‘ve been wanting to introduce you to my friend Melanie
for a while now. She’s one of the most radiant and positive people I know, and I find her a true inspiration so I really wanted to share her story with you. Plus she lives in this huge appartment in Antwerp with the sweetest nursery!
Melanie and I met when she moved into my student house her first year of college and we hit it off right away. She also studied communications so we had a lot of the same classes, and even ended up studying abroad in Barcelona together, where we also shared a flat. She’s actually the person I’ve lived with the longest apart from my boyfriend and parents. I could show you some hilarious photo’s from our student years studying for our most hated course (ICT) in our PJs and greasy hair with the help of a bucket of M&Ms (but I won’t!).
Since we became actual proper adults, Melanie has worked in TV production, moved to Brazil for a year with her lovely boyfriend Hendrik and had the cutest baby named Maurice. She also hit a rough patch last year and decided to take her life into her own hands and change things up. Melanie already started learning jewelry design in Brazil, but now she’s back in Belgium, and recently launched a brand under her own name: Melanie Van Dooren
. I couldn’t be prouder of her living life on her own terms, so let me show you why I love this girl!
1. Hi Melanie! Can you tell me who you are and what you do?
First and foremost, I’m mom to Maurice (1 year old) and soulmate of Hendrik, my boyfriend of six years. A few years ago I discovered the wonderful world of precious metals and since may of 2016 I took my passion to the next level and started making silver jewelry under the brand name Melanie Van Dooren
. So I fill my days with motherhood, friendship and entrepreneurship.
2. You decided to change things up and take the plunge after a burn out. Hopefully my readers don’t have to experience this phenomenon first hand themselves, so I’d like you to give them your best advice on how to prevent/spot a burn out.
A burn out is not something you wake up with from one day to the next. It creeps up on you and the more you deny something is goin on, the harder it will smack you in the face. I surrendered to the disease when I started noticing not only mental but physical symptoms: hair loss, broken nails, bleeding gums, constant gagging, panic attacks… Activities that used to give me energy were now draining the energy from my body. A walk, an errand or an evening with the girls became so tiring that I had to recuperate for days. My best medicine was a mentality shift: I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.
Building a career; being the mom I want to be, have a healthy and fit life and be social just wasn’t compatible with the 24 hours we have in a day for me. I had to prioritize and compromize.
I’ve made the very cons
cious decision to give up on the idea of making a career for now (maybe even forever) and I consider it as an ultimate act of feminism: being able to make that choice. I’m very happy making ‘just’ a living by doing what I really love and I believe this is already an achievement. I want to be healthy and see my son grow up in the first place.
A general mentality shift could be a good case. I highly recommend the book “Mentaal Kapitaal” by Elke Geraerts
on the subject.
My best medicine was a mentality shift: I don’t have to prove myself to anyone.
3. In your work and life, What inspires you?
There’s not really anything or anyone in particular. I don’t really go looking for inspiration, I prefer to let things come to me. I try to handle those impulses creatively. A great example of this is my Milestone collection
. I’m in a time in my life where all my friends are getting married, are going to live on their own, have babies, get new jobs,… and that always goes hand in hand with a party. For every occasion I started making a bracelet with a fun engraving for my best friendsF. After a while I brought them together and the Milestones were born.
I do try to live by certain values. For instance, as a child I’ve told myself to make as many friends and as little enemies as possible in life. And I still try to interact with people this way. So far it has really worked out well for me (laughs). I have a number of things like that that I try to live by and when I was pregnant I wrote them all down because I want to teach them to my son. My boyfriend made a contribution as well: ‘when an apple is green, she’s ready to pluck, when a girl is sixteen, she’s ready to…’ Well, you can imagine what followed. 🙂
4. Who are your big examples (in work/life)?
I think everyone close to me sets an example in some way. If I have to choose, I’d say my boyfriend Hendrik and my mom. Hendrik because he goes through life with such ease, and because of the the perspective he has on things. My mom because she has raised three kids while she worked fulltime, is very happy together with my dad and still found some time for herself.
5. You had your first son little over a year ago, how has motherhood changed you and what is the best thing you’ve learned from it?
When you get a baby, your look on life changes. It didn’t happen overnight for me, I had to adapt quite a bit. I’ve learned to prioritize and set boundaries and most of all, I’ve learned to put things into perspective. And of course, very cliché, I’ve learned what unconditional love is. I’ve also learned our Western society as it is, based on two working parents isn’t very child friendly, but I don’t think we can say that’s ‘the best thing I’ve learned from it’ :).
If I see a smile or maybe even a tear I know: ‘mission accomplished’.
6.What is the most important thing for you about (your) jewelry?
Jewelry design is a creative meditation for me. I really unwind in my atelier, I’m doing something and I’m really focussed. A trip to the Vestingstraat in Antwerp has the same effect, this is where all the crafts that have to do with jewelry design come together in perfect harmony. It energizes me, just like the many lovely reactions I get from people. They make me jump out of bed and start working.
Before I start I always think “who am I making happy today?”. A jewel is more than an ornament, it so often has sentimental value: something you buy to treat yourself or you get as a gift. It can be a memory, a birthday present, a symbol of love,… It often refers to moments and people you cherish. I think it’s very symbolic so I make them with so much love and really focus on quality and durability, because a piece like that has to last a lifetime. Sometimes I’m there when the new owner sees their jewel for the first time. If I see a smile or maybe even a tear I know: ‘mission accomplished’.
All images taken in Melanie’s home except for the two portraits, these were taken in my home.