Overalls, Crocs and baby hairs: an unconventional route to claim space (Part 2)

The building process teaches you things you never knew about yourself. Editor in Chief Marie-Anne Leuty (she/her) talks refurbishment, being in the moment and the importance of ownership.

After our experience being frozen out of the Brouwersgracht, we knew we had to take time to find the right place.

We were pretty broken.

Months of work on Journal 001 was set against a backdrop of pearl clutching neighbours, gaslighting landlords and dog shit. If the neighbours had known what we were working on, I wonder how differently we might have experienced that (passive) aggressive resistance.

After moving things into storage, we took a couple of weeks to rest and re-group.

New beginnings

Some cursory browsing on Funda later and we went to a few viewings. Each one had pros and cons helping us to figure out what we did and didn’t want.

We were very lucky. With the financial support of our parents and blessings from the Amsterdam property gods, we got the keys to our new headquarters in the Bijlmer on 1 July. 

The space was perfect. It needed some serious TLC but we were ready. 

A huge part of why we went independent and started TQTB in the first place was to find healthier ways of working and living. We knew that the refurbishment would take a lot of energy but the benefits far outweighed scary moments up ladders, sweeping up encrusted dust and mouse poop or dizziness from paint fumes.

Staying present

As the weeks went by, seeing the transformation of the space unfold brought a peace of mind I’d waited my entire career for. 

After my third burnout, I left my full-time job to work on TQTB. I knew I was as ready to embark on this journey as I’d ever be – but there were no guarantees or safety net. 

The physicality of the work helped to assuage the peaks of anxiety. I’d never worked on a refurbishment this big and seeing the changes day by day kept me present and out of my head. 

We took pictures and timelapse videos most days. In the evenings, we made a ritual of looking at what the cameras captured. It was super rewarding. I’d never seen someone like me take on this kind of DIY work. Certainly not a project this scale. And certainly not as a business owner. 

Black women and women of colour rarely get these kinds of opportunities.

Looking over the photos was a daily reminder that any step forward – however big or small – contributes to your overall progress. Sometimes you’re too close to something to notice the growth. 

Make the time to acknowledge that shift, baby. You’ll surprise yourself.

Building a safe space

As underrepresented creatives, we normally don’t have access to studios like this, let alone have our names on the tenancy agreement of one. 

On the long list of needs for the space, we ideally wanted to be located in the Bijlmer so we could work with the local community. TQTB wouldn’t exist without the guidance and support we got from people who understood where we were coming from culturally – that’s what we intend to do through TQTB and The Study Group Foundation.

You’ll hear more next spring about the community-focused projects we’ve got planned that will pour water back into the Bijlmer’s cup. 

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Bonus lessons

Summer 2021 wasn’t just about big, meaningful realisations. I also learned that:

  • Seagulls like to make their nests on flat roofs in industrial parks
  • Seagulls are very aggressive in July because their chicks are learning to fly
  • Seagull chicks that hurt their foot when crash landing will take refuge in your doorway
  • Seagulls will circle, swoop and attack with the heated fervour of any protective parent
  • Seagulls don’t like open umbrellas – keep one in your bag at all times in summer

Your support matters

Four months since we got the keys, the biggest tasks are complete but we’re still working on the space. 

We understand that times are tough right now. 

If you’re able to, we appreciate donations so we can keep doing our work that celebrates community and provides a platform for our stories to be told our way. 

Hopefully we won’t need to spend your donation to hire a scaffolding tower again, but you never know.

(If you didn’t get that reference, read part one of the blog here.)

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Follow Marie-Anne: @marieanneleuty