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  • Writer's pictureSue Bulmer

Creative Collaboration - Art to Basic

You know I like a creative collaboration, My most recent one is with Art to Basic. I've ventured into the mysterious land of handmade watercolours as I have been invited to be part of the Green Developer Team for 2024. I recently spent some time with Mette she she hand made my very own shade of green using the pigments described above. We have even had a competition on Instagram to guess the name. We hit it off straight away and I decided to interview her for the blog. This is what she had to say:

Hi everyone, I am Mette - and Wilco is my husband. Together we have Art to Basic, and we don’t really consider it a job because we are having so much fun doing it.

So, the story behind Art to Basic is that I had a dream about teaching people to make paint. All kinds of paint. But also to know the story behind the pigments, give artists more knowledge about paintmaking, and how to really get back to basics in this world where we are all running so fast. We wanted to do it as eco-friendly as possible, so we started to research and make the first boxes containing kits to learn to make ink from vines that we collected and burned to coal from a local wine farm, and also watercolors from the pigments that we loved the most.

In the beginning, before we had sold anything at all, we went to a fair, and Wilco asked me to bring some watercolors. I really didn't want to make watercolors, rather teach people how to do it. I think my mind was still too restless from having had a normal job for many years.... But he is very convincing, and I made a bunch of full pans. We didn’t sell much at the fair, but shortly after, I had a schoolgirl contacting me, asking if she could do a week's internship at Art to Basic, and I accepted.

She arrived, and her first idea was to make a website and put the watercolors on the website. I said yes because I had around 40 full pans in different colors lying around. That couldn’t do any harm to try to sell those. And so she worked on the website that you see today. Within a week after that, we had the first order: 35 different watercolors, not full pans but half pans, to be delivered in a few days. And the reality was that I didn’t have one half pan at all. You can maybe imagine how stressful that was. Luckily, we worked together all three of us to be able to send the order in time. But we were very, very busy!

So why am I sharing this with you? I think it’s important to remember that we all start somewhere. And that we all make mistakes and have to go through some rounds when it comes to life and art. We all want to find our style when we paint or create and we also know what we want in life, but sometimes life wants us to go somewhere else than where we think we want to go.

I have learned in this process that it's so important to follow your heart and intuition rather than rational thinking because if I had just listened to my rational mind, I would never have been doing this much fun every day. And the reality is that I love filling the pans, I love mixing the colors, I love connecting on IG, doing collaborations, and coming up with funny ideas and new projects. This is really all I have ever dreamed about!

So how did I learn to make the handmade watercolors? Well, first of all, I googled everything there was on the internet, then I bought all the books I could find about the subject. Then it was trial and error. I tried so many different recipes and fine-tuned the recipe we have now - and made a choice to do it as eco-friendly as possible and at the same time the highest quality because I don’t like toxins, fillers, and unnecessary additives in our products.

It took a few years until I was satisfied. We are still testing and trying out different kinds of mixtures. I really love using our watercolors myself and I am very proud of our journey. We have started to also experiment with wax crayons and gouache - the newest products on our site.

I think my favorite part is the change in the work. I absolutely love making the new colors and shades, I also really love to connect with new and old artists on IG, and then I get a new idea and we start working on that - and I also love that. So I think the diversity of things to do is my favorite. Oh, and not to mention when artists share their own art using our watercolors. It’s like being bathed in love!

My favourite color at the moment is.. awwww, that’s difficult. Can I say all the granulating ones, haha? No, to be serious, my favorite colors change all the time. I really love the new blue watercolor, The Wave, that I created last week. It looks so cool! But these two months, whenever I make a new green watercolors, I fall in love with that color, because of the whole experience with that particular artist.

The Color Lab is a community where we send out watercolors as small pigment patches for free each year. As a member, you will also be asked to collaborate on different projects. The last projects we have had were designing a mixing Palette for watercolors, painting a flower that goes on a Card deck this year, and right now the project of coming up with your favorite mix of granulating colors with the chance to win watercolors. We send out a newsletter now and again, and people are really active replying back, and that creates such good energy - together with all the happy conversations on IG.

The Green Developer Team was born last year. I was making watercolors, sitting alone, and I thought: Why not make a palette of watercolors with artists from around the world instead of always doing it alone? So I posted a giveaway asking people for their shade of a perfect pink and a name, and then I chose 13 artists with whom I met online and created a pink. I got connections to artists that I would never have had if I hadn’t done this and that made me very excited. We laughed so much and shared so many personal things which created something really special between us. So of course, I needed to do another colored palette, and then the Green Developer Team was born. Last year, I got the idea to make a calendar with paintings from the artists, and we are doing the same again, and I am really looking forward to presenting all 13 green watercolors this year! Next year, we will be doing blue.

From the Developer Teams also grew the idea to do more things with other artists. That’s why we birthed the Color Lab. And this year, we are doing so many more collaborations both with artists that are very well-known and do courses but also with artists like me, who just like to paint and have no dream of teaching. I had this thought this morning that if everything in this world is energy, then every artist in the world is contributing to this energy in a very positive way because they are creating and bringing joy, relaxation, and happiness to this world. I really, really am so grateful to be part of that!

And Wilco? Well, he plays a crucial role in our company. He ensures that all orders leave the studio flawlessly, maintains a tidy workspace (a skill I definitely didn't inherit), and keeps us on track with our schedules. He's also the one who reminds me when it's time to stop creating new colors in the evening ;-)

Much love, Mette

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