Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate: An Interview

I have a boat-crush on S/V Delos. The photogenic crew of this 53-foot Amel Super Maramu has been island hopping around the Pacific since 2009, and recently crossed the Indian Ocean from Asia to Africa, where they’re now cruising the coast. Their videos are full of endless tropical sunsets, brisk winds, idyllic beaches, and frequent laughter. I know how intoxicating life onboard a boat can be, and the nonstop fun they seem to have is enough to make you want to double-click on the “Buy us a Beer” icon on the website repeatedly, hoping if you do it enough they’ll let you come onboard and stay for a year or two…

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But to everyone’s surprise, just this year, Josje Leyten, Gypsy Pirate, lifelong sailor and Dutch Kiwi who joined up with Delos five years ago and became a regular face in the videos, made the announcement that, after the Indian Ocean journey, she was chucking it all and flying home from Madagascar to New Zealand to begin a landlubber’s life. So long, Delos! What could possibly prompt someone to give up paradise at sea?

Why art, of course. On a long passage over the Indian Ocean, Josje had a moment of clarity, as tends to happen when we lie on deck and look at the stars. Her new venture, Ramatree, embodies its name by including many branches, including photography, fashion design and jewelry. I had to see some of it: wow! She is seriously talented.

In her work, she incorporates vibrant oceanic colors, the textures of shells and driftwood, exotic cultures from her travels, and the hypnotic rhythms of waves:

And the bravery that she demonstrates by giving up her life at sea for an uncertain future truly embodies the pirate, no-quarter-given spirit I try to cultivate in my own life.

I had to find out more, so I asked Josje some questions, which she was kind enough to answer! Part 1 of her answers runs today:

Q: Does your time at sea influence your work, and if so how?

A: My whole tree of life has grown from inspiration that sailing across the oceans has given me. Wide-open spaces, time to think, to breathe, to reflect, to dream. Cultures to experience, different ways of being and living, absorbing vibes and experiencing different tribes have all been catalysts to planting this little seed that has formed my tree of life. I like my jewellery pieces unique, one off and handmade, from old treasures and hand picked collectibles.

The clothing I am designing is gypsy inspired from my nomadic wanders and sailing adventures. And I try to keep my creative writing as authentic and from the heart as possible, just the way nature intended. So yeah, I guess my time at sea has influenced me in huge ways, perhaps not necessarily so easy to explain, but in a more abstract way.

But mostly, the sea has taught me respect, authenticity and integrity. I want this inspiration to shine through my work and my being, because my time at sea has taught me that there is nothing you can pretend to be, the only thing you can do is be you and be real.

Q: What was one moment from your travels that influenced you most?

A: I guess it was sailing across the Indian Ocean this year and one specific place we visited, the Andaman Islands. It lies in the Bay of Bengal, half way between Thailand and mainland India; it is a chain of islands governed by India and it’s absolutely beautiful. The amazing fabrics, colour and styles blew me away over there. It was sort of where the whole thing started, I don’t know why but I just felt like I had to go and explore this creativity that was beginning to shine through. It was definitely the beginning of Ramatree.

Another huge influence was another creative soul, Frida, who joined Delos for the Indian Ocean crossing. She has an amazing gift of seeing people for their authentic self, of seeing the light, guiding them and allowing them to draw it out of themselves, and in turn, showing them their true potential. So she was a huge influence and inspiration for Ramatree as well.

Q: Which piece of art that you’ve made are you most proud of, and why?

A: Ohhh this is difficult, because the seed was only planted around 6 months ago, so my real life creations are limited, however my creations in my mind are big and ready to explode and radiate outwards! But I guess I’m most proud of visualizing and creating my figurative Tree of Life. I know its nothing I can show you, that you can touch, see or feel, but you can read about it, learn about it and understand it. I’m also extremely proud of my website which, with a little help, I built to share with the world. To be honest, I’m pretty proud of every creation I’ve made so far, whether its earrings, cuffs, necklaces, artwork, designs, or pieces of writing. I just love creating it all and for allowing myself to go through these transitions of life in order to do what I love, for that I am most proud

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Josje, and post any comments below!

UPDATE: Part 2 of our interview has been posted!

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