Maha & Vans: Women in Focus | Michelle

Celebrating women, always. In the light of Women's History Month and tomorrow's International Women's Day, we joined forces with Vans to celebrate women today. By telling the story of three powerful, female creatives. Because women inspire each other. Women motivate each other. Women support each other, and women grow together. Read along and get to know more about the lovely Michelle.

Maha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle BergwijnMaha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle Bergwijn

Michelle is a young female creative who expresses herself and inspires others through the art of painting. Besides painting, she is currently busy with her new project, Érbs. A provider of everyday herbs and a community platform to exchange love and wisdom focused on the strength found within nature. 

Michelle Bergwijn (24): 
Artist, herbalist and (almost, haha) sexologist
Her favourite OG Vans Silhouette is the OG Slip-On Checkerboard

On the set of our shoot, we caught a glimpse of your creative process as you painted a beautiful visual from scratch. Can you tell us a little more about this process? For example, where do you find inspiration, and how do you then manage to express yourself on a blank canvas? 
My painting process is always very spontaneous. I never use sketches and mostly start with whatever colour and pattern I feel like at that moment. I then paint a face or body over it. It’s never really about the details for me, but more about the colours and movements that express my feelings on the canvas. During the shoot, I felt like creating round movements to symbolise womenhood, Mother Earth and female power. I like to use spiritual symbolism in my work because it turns the process of painting into a ritual for me.

Maha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle BergwijnMaha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle Bergwijn

Many of your artworks include the outlines of a female face, travelling across your paintings like a red thread. Who is she, and what does she stand for?
The faces on my paintings are a reflection of myself at that moment. I’ve dealt with a lot of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. At certain times that made me feel like I wasn’t real or that I kept transforming into different versions of me, Michelle. A lot of the faces look a little lost or scared, whilst others look powerful and confident. Like one of my paintings that represents Hathor. I created Hathor in an empowering time filled with love, a time during which I found a safe space within my sexuality that I struggled with for a while because it can be discouraging to feel sexualised most of the time. It was hard for me to enjoy my sexuality in a healthy way, but painting has helped me a lot with this. Hathor btw is an Egyptian Goddess that stands for love, joy, sexuality and more.

Maha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle BergwijnMaha & Vans Present: Womxn in Focus | Michelle Bergwijn

Being a young female creative, what does the support and empowerment from other female creatives mean to you? 
It means a lot to be able to share your creativity with other women because it's the feeling of unity that makes art so special. Of course, I can just make stuff and let it rot away in my workspace, but to have the option to reach a group of women that have been through the same pain or joy as I did is a very beautiful thing. Also seeing other women do their thing is really motivating for me to keep doing what I’m doing. 


Photography: Suus Waijers