Tija, Marut & Mellow – Palomita

Tija, Marut & Mellow

 I had the pleasure of getting to know the artist behind one of my favorite toys we've ever had in the shop, the Joy Puzzle Block SetTija Van Klaarbergen ( @tija.created) is just getting started as an illustrator and creator in Thailand. She moved from The Netherlands to Bangkok where she fell in love with her husband Marut  and they made the coolest kid ever named Mellow ( Follow @mellowkid for great kid content and craft ideas) Tija is passionate about art, parenting and nature. I can feel her positive light through her work and love for her family. I'm thankful to share Tija's beautiful family and her personal journey with our community here. 

Q: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

A: I was born and raised in Delft, The Netherlands. I enjoyed living in a city that’s very small (especially compared to Bangkok). With lots of nature close to our home and being able to cycle everywhere. Now that I’m a parent in a city where nature is not that easy to access and cycling nearly impossible, I realize how lucky I was and will try my best to give Mellow as much playtime outside as possible.

Q: Can you share a little about Thailand and what you love most about living/parenting there? 

A: Thailand is a very beautiful country with so much to do and see. We live in Bangkok which is very different from any other place in Thailand so I can only share my experiences of parenting in Bangkok. Which is fun. There’s always something to do, it’s almost hard to keep up with all the activities. From sustainability markets to art exhibitions to festivals and celebrating national holidays. You won’t ever get bored in Bangkok. At times it can be overwhelming (especially the traffic) but I can not even think of moving anytime soon.

Q: Were you raised with traditions or experiences that you are consciously trying to incorporate into your own parenting philosophy?

A: There’s definitely a lot I will (unconsciously) incorporate in my parenting style from they way I was raised. But I also believe times are very different now especially with all the technology, so I try to do a lot of research and create my own way of parenting.

One of the things I will definitely include in my parenting style is the unconditional love and support my parents always give me. 

I try my best to be aware of how I parent and what I teach my daughter. There’s a couple things I’d like to focus on like self love, being kind to others, understanding (own) emotions, setting boundaries, appreciating nature, freedom to be herself, respecting different cultures, optimism and much more. I try to find fun ways to teach her about this through crafts, toys, books, conversations and (nature) play. 

Q: Raising Mellow in a multicultural family, what are some traditions or experiences that you’ve started as a family? 

A: We have ‘family day’ on Mondays, which means all day we spend together and do something fun. That could be visiting an art exhibition, bicycle ride, farm visit, going to a park or anything else we come up with. 

We celebrate national holidays, mostly Thai ones (since we are here and the entire country celebrates them and there’s not many dutch ones).

I have a couple ideas for family traditions but for most of them I have to wait a little till she’s older (I’d like to do a yearly birthday portrait. The day before her birthday she could paint herself whichever way she likes). I plan to come up with little traditions like this throughout the year. But only if she likes them, traditions are not necessary if they’re not enjoyed. 

Q: How did you and your partner meet?

A: We met on Instagram but started dating after we went on our first date here in Bangkok. I had plans to solo travel and go home to study but my plans all changed once COVID started (which canceled all my tickets and travel plans) and I fell in love with my husband. I stayed in Thailand and got pregnant, this made the decision for me to move here very easy. Now 3 years later we are married, we have a daughter who’s almost 2 years old and we live in Bangkok. It all went real fast but I couldn’t be happier. 

Q: How old is your daughter Mellow and what is she most into right now? 

A: She will be 2 years old in March. 

She loves stacking toys, I keep finding little stacks of random objects in our house haha. She also loves to draw, luckily for me someone invented those washable markers haha!

Q: What is your favorite activity, craft, or adventure to do with Mellow? 

A: I love to make garlands with her. I let her (hand)paint on a big piece of paper that I cut into shapes and hang on a string. We did mushrooms for autumn, ghosts for Halloween, Christmas trees and candy canes for Christmas and we plan to make hearts for valentines. 

As for adventure she likes the beach most which is nice since my mom loves that too and visits us often. We try to do little islands trips throughout the year. That’s another thing I love about living in Thailand, how cheap and easy it can be to travel to islands! 

Q: Your family visits art museums and exhibits often— What do you love most about exposing Mellow to art at a young age? 

A: We visit the exhibitions mainly for me because I like to see art and get inspired for my work as an illustrator. But since mellow always has a lot of fun walking around and looking at the art, my husband and I decided to do it as part of our family days. I believe it’s educational for her to take a look into someone else’s imagination. I try to find exhibitions where there’s a lot for her to see. Like exhibitions that are fully decorated floor to ceiling and at least some of the art is at her eye level. Or exhibitions that are meant for children.

Q: What’s something you love most about being a parent? 

A: I love receiving her love, and seeing her joy. Her presence makes me feel so incredibly grateful. And besides the sweetest smiles and cuddles I get from Mellow I also feel like I’m more myself. I have more discipline, inspiration, self reflection and have figured out what I want to do with my future.  

I kind of knew I wanted to be an illustrator but once the world of children books and toys opened up to me I connected the two and realized designing/illustrating children toys/books is what I’d love to do. 

Q: Most challenging part of parenting?

A: Trying to get to know yourself so deeply that you are aware of the things you do by default, that you don't per se want to pass on to the next generation haha. 

Becoming a parent can be very overwhelming for many reasons. I want to do everything well while staying sane, and also figure out what to believe or follow in a world where there’s countless contradicting parenting statements. 

Q: Can you share a little about your work and your partner’s work? 

A: I am a starting illustrator. I studied graphic design in college in The Netherlands before I met my husband. I planned to travel then comeback to finish my studies, but I never went back and was never able to continue college. Luckily there’s a lot of courses and tutorials online for me to teach myself all I need to know. I’m still figuring my way out and enjoying the process. 

The Avdar Joy Puzzle Block contest I won is actually what helped me be less insecure to share my work online. 

My husband is mainly a rapper. He also models often, has his own clothing/headwear line and even acted in a movie. It's all a lot of fun and a very interesting world to be part of. He is very passionate and surrounded by a big group of very kind and supportive friends/colleagues. And since I can do my work from home it gives him a lot of time to focus on work and travel for shows. Through all the chaos we ended up with a perfect combination of jobs. 

Q: Any advice from either of you on finding a balance between parent/work life? 

A: We’re still figuring that out ourselves but I do recommend planning a family day, any day or time that suits your family’s schedule. 

A couple hours a week that’s meant for connecting and doing fun activities definitely helps us to make sure we don’t get lost in work and stress. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

A: As a parent: I’m looking forward to being able to communicate with Mellow more. From what I’ve heard from other parents is that the age 2 to 3 is when talking really sky rockets. 

Work related: I am focussing so much on creating my own brand and I am looking forward to the projects and collaborations that are about to come. Really excited to find out what this year will bring. I have a good feeling about it! 

Also looking forward to spending time with my family. My mom, sister and nephew will visit us and I really miss spending quality time with them. That will be the highlight of the year for sure :)

Q: What is something your younger self needed to hear that wasn't said?

A: That struggle and feelings are temporary. It will pass and good things will come eventually. Don't waste time waiting for that struggle to pass because the lowest moments are the ones that teach us the most. The most painful feelings will bring you closer to yourself. And with an optimistic mindset, even the darkest days light up.

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