Everyone has a story. A story that has defined and shaped their lives. A few key decisions that have changed the course of your life and have brought you here, where you are now, totally in the right place to do what you came to do.

It is not always easy though.

And my journey is still continuing.

But here is a snapshot of how I became me, my decisions that have brought me here, my struggles that define what I do and why.

I am a maker. I shape my life from a deep love for nature.

I am also an artist.

But life was not always that way.

I remember I was standing beside the road, holding onto my bike, doubled over, crying out loud. The tears choking me, my stomach feeling so sick I felt I could no longer breathe. I was 19 and was on my way back from college. I was torn between going to my boyfriend’s home or going to my parent’s home. And I could not decide. This was no ordinary decision. This decision would define the rest of my life…..

I was always a strange child. I was very much interested in angels and spiritual guidance, feeling there was more to life then what we could see. I was always drawing and colouring or making up stories. It gave me a sense of being in the world, a sense of safety.

This search for spiritual guidance drew me, at the age of 14, into a community that was doing things differently. It was a group of people living by guidance coming through a medium. I would later call it a sect. But first I fell in love with the son of the couple behind it and got deeply involved and absorbed by this new way of seeing the world. Just imagine the impact on a deeply impressionable, searching, young girl!

But at the age of 19 I made the toughest decision I have ever made and decided to leave the sect. I will never forget that evening. I was no longer feeling fully engaged in and had started to doubt some of the teachings and had been told I had to make a decision between following God (them) or my heart (my feelings). The latter was explained as the bad choice. But I was very much drawn to it, feeling I wanted to be able to make my own decisions, build my own life, on my own terms. That was the night I was cycling back from college and had to decide between going home or back to the sect. I remember slumping down beside the road crying out loud knowing I really wanted to go home and feeling so bad for it.

But I did go home. And that was the best decision I have ever made, to follow my heart, I only didn’t know it yet, and wouldn’t realize for another 7 years that I had actually made the right decision. This was definitely the darkest moment in my life.

I was left with the strangest rules and a deep sense of guilt for not being good enough to be able to follow God’s commands. But also a deep determination to start building my own life, and to live it fully on my own terms, from my heart, and to really feel every moment of it.

At first this was scary as I had been told this was wrong. But I gradually realized our gut feeling is the only truthful guidance we have.

Once I made my decision to follow my heart, my gut feeling, many things happened in quick succession.
I met my husband, and within the year we had married, had a baby on the way and had made the decision to leave Belgium for Ireland to live a simpler life with plenty of space for the kids, to live close to nature and to build our life from scratch together.
We build our own house from wood and stone from the land, transformed a forested hillside into a large vegetable garden, living a simple off-grid life, as self-sufficient as possible. I got interested in willow and basket making. For 10 years I concentrated on raising our family, making a home, settling in, gardening and improving my basket making skills.

image of cottage by Hanna Van Aelst
Home by Hanna Van Aelst

My baskets became more and more in demand but my body was feeling the worse for it until one autumn after a few very big baskets my hand were so swollen and sore I could not make any more and had to rest. My chest, back and shoulders were aching and inflammation was settling in.

image of detail of basket making with Hanna Van Aelst
Detail of basket making with Hanna Van Aelst

It took 12 months for my body to be ok again. That break gave me time to reflect.
When eventually I started making again, slowly at first, organic, flowing shapes appeared.
When making I felt deeply in tune with a natural, nurturing and nourishing force that I could translate into each piece. The willow would bend and guide me too.

And now I am walking on the edge between this healing, natural energy and the world. It is waiting to connect with us. It wants to be heard.
Each piece I make speaks of that force in all of us. It is creative, feminine, nourishing and healing.

It is time for us to wake up, grow up and start acting like grown-ups. We cannot continue to take more then we can give back, destroy our beautiful planet and all the creatures on it. We are not the owners of her, but participants in this magical life on earth. We are all interconnected.

I believe it is time for all of us to stop whining, to stop hiding and to stand up and move into our calling. The world needs you. We all need your gift, the talent you have been given, and if used will make this world a better place for all.

Let’s do it together…. Let’s walk together for a while..

You can follow and like us:
My Story