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Helga's Blog

dutch jewellery designer la leipsig


Stories from the daily live of an active metalsmith who tracks down
her muse with camera and sketchbook.


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Report from the Saul Bell Awards

helga patrick dinnerWhen I heard in November 2013 that I was a finalist for the Saul Bell Awards, my partner Patrick and I decided to build a big vacation around the award ceremony that would be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in conjunction with the Santa Fe Symposium. I wanted to attend the award dinner and the symposium, whatever the verdict, and I am so glad we did. Being immersed in the buzz of an award ceremony, meeting the winners from the other categories and hanging out with Anna Mazon was totally worth it!

helga anna yvonneThe whole evening was perfectly organised. Entering the large ballroom, guests encountered cases where the finalists' jewelry was prominently displayed. Each piece was carefully lit so viewers could see every detail. I was impressed to see that every selection gets the attention it deserves.

During dinner Yvonne Padilla, Content Manager at Rio Grande, introduced Anna and me to several people from the company; such a great group of people. The ceremony itself started with short videos of all the winning artists compiled in a charming and humorous way. Then Alan Bell, President of Rio Grande, called up the artists one by one for each category and congratulated us publicly. Standing there as one of the nominees made me feel proud of my achievement. Seeing Anna and Christie getting recognition for their hard work was priceless.

helga awardThis year was the first time the Saul Bell Awards ceremony was combined with the Santa Fe Symposium. It was great to mingle with the symposium attendees, a group that includes leaders in jewelry production technology from around the world. While casting, 3D printing and fabrication were well represented, I found that many attendees still didn't understand much about metal clay and the benefits it can bring to the field. Being at the symposium has given me a greater understanding of how the jewelry industry works and a new perspective on making production work to earn a profit.

Patrick and I took three weeks to explore the American Southwest, including a trek to the floor of the Grand Canyon. When I returned home, I received a handsome book that features all the finalists' pieces along with text from the artists describing the motivation behind their work. This will be a great tool to show during art markets and expositions as well as a meaningful reminder of this very special chapter in my life.

fly- 5083 Take Flight
Finalist in the Metal Clay category 2014.

Mandala's in a colourful collaboration

Colouring a Mandala.Beginning this summer I was able to buy a 2nd hand, un-used colour book from Rüdiger Dahlke.

It was full of fascinating patterns and explanations about mandala’s. I decided to work in this book during this summer’s Art Residence.

It was an excellent way to relax my brain while playing with colour. It doesn’t matter if you are called away, you can always start again.

After colouring several patterns, I felt the need to construct my own design. It helped me to intensify the experience and it was a lovely way to play with geometry.

mandala designWith a passer and ruler I drew several mandala’s. One particular I liked a lot. It’s a year mandala featuring the seasons. (remember my intention to explore nature a bit more) Left-upper part is spring, then clockwise summer, autumn, winter.

Towards the edge are 12 circles that represent the months. 52 weeks are hidden in the outer rim.

While drawing I had an idea to ask my Quantity Sketching group if they didn’t want to design a mandala for each of the 12 circles. When I explained this idea to Geerthe, a member of Quantity Sketching who came for a drawing date, she immediately wanted to have August. I proposed it to the group and within a few days, mandala’s where posted in the sketch group.

The total mandala is now on the floor in our future Gallery. I just love to draw on that floor with chalk. You can see them here in the picture. It turned out to be a lovely collaboration piece. I love my QS chums! I would never had had this idea if I wasn't united in this sketch group. I went with the flow and this came out of it.

mandala totaal 7850

The whole 6 meter wide mandala on the floor.

Making (and colouring) these mandala's has been very healing for me. I have been stuck all spring and early summer. This project gave me new energy, replenished my creative battery. I am able to tap into my child energy again, the one that could play for hours with pencils & chalk.

The closer I can stay to my own nature, the better.



These are the 12 small mandala's made for each month.
The motivation of the artist is below.


Barb: January means snow, to me, so I made a snow flake. The curves with three circles represent a snowball rolling down hill and gathering size. January is a quiet month in Maine and a time when I am not yet tired of seeing snow.

Vicki: February means snow here so I made snowflakes nestled together. There are also women standing together with a few snowflakes between them.

Meenu: March signifies to me the beauty of spring and the promise of a wonderful summer. It is known as Falgun in hindu calender, the month of Spring and the festival of colors holi. I started with a star symbolising the sun. I drew goddess laxmi feet on the left and right, a symbol of praying for abundance and wellness for all. The next circle symbolizes the festival of holi, a celebration of colors. The outermost blossom represents the spring and the regenerative cycle of life.

Helga: April, Farmers ploughing and sowing seeds.

Helga: May mandala. Inspiration is from my favorite flower, the columbine. This flower has 5 leaves and 5 spurs. I have very stylistic made it into a 2D flower. I started with drawing several circles, after the drawing I erased the lines I didn't need.

Jennie: June. it's the lady breaking into June, carving out some space (and peace) in the calendar.

Carol: My birthday is July and this was loosely based on sunflower which is the colour of summer for me, though now I live in Australia July is middle of winter.

Geerthe: August...sunflower as inspiration...took the fractals from the center more to the outer make it easier to draw.

Katie: September. The theme is Harvest, with the center representing a cornucopia (harvest basket) and the outer rings showing stylized shafts of wheat. In between the wheat shafts I have added seeds. These represent the cycle of growth/harvest/dormancy. Seeds that are buried at the end of season create new growth in the spring, thus allowing for another harvest.

Helga: October starts to be colder again, we turn inside for rest and contemplation.

Rohana: November. First ever mandala; my inspiration came from the stylised tulip in a stained glass panel I made years ago in a draughty Edinburgh shed one grey November.

Elizabeth: December, and I decided on Santa Lucia, her wreath with the candles, and the dark sky with stars for the winter solstice.


Develop Observing Skills with Sketching

In July 2013 I did a week long art retreat just in my own home.

I call it S.A.R.A.H.: Summer Art Residence At Home.  I experienced that it’s possible to do a retreat on your own. It just needs a plan and some discipline.

Why do I want to do an art residence?
What is it that I need?

It’s a way to reset myself to start looking with fresh eyes.
A holiday from my usual creative work.

Daisy between stones

If you go away to an outdoor retreat, you pick something that attracts you to grow further. Some of the program you will like, some of it not. They will provide you with a structure to focus totally on playing & creating.

When doing it yourself, you can tailor to your own needs and pick exactly what you want to focus on to grow. I wanted to focus on making a connection with nature. Not only what you see outside, but also within. What gives me creative pleasure? The downside is: having the discipline to keep on going.

KaibabLast year I managed to block out a whole week, which wasn’t possible this time. I am raising a new dog. As you know puppies demand a lot of attention and Kaibab is no different.

Instead of a focused week of Summer Art Residence At Home I spread it out over July and August.  Whenever the dog slept or occupied itself, I emerged myself in creative action. I chose activities that could be interrupted without ruining the result.

Like last year, I made a list of projects I wanted to do. Just following my own intuition what could make me grow. One of them was sketching.

Quantity sketching

Since the beginning of this year I try to sketch as much as possible. I even started a group with likewise enthousiast on facebook to encourage each other. You can read about it in this post. It’s an inspiring group which I love to have as my friends & sketch buddies.

Doing a sketch a day seemed like a very logical thing to do in this summer’s retreat. It only takes 20 minutes to a half hour and if necessary you can stop because of distractions. Paper is patient.


To motivate me even a bit more I take part in #DrawingAugust. A challenge from @JeanStevens4 on twitter to draw every day in August. It’s a group of advanced artists, I feel like I just scribble. Click here for my twitter account.

Drawing Basil

Develop Observing skills

My drawing subjects are plants & flowers. I take close looks at them, noticing their everlasting beauty. It fuels my image library and makes me love the plant life on my farm even more.

The purpose is to develop observing skills, learn to look better. I enjoy counting the leaves and looking at positions of leaves. Like Basil, which has opposite leaves.  It’s like my series “Abundance of Nature” (which is observation with a photocamera).

I have now 102 sketches. Some you can find on my pinterest board.

A sketch a day, doesn’t take much time, but adding it up, it becomes a huge body of work. I am glad I incorporated it into S.A.R.A.H.

5 steps to Capture Your Precious Travel Moments for Future Creative Projects

Picture this:

Grand CanyonYou’re on a 4 day hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. Every day you enjoy the multi-coloured palette of layers. A warm symphony in ocher, brown and red. A reminder how ancient our earth is. You take lots of pictures. You try to retain the magnitude of passing of time in this breathtaking part of our planet.

But then you come home. You put down your suitcase and look around your house. You see a pile of letters, and scan through them. You open your suitcase to unpack the laundry.

You call close family so they know you’re home. You tell a bit about your travels and agree on meeting later in the week. You're already making lists in your head “what to do”. Before you know you're back in the rut and memories of your amazing trip fade away.

It happened to me.

After a 3 week journey, daily life knocked on the door. To keep my memories alive I had to take action. I decided to devote time to grounding my experiences in a conscious and practical way.

I followed the 5 steps below to solidify my precious holiday moments so I could use them for future projects.


1 - Remember by writing

Nothing fancy. 

When I travel, I write brief summaries of where I am and what I do (no high prose, for my eyes only). When something spectacular catches my eye I make a quick sketch or add a note. I glue leaflets of the travel area into my logbook. I leave lots of white space where I can add pictures or notes later on. (important!)

A logbook while travelling is like having an external memory disk. You can always go back and look things up when you need it.

Here a snapshot of my logbook:

Helga's logbook


2 - Uncover the gems in your pictures

When you're home, look through your pictures. Do you notice any themes?

I found I have a lot of pictures of erosion on stones and layers in the canyon. Beautiful weird patterns and fascinating earth colour variations. I put these pictures in seperate folders and give them meaningful names. Here's for instance a link to a folder called Earth Jewels. I go back into this folder when I want to look deeper into the theme it represents.

Pictures often tell you things you didn’t realize when you were there. Have you noticed this too?


3 - Re-connect in a meaningful way

zion canyon laleipsigYour friends and family love to see short impressions of your holiday. They don't want to be bored by your long unedited version.

I make a “quick view folder”. The trip from the Grand Canyon had 467 pictures which I cut down to 92 images. Curating images often feels difficult but I also find it fun. I get to re-live my experience and the reward is a coherent story of my journey. Buried memories miraculously come back. I write them down in my logbook.

Then it’s easy to sit down with friends or family with a glass of wine, relax and talk about your trip.

Or share your folder on Facebook.


4 - Access your unconscious information

Normal life takes over.
And that is okay.

You can even use it to your advantage to incorporate your memories.  

When doing routine tasks, let your mind wander over your holiday. Observe your thoughts. Work gives your hands something to do while your head can process what happened. Let time pass to deepen memories, so unconscious feelings can rise to the surface.

I get to work in my garden. After a holiday there's always a lot to do, weeding, mowing, trimming. Work that allows my mind to wander. Often leading to new insights and connecting me to what happens in my inner life. Giving me an “Ah Erlebnis”.

Some people use meditation to access this information. I find doing daily chores has the same effect and I can clean the house and garden at the same time.

Just one tip: Keep away from the TV. It will interfere with your process.


5 - Connect Consciously

Take time to sit down with your notebook and your picture files. Ponder over the essence of your trip.  Let your experience seep through the veins of your mind (it has layers too).  You'll have new things to add to your book. Sketch!

Try to express why you like certain images. What speaks to you? What don't you like? This is why I leave lots of white space in my logbook. When analysing, you ground your experience deeper into yourself. Everything gets a place. Like cleaning up and putting everything at the right spot so you can find it later.


Walk the extra mile to add valuable layers to your holiday

When you travel, you experience a landscape with childlike eyes.
Taking it in, with all the senses you have, being there.
Without judgment, full of wonder.

Back home you engage your grown-up self.
You get a grip through analysing and organisation.
This helps you recognise patterns.

I came to the Grand Canyon expecting to see layers. And yes, I did see them but there was so much more. The experience of walking in the Canyon. The hard work to get down and then up again, touching me on a deeper level. 

Sorting my images and doing my daily tasks gave me processing time. By analysing the meaning of my experience, I could detect layers of information that I didn't know were there.

You can discover your own layers to use for future projects.

It’s as easy as sitting at your kitchen table. Enjoying a cup of coffee. Looking through your images. Have your logbook with a pencil on the side. Scribble down the thoughts that show up...

Help your inner child to access those layers of information.

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earth-jewel Antelope canyon

Grounded Chance & Finding Colour

While I followed a tulip bud till full bloom I thought about what makes my life colourful, where do I stand for?  And why the heck did I call my blog Grounded in Nature?

I did it for a good reason but I never told you, didn't know how to do it.

tulipe collage

It is part of the reasons why I have hesitations to write for this blog. I feel I haven’t yet found my voice. I struggle to tell where I stand for, to show you my colour. Because I am afraid to make stupid mistakes, that my writing isn't good enough and lots of other objections.

This fear holds me back and makes me passive.

To get over this passive state I did walk a lot. I asked some friends if I could join them with their trips. It are long walks in different area's. It expanded my horizon. Literally & spiritually because we talked about issues in life and growing in general. It's great to have such good friends :-)

Walking takes you back to the ground in a direct way. In each step you feel connected. Loved. Step by step you accomplish a lot of kilometres. You have time for observing nature, to feel, smell and see our beautiful earth. With it comes peace and a clearness on your goal.

It's time to change my approach for future blogging, to take action to make my blog more vivid.  But how to do it?

Last year I followed a DIY course from Brit Hammer to improve my photographing skills. In a short time it gave me a big boost in confidence for capturing my own work in a loving way.

Why not do it for writing as well, to help me get over the fear of being exposed?

schoenen groundedTherefore I have invested in a 3 months writing course with Henneke Duistermaat.
I strive to learn to show my colours without fear, to practice a lot and start exploring how to talk about being grounded.

What do you think, will you follow me along while I walk my path?



About La Leipsig

The jewellery which is sold under the brand name La Leipsig Jewels is based on Helga van Leipsig's observations of the nature in Limburg, a province in the south of The Netherlands.



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