Molly de Vries is the founder and force behind Ambatalia, a textile goods company striving to help everyone live a more a non-disposable life. We are honored to support and sell her lovely textiles and to help encourage living clean and treating our homes, ourselves and our earth with kindness. Her true passions and enthusiasm for living in an eco-conscious manner are unequivocal. She is such an inspiration in every way!
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I want to contribute to society and our environment in a positive way, creating Ambatalia ( Amba- meaning Mother) and all that she is, is a way for me to share love, light, and nurturing into the world.
My business has turned out to be a way for me to turn my obsessive awareness and thought into creativity, share those ideas, find power in things I can control, find order and peace in myself and find deeper connections with nature, food and people that want to change the world for the better for all living things.
Background? Where does your creativity come from?
I grew up in a very resourceful family, my parents raising 7 children and both very creative – Even though the marriage ended, my Mom and Dad loved to find things and fix them up, they would pick things up at the dump and flea markets, my dad would make furniture and toys and my mom sewed our clothes and soft furnishings, They both loved beautiful things-
I also had some life experiences that shifted some obsessive thinking and negativity to creativity and awareness, like all the single-use disposables people were using and not seeming to notice and how that affected our world, I turn those observations into tiny action plans and that led to a deeper desire to create. Textiles were a natural fit to creating solutions to combat the waste that comes from our daily activities to live, from shopping for our food, furnishing our home and clothing our bodies- the history of utilitarian textiles and our environment is my passion.
From the late 80's I started these small actions, whether it was cleaning the trash out of the creeks to when I owned a hair salon in the late 90’s and created a bulk section for my customers to bring their bottles back to refill. I haven't bought a plastic water bottle for years and I gave up owning a car for 10 years to challenge myself in the 90's- by walking or riding my bike everywhere. This life commitment for me has been slow and steady with lots of room for mistakes.
Can you describe the moment or time when you knew that creating objects was what you wanted to do? How did your passion come to be?
This is a long story of intentionally changing careers, from being a hairdresser for 20 years to doing what I do today. Many things pointed me in this direction. One of the key moments was my 40th birthday that I planned to do my passion for singing in front of my friends and family, hiring a pianist to accompany me in that performance, after a year of practicing, the event happened and I learned a life-changing lesson. In my judgment that my performance was mediocre, I realized the power of doing it anyway and it didn't matter what I thought about it.
Because of that experience I gave my self another year to find something that I truly cared about to do for a living.
That day I performed ( my 40th birthday) my mom and husband gave me my first overlock sewing machine, I was obsessed with sewing a whole line of goods made out of brown paper grocery bags- I made a messenger bag, a sun hat, wallet, and lots of other items- the idea of this simple bag and the varied shades of brown paper that are considered disposable is what started stirring my creativity. I collected bags from around the world-it sounds crazy but it's in the simple things like that, that really is where my joy and creativity is found. This is also translated into textiles, the love for authentic, simple and useful objects tells life stories. When I opened Ambatalia, the sustainable fabric store- my business cards were made of hand stamped, cut up recycled grocery bags. It's that way of thinking for me and that is how I come up with ideas.
I started noticing everything- How I would sit in the bathtub for hours- looking at home magazines, in the most obsessive way- and that's when I became aware of this passion for the handmade, the people that make them and the materials used. I opened Ambatalia, the fabric store. My store had environmentally and culturally sustainable textiles from Japanese indigo to organic cotton from Sally Fox, This opened my life up to everything I do.
Burning man was a life-changing experience as well- happens to be 18 years ago that my husband and I got married there. The practice of “no spectating” a core principle of burning man changed me to participate in a way that I never quite thought about until I was knee deep in it- The idea of participating in life in this way, physically came home with me. Instantly I found my self-following through on ideas, from things like creating a build a bear birthday party for my daughter where I made bears that the kids could stuff with rags and sew up to Finnish to making party crowns and cloth appliquéd goody bags for all the kids. Those were just the beginning
What’s your favorite artwork?
I wish I could narrow it down - I would say any art! There is room for all of it-
What kind of routines or rituals do you have?
I am by nature an undisciplined human being, a mess in a lot of ways. I am a collector of things and that’s how I have been able to create my business. I create from using what I have but organizing was not my best trait, If I would have been organized or ready- I wouldn't have even started.
I am a recovering, grateful alcoholic so discipline is very important to grow and heal, because of this mental disorder, I have found a spiritual practice necessary to find peace in my day and success in my business. It's been the most difficult challenge to give up habits that were keeping me small and changing habits that honor my gifts and bring them to the world in the most successful way. One of the things I have learned is, it's about progress, not perfection.
I start my morning before I start to think, or even have coffee. I get down on my knees and offer my day to a power greater than my self which happens to be “LOVE”. I ask to be of service and to give myself to the greater good, I listen to music that lifts my spirit with hope and positivity and I chime my Tibetan bowl- to remind myself to be in the present and throughout the day I connect with other alcoholics to offer support or ask for support in keeping in the right direction. I also work the 12 steps with my sponsor.
What’s your favorite thing that you created?
I create only what I love and find useful, so even if it's not a great seller, I still keep it going. I do love the utensil rolls.
What do you try to communicate through your art?
To question everything- keep things simple and to be of service to all living things-
The power in the tiny choices and actions, we can make every day.
Slowing down, do what you love no matter what.
Do I want to contribute to something that is healthy for the whole planet or a quick fix for just myself? How does this action affect something else?
What role, in general, do you think artists play in society? What are your thoughts on being an artist in today's world?
Freedom of expressing our human experience.
I think that art is essential to life and freedom of expression is as important as food and water.
For me, It’s a collaboration in moving forward as human beings - without seeing, feeling and respecting all of the realms of being human from anyone's point of view would be a very dark existence.
Is there a creative medium you would like to pursue but have not yet tried?
There are so many things I want to do-
I want to weave, draw, play guitar and sing, to name a few.
Do you have any advice on how to be more creative? OR overcoming creative blocks?
Listen to your heart and what brings you joy and just do it, start it.
When I’m stuck which often is several times a day, I stop what I’m doing and take another kind of action even if it's doing the dishes or sweeping my porch, or hanging laundry on the line, this usually will change my thoughts and then I can get back into it. Making a decision to trust the process and do what intuitively feels good, but sometimes that involves feeling down and just being with it too.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
You are worthy, do the next right thing.
To learn more about how you can live a more non-disposable life and are in the Northern California area, Molly has partnered with Good Earth Natural Foods in Mill Valley to offer workshops, teaching us techniques to live a life free from unnecessary waste.
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