By Bethanie Hestermann
Step inside Pansy, a small shop, studio, and creative workshop in Amsterdam, and you’re greeted by a bouquet of color—handmade ceramics, art prints, homewares, and other carefully curated items designed to inspire happiness + lift your spirits. (We hear there’s even pink toilet paper in the loo!) Pansy’s owner, Alina Tang, is the beautiful soul + creative behind the cuteness. As a ceramic artist + small business owner, Alina creates, she curates, AND she calls the shots!
While it can be overwhelming to be the boss lady, Alina enjoys having her own space that embodies who she is + warmly invites other artists and non-artists alike to share her world through workshops (hello Ceramic Sundaes!) + beginner-friendly kits for making and glazing at home. We know you’ll love pansy as much as we do!
Learn more about Alina’s journey in today’s Q&A!
Tell us about Pansy!
Pansy is a small shop and studio based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, celebrating and sharing: handmade ceramics, illustrations, homewares, and artwork from independent female artists around the world.
What inspired you to open your own space?
It’s always been a dream to have my own space that combines my favorite ways of working: independently in a studio, running workshops, and sharing work from other artists from around the world.
I want Pansy to be a physical expression of who I am, everything that I love, and what I find funny and beautiful to share with the world. It also combines my working space downstairs in the studio, so I get to make things every day whilst interacting and welcoming strangers into my little world!
A big part of having my own space also means that I have creative control over the kinds of projects I get to make happen, the kinds of people I work with, and every detail and part of the business can be true to who I am and what I find important. I can make a wiener week if I wanna! I can buy pink toilet paper for the loo if I wanna! I can arrange my art supplies only in pastel-coloured crates if I wanna!
What part of your business brings you the most joy?
When people understand, appreciate, and enjoy what I do! It just absolutely makes my heart sing when people say that they love Pansy!!!
It comes in different ways; sometimes a compliment in the shop, DMs through Instagram, a wave from a passerby, people purchasing and buying items, sending a snail-mail love letter—every tiny bit of energy that comes back to me I feel deeply and send it back into the world!
How did you originally get into ceramics + art?
Like many creative people, I always loved drawing and making things as a child. Of course, I had strict, traditional parents who would have loved it if I became a doctor or an accountant, but I realized very early on in school that math and science were not my strengths.
I love using my hands! I studied Fine Arts and thought I would be a painter or a sculptor. In my first year of study, they axed the ceramics department, so I spent a lot of my time trying to teach myself ceramics, volunteering in community studios, and working for other artists to absorb as much as I could. I ended up majoring in printmaking (screen printing, etching, relief printing) and really loving it. But it wasn’t until I relocated to the Netherlands that I really took ceramics more seriously and chased that big hole in my heart—and now it’s what I get to do every day! I’m so proud as punch.
What inspires your fun, positive designs?
I love flowers. I started learning about flowers and flower arranging after a particularly bad breakup during art school. I remember buying huge armfuls of flowers and crying through every class because I was so sad. Working with flowers is incredibly tactile but also intuitive as well. I think there are a lot of similarities with printmaking and ceramics—they are all process-based ways of working, and I like that a lot.
I love thinking about flowers. I like thinking about colours. I love the making process, so most of my work starts with things I see around the house—flowers I see at markets, flowers I’ve been gifted, and from there some material exploration and something bright and cheerful usually comes out the other end. I try not to overthink things.
What is the hardest part of what you do?
I’m incredibly grateful and privileged to be doing what I’m doing. It makes my heart hurt because I feel so lucky. It’s a dream job, but of course there’s always hard parts too. I guess the hardest part is doing everything all the time. Especially at the beginning of the journey, I invested almost all of my savings into the branding, setting up, rent deposit, stock, materials, furniture, renovations … so in addition to all that, being the boss encompasses all aspects of running the business (even the boring parts—cleaning, administration, organizing, calling and chasing missing freight, etc.).
I do get a lot of support now in the studio, but everything is all in my head. I’m not a particularly organized person, so I often feel overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do list, because there are forever things that I want to improve and do better and always things that I want to be doing creatively that don’t get as much time and attention because the serious business parts need a lot of time too. Mostly emails. I hate answering emails, but I’d say it’s about 70% of my job!!!
What is something about your business that most people don’t know?
I get SO many emails!!!!!! It’s so great but also I just can’t find the time amongst everything else to be answering them constantly. I’m working with my best friend Jo who helps me every now and then to clear my inbox close to zero before it gets into triple digits fairly quickly!!
How do you carve out time for rest (if you do) … anything you’ve learned about work/life balance in the last couple years?
It feels easy to work every day and every evening because I love what I do so much. It often doesn’t feel like work, and sometimes the line blurs between work feeling like building the business or self-development as I feel personally connected to Pansy. It’s been an especially tumultuous and difficult year with a lot of exhaustion and overworking, overthinking. I’ve slowly learned to carve out my Mondays, they are my very sacred and special days off. I’ve learned the hard way to just say no to making dates, appointments, I don’t answer phone calls, look at my emails, or anything like that.
Work/life balance is a hard one. I love that Pansy is a big part of my life. My boyfriend Bobo is also a freelance illustrator, so we would both happily work 7 days a week and evenings too. But I am also scared of burn out, and I never want to hate or resent Pansy. So my Mondays help me fall in love again.
What has surprised you about the community you’ve created?
My heart falls out of my brain every time someone has travelled far (across cities, countries) to come visit Pansy. It just makes me feel so humbled that someone has found or followed my work online and would make the effort to come visit in person. It’s extra super special, and I’m so in awe and grateful for every person who comes in.
What impact are you hoping to have in your community?
I want and dream for Pansy to be a well-known, well-loved space in Amsterdam; a friendly shop that people always feel welcome to visit, have a chat, and browse inside. I hope that people feel seen, taken care of, and special whenever they come in. A big part of my dream includes interactive aspects like workshops, artist talks, collaborative events, exhibitions, launches, and so on. I love parties too—so I hope that I can bring together friendly and sweet people to feel a happy, warm buzz in the neighborhood.
Follow along with Alina on Instagram at @helloitspansy!