What kind of expat are you?
May I introduce myself – I’m Adeline, an expat and female entrepreneur, living in Holland since 2015. I’m passionate about art, painting and interior design. I adore antiques, objects that you can customise, finding activities for my children and all kinds of things in general. For 10 years now, I’ve been running a Restoration Workshop for Paintings in the Paris suburbs.
My passion for art in general, and especially painting, has always been a part of me but I also love surprise discoveries, which is where my new project has come from – Little Muses Mingle! I created this site so that everyday people from all over the globe can gather together and talk about their successes, their worlds, their family lives when they became expats. Seeing how they have recreated their businesses in a new country or region while following their partner there gives me true moments of happiness and motivates me every day.
Where do you live?
I live in the Pijp area of Amsterdam. It’s in the city centre, near to the Rijksmuseum. My husband travelled a lot for professional reasons and we had the chance of all the family being together by living in Amsterdam. Here, I was able to
continue with my paintings restoration work and throw myself into a new project too! Had you already lived abroad before now? I lived in Florence, Italy as part of my studies and I’ve travelled a lot: I’ve been to places like the USA, Columbia, India, Croatia, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Jordan…
How long have you been living as an expat in Amsterdam?
We’ve been in Amsterdam for 2 years now with our 2 children (a little boy aged 8 and a little girl aged 6). We settled down pretty quickly, I’d say in about a year, and made many connections with both local people and other expats.
You restore paintings and have also started a new project. Where did the idea come from for this?
I restored paintings in France for two years so I made round trips between Amsterdam and Paris every fortnight. Gradually, an idea came to me through meeting clients in Paris or Amsterdam, chatting to parents at the end of the school day and talking to women and men who were combining being a “house mom” with being an entrepreneur.
In 2016, I had the opportunity (with 3 other artisans) to launch an event called “artisanal singularities” about Amsterdam, presenting the various elements of the artisan and craft profession. This adventure reinforced my intuitive ideas and marked the start of this project.
I was showcasing the successes and challenges of women who had launched professional projects while being the “following partner”, speaking about their happiness when “things work” and their joy in finding themselves again, as well as their “cultural moments”. At the same time, I was diversifying my own activities and launching events linked to art, restoration and selling paintings…. I find this truly inspiring!
How do you organise your time between your private life and your many different activities?
Thankfully, baby sitters exist! No, seriously, I managed to fit everything around the school timetable in Holland. This means I can work during the day up to 3.15pm (without forgetting to set time aside for myself every now and then – yoga being my best friend) and I dedicate the rest of the day to my children.
So, you’re a very busy “Mompreneur”?
Indeed, I find that time flies! However, I’ve settled into a good rhythm in life. I prioritise things and the Dutch environment has enabled me to divide my time between my many family activities and my professional choices. Life couldn’t be better.
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness
I love the fact I can cycle everywhere in less than 15 minutes and stop for a fresh mint tea some mornings with my friends. I also enjoy boating on the canals with my pals and doing a bit of rowing.
You spend a lot of time with your children! Can you share a little “home-made” secret with us?
My children are truly inspiring. One day my daughter and her friends cut some flowers. They stuck the flower heads to a wall. I loved this and it was a real work of art. So, one home-made idea with children was when we did some Art Graffiti using a mousse on the walls and the initials of their names .
Where do you like to go for a little culture right now, either alone or with your family?
I love the Gordon Parks photography exhibition called FOAM , which is on in Amsterdam. This gives you a real impression of what it was like in the 1970’s in the USA. I also went to the Lascaux caves with my family this summer, which was a real
When it comes to culture, can you tell me what your favourite painting or book is?
As I work with art, I’ve had the opportunity of seeing a lot of paintings by different artists. It doesn’t matter if these are contemporary or classical as long as they make me feel something, that’s the main thing. I really like paintings by Elisabeth Vigée- Lebrun, especially her self-portrait with her daughter Julie. Click here
From my own experience, I know it’s very hard to paint faces and hands but I find this painting has really captured the technique. It speaks of a softness and protection, with the love shared between a mother and daughter and this warms my heart.
Adeline, can you describe your business?
I restore paintings and polychrome art that has degraded over time or suffered serious damage, making them look like they used to originally.
When I look at an artwork, I carry out an assessment as to how and why the painting has degraded (traces of humidity, dents, loss of subject matter…). To tackle these problems, I then need to find and use the right restoration techniques.
Next, I move on to fairly conservative restoration procedures (removing surface material, adding tension strips, re-fixing things, lining…) and then on to aesthetic restoration (using sealant or shaping putty to touch up the illustration…).
Restoration follows precise deontology rules, especially in terms of reversibility – all products must be removable. You also have to consider stability; painting restoration must be carried out to last and respect the history behind the work.
How did you develop your business as a restorer?
After my degree in Art History, I wanted a career that was true to my passion for painting, drawing and colour. A friend invited me to meet some people who were running a workshop that restored paintings. I was literally “inspired”! I knew straight away that this was what I wanted to do. However, I was warned from the start that it wouldn’t be easy – but I didn’t want to do anything else. After being awarded my state diploma and completing apprenticeships abroad (in Florence, Italy and Paris), discovering restoration workshops in big museums (Le Prado in Madrid, the Courtauld Institute in London etc…) I was able to make a go of it (with much family support!). I signed up with the Chamber of Trade and bought the right materials…
I was given the opportunity of setting up my business in a workshop, which was arranged through the town hall in the town where I was living and the Hauts-de- Seine Chamber of Commerce. The workshop was in the newly-opened Activities Centre for Art and Craft (Hôtel d’Activités d’Artisanat d’Art). I’ve now been there for 9 years! It was a great launch pad. I can tell you, it took me 4 years to establish a client base! I do a lot of private work but also work for institutions such as museums, the Puisaye Cathedral (Yonne), the U.S. Embassy in Paris, the Paris Archives …
Since we’ve been expats, I’ve been running my painting restoration business while trying to set myself up here in Amsterdam and keeping my French clientele.
At the same time, you’ve launched another professional project?
Yes, I’m working on developing this site, “Little muses mingle”. My aim is to create a network promoting communication among expat women, so that “women on the move” can develop their businesses, which are often nomadic and spread the word in the countries where they’re living. This is where the name “Little Muse” comes from. It’s an opportunity for inspiration, meeting one another and communicating and is especially useful if one little muse moves to a city where another little muse is living……
(photo credit Beilja by Matthieu Dandoy – www.beilja.com)