Paris: Made by Hand

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I just have to share with you my favorite new book. I love Paris (who doesn't?). I love the food, the culture, the history, the gorgeous art, the way Paris can change while at the same time staying timeless. But I also love the quirks of Paris - stumbling across tiny shops, fresh markets, beautiful flowers cascading from alley windows, cars parked crazily on sidewalks. So, let me share another love here with our Wandering Educators - a book that is already well-loved, Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk. I first found Pia on her gorgeous site, playing an original, haunting piano piece that sticks with me still or listening to the rain from her houseboat in Amsterdam - with lovely photos to accompany the rain.  The more I dug into Pia's site, the more I became impressed with her great work - her creativity, her extraordinary photography, and her Self.  She's got a lovely new book, entitled Paris: Made by Hand. Published by The Little Bookroom (so you KNOW it is wonderful), this book is a treasure. Right from the start, I was intrigued by the beautiful cover. Open it up, and enter a unique, creative world that would take ages to discover, if we didn't have this gem in our hands.


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk


Pia focuses on fait main - all things handmade. Here's a glimpse (beautifully presented) of small shops that are hundreds of years old - or new. They represent creativity personified - umbrellas, paper, jewelry, shoes, fabric, ribbons, hats, clothing, pottery - ALL of these wonderful shops make you want to hop on a plane to Paris TODAY and go exploring. Pia groups her discoveries by arondissement. Each arondissement has its share of treasures, and you could easily spend weeks exploring them (of course, with plenty of meals to bolster you). The photographs in this book so lovingly tell the story of each shop that the reader is instantly inspired, intrigued, and amazed at the extraordinary creativity within. I think an ideal time in Paris would be an afternoon poking through one or more of these stores with Pia, followed by a meal with Pia and Alec Lobrano (Hungry for Paris).  What a lovely day it would be!

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Pia about her new book, artists, Paris, wandering, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about your book, Paris: Made by Hand...

PB: Paris: Made By Hand is an insider’s look at the city’s artisans, createurs and crafts boutiques, all of them from my private stylist’s black book. Each chapter is organized into ‘wanders’ so that you can easily walk from one handmade boutique to the next and see sights along the way. This is a truly unique way to experience Paris.


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk



WE:  What was the inspiration for Paris: Made by Hand?

PB: I've always loved showcasing handmade homewares in my work as an interior, food and still life stylist because the pieces are so unique and special. Plus I love supporting local artists and artisans, so it was this styling ethos that became the inspiration for the book.



WE:  In this fast-paced global economy, what are the joys of slowing down, and making things by hand - or, finding unique things made by hand?

PB: I think it's about getting back to the essence of life, enjoying simple tasks, and simple things, and understanding them in more detail, in more depth. There is such beauty in the everyday, and the handmade. When you set out to make something by hand you are more inclined to slow down, learn as you go, and respect the workmanship. I think these aspects are so important in today's fast-paced world.


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk



WE:  How has your life influenced your book?

PB: The book is rather an expression of my own life, passions, and work, in so many ways - from the subject matter itself, to the way I 'discover' and explore a city. I love to wander - to turn down little streets that look interesting, in the hope of finding something delightfully unexpected. When I was writing the book, it became rather apparent that I was organising it in 'wanders' instead of categorizing the artisans or boutiques, or placing them in areas of Paris. I was casting my mind back to each place and remembering the little streets surrounding them, wanting to guide the reader to all those places that  are just as much a part of the book as the locations themselves. Paris is an incredible backdrop for finding handmade treasure troves, and I wanted to be able to capture that somehow in the book, but still allow the reader/visitor to 'discover' this way of seeing the city for themselves as I think that is such a wonderful feeling. I was thrilled when my publisher liked the idea of organising each chapter into unmapped, unique wanders.



WE:  Paris is SUCH a special place - how did you find the treasures you share in the book? And - how did you narrow it down?!

PB: It was very much about wandering! But not just the Paris streets as The City of Lights is huge, to say the least (as an example on one occassion I walked from one end of the Champs Élysées to the other, taking little side streets here and there and that took me over 8 hours. And that was barely crossing to another arrondissments, of which there are 20). So, I also did a lot of research on the internet, asking friends, contacting artists and artisans, flicking through countless French interior magazines. The Parisian artisans themselves were a wonderful source for finding handmade boutiques and other artisans, they are so supportive of each other and really, in my opinion I have them to thank for making the book so special as many of their suggestions were fabulous and included places and artisans that I would never have found any other way.

Narrowing it down was difficult. So I'm  hoping I might get a chance to write a second addition one day in the future!


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk



WE:  How can travelers get off the beaten path - whether in Paris, or elsewhere - and truly find the artisanal, handmade goods, restaurants, markets? How can travelers give back, while abroad?

PB: Purchasing things made by hand is the perfect way to 'give back' while abroad. Because then you are supporting the local enconomy by supporting the local artisans - I don't think many city councils yet understand the importance of their artisans. It is the artisans that make a city or village unique - they have chosen to live in this place, they love it, they are passionate about it. There work is a reflection of their environment and this is what people love. In this day of the over abundance of mass-produced souvenirs, people are looking out for more interesting pieces to take home, but often can't find them because they are not on the main streets and it's hard to locate them as there is not enough publicity for them in city guides.

I would love to see more guide books like Paris: Made By Hand, I think it is the best way to get off the beaten path because otherwise it can be quite daunting. I wouldn't personally recommend just turning down any odd street, in any city without a good knowledge and experience of the place - I've done this a number of times myself in Paris  and I noticed it was very easy to get lost and end up somewhere that felt rather unsavoury or just uncomfortable. I do feel its best to have some sort of city guide, or recommendations from friends who have been, most certainly if you are a first time traveler to that city. Hmm, perhaps I'm not the bravest traveler!

But having said all that, if you are seasoned traveler and have much experience in traveling abroad, then by all means, the best way to get off the beaten path is to literally do just that - take a rocky cobblestoned road that looks interesting, and you will be sure to find something exciting and different along the way!


Paris: Made by Hand, by Pia Jane Bijkerk



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

PB:   Yes -  thank you very much for having me! I do hope you enjoy the book and are able to visit some of the artisans, if not in person then through their websites and links in the book. I will be featuring various artisans from the book throughout the year  on my blog, as there are plenty of wonderful photographs that are yet to be seen (I took many many photos and only a snippet of them could fit into this little book!). There were also some artists that I was not able to include in Paris: Made By Hand as they did not have public work spaces, and I'd love to feature them on my blog soon too. So... if you love the book, then please do keep an eye out for more information about it on my blog.



WE: Thank you so much, Pia, for this wonderful gift. THIS is a book to treasure, plan trips around, and gingerly lend out (better to buy copies for your best friends than to let this book out of your site). Truly, truly, I love this book.

Pia's book Paris: Made By Hand is out now in bookstores around the world.

For more information, please see:
the blog:
the portfolio:


Feature photo from a boutique called French Touche.

All photos courtesy and copyright of Pia Jane Bijkerk.