The man did not speak English, but we understood that his father, Edwin Westergren, made the sculptures and some paintings and that this man was his son, Erik Westergren. Erik was a very friendly man and he tried to tell us that his father was a great artist and that he was repairing and finishing his fathers work and that Erik himself was also a painter and musician. Erik invited us to a small museum that he made of his father’s and his own work and showed us around. He was very proud. I very much liked the sculptures, but also the paintings and other artefacts, in particular the colours. I asked him if I was ok to make photos and I believe that he very much liked that we were so interested. From the brochures we bought and later from the internet we found out more about the family Westergren, although what is available in English is very limited.

Edwin Westergren(1921-1992) was a sculptor, painter, poet and philosopher, who lived and worked and ran an arts centre in a former dairy in a Danish village called Østby (“East Village”). He was born in Sweden, and according to local lore he arrived in Denmark as a lost-property foundling in a suitcase. After his death, his concrete sculptures, many of them unfinished, some of them very large, were left to the finishing touches of Mother Nature. The largest group, allegedly called “Will to Life”, is still standing on its hilltop: a wild, heroic landmark, gradually merging with the landscape. One son, Erik, also goes around to kindergartens with his soulmate (his words), spreading the joy of native American music to children. On Erics website (please click) you will find photos and also a movie where Erik is playing with his friends for the children. We found it great to meet a person like Eric and learn about his family’s history and see the artistic work of the family. We have made a short photo series in the Westergren museum and here below please find some photo’s. The full series can be seen on SmugMug (please click).

 

 

 

 

Portraits in black & white

Young at heart

In Flanders Fields

A new long term project, that  I want to work on and actually just started is the Great War. This war, as all other wars, was a real disaster. So many people lost their lives. It was a dirty catastrophic war. Just some figures to get an understanding of the magnitude of how terrible it all was: 64 million soldiers took up their weapons, 10 million died. The four years resulted in 40 million people that were wounded and injured.

I live not too far away from the battlefields of this war, in Belgium. I made a first day trip in February 2019 around Ieper. I want to go back more often in order to to have a better understanding of what happened and pay a tribute to the people that lost their precious lives.

Poem of John Mc Crea: “In Flanders Fields”

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce head amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt down, saw sunset glow

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie in

in Flanders Fields