Marieke Verdenius is a self-taught photographer and stylist based in Amsterdam. After a decade working as a food and lifestyle editor, shooting interiors and culinary scenes, she had a strong desire to work with her hands and bring her vignettes to life.
After running a series of workshops, Marieke set up The Gatherists alongside Margot van der Krogt, in order to bring together a community of like-minded creatives around the table. Their coffee mornings and events have been held in Amsterdam, with occasional get togethers in Edinburgh, Florence and London and beyond. They have become a platform for discussion and new friendships, whilst elegantly styled with natural linens and hand thrown ceramics.
We find a moment to talk to Marieke about her process and inspirations, alongside a winter recipe and a simple guide for creating a winter garland to hang above the dinner table this Christmas.
What does gathering mean to you?
Gathering is a combination of both tangible and intangible elements. It is about connecting and enjoying each other's company, as well as creating an enriching atmosphere. This can be done really simply, whether it is dressing a dining table with some of your favourite linens, or making a home baked cake or a delicious dinner. It is about finding joy in making people feel comfortable, by paying attention to the little details that maybe nobody will consciously notice! And that's part of the fun of it, it is the little things that evoke a sense of spirit.
Where do you find inspiration?
My grandmother was always a big inspiration to me. She worked as a professional photographer and had an incredibly creative mind. She raised six children by herself after losing her husband at a young age, but she always made the most of life by organising gatherings for her friends and family. I can always remember the wall of her study, it was plastered in a beautiful collection of photographs, poems, affiches and art. Although she's not here today, I know we would have had so much to talk, especially now that I have found my path with photography.
What are some of your favourite materials to work with?
I find real beauty in combining different materials together. Putting hand thrown ceramics together with glassware, using natural linens against the occasional harsher textures like wood and stone, all with beautiful touches of dried flowers. I prefer softer tones, and materials that are not too vibrant in colour, like natural shades of walnut, pear and grape.
Do you have any tips for creating soft colours and textures for a winter table?
Start with a solid basis; a beautiful table is easy to create when dressed with a simple linen tablecloth. Every year, you can slightly change the palette by choosing a different colour theme for the napkins, flowers and plates. Choose colours that match well with the things you already have. For instance, if you used light blue linen napkins last year, maybe you can find a matching set in a slightly different tone to combine them with for this year's table - adding to your collection. You can create balance by adding candles in a constrasting colour palette.
Can you share with us a simple guide for making a garland at home?
Start by foraging for a few sizable branches - a rosehip or a berry branch for example. You could also use a fresh eucalyptus branches and add in some dried flowers. To make your garland, you will also need a good pair of garden scissors, some iron wire and some fishing wire.
For the base, use two branches. Lay them in the centre of the table, letting them overlap in the middle. Use a piece of iron wire and connect both branches together. Use your garden scissors to trim another branch into smaller pieces. Add them in selectively - using pieces of iron wire - until you have shaped the desired garland. Make sure all of the branches overlap and don't fall out.
The garland should cover half the table, but if it is smaller that will also work well. As long as it is hanging above the centre it is going to look great!
Hang the garland from the ceiling using strong fishing wire, or ribbon, which will work nicely too. If you use fishing wire you can create the illusion on a floating garland. Usually you need another hand to hang the piece! Once it is hanging above the dinner table, you can tweak it a little bit here and there by slotting in extra branches and dried flowers, and hanging decorations and baubles off the ends. Entwining paper garlands amongst the branches adds a really magical touch, I have used some origami stars amonst the berries. Make sure to not add anything that is too heavy, and be careful of any precious glass baubles that could fall.
Also, be sure to hang the garland high enough from lit candles!
What dish will you be making over the festive season?
Something I really like to put together, that works well as a side dish, is a winter radicchio salad with figs, blue cheese and toasted walnuts. It will be enough for about 6 people. You will need:
1 big head of radicchio or 2 small ones
100g Roquefort cheese
Handful of walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper
Maldon sea salt (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Trim and remove any worn outer radicchio leaves, peel the other leaves off and tear them into smaller pieces. Dress the leaves on a large plate. Cut the figs in wedges or slices and arrange them together with little pieces of Roquefort, toasted walnuts and chopped parsley on top of the radicchio. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle some olive oil on top plus the lemon juice and serve with some sourdough bread or a warm baguette. Simple!
Images courtesy of Marieke Verdenius.
Marieke uses our hand pressed tableware by Wonkiware, a selection of Hand Painted Baubles, Furoshiki Table Gifts and our Washed Linen Napkins in rust, indigo and quince. This Christmas, you can also dress your table with our Christmas Crackers that have been hand assembled in Dorset using Nepalese lokta papers, block printed by artisans in the Kathmandu Valleys of Nepal. Adorn both your garland and tree with a curation of Christmas Decorations - whether that be a hand marbled paper garland, or a set of intricately engraved baubles from Damascus.