Maker's marks for King's Day

It’s late in the morning and I’m on my way to Gerimedica, the company’s I’m excited to be joining in May, which is next week already. I’m on my bike listening to an American podcast about the history of Dutch anarchist cycling culture.1 The scene could only be more Dutch if I had a frying pan with bitterballen on the back of my bike.

The commute is wonderful: it takes me from the East side of Amsterdam via De Pijp and Vondelpark to perhaps the most beautiful building I’ve ever had the privilege of calling my office. I cross the river Amstel, enjoy the sun, and marvel at the preparations people have been making.

In two days, King’s Day is upon us. It’s always a big event in the country, and specifically in Amsterdam, and this year it’s extra special: our king was coronated ten years ago this year. In our house it’s not a big deal, in fact Anja couldn’t be more of an anti-monarchist if she tried. Lemonade’s too young to pay it any mind, I’m sure. But the rest of the country is getting ready.

King’s Day is full of traditions: young children playing the violin out of tune at the park, tompouce pastries, the king and his family on a heavily-televised trip to a Dutch city that has been preparing for this moment for a year. And forever and for always: people securing a spot on the flea market route days ahead of time.

Today, as I biked across the city, I saw hundreds of them; 40 square feet of pavement taped off by people aiming to use that specific spot to spend their King’s Day. Peddling by, I thought to myself that it was a rather sweet unwritten rule: I put my name here in a manner that you could erase at any moment, but Dutch custom says you’re to honor my plan.

I’m used to people marking these spots “bezet” (“taken”) or adding their name for emphasis. Today, however, I noticed many people had made a small figure with their tape, a maker’s mark of sorts. I’m learning through Anja’s ceramics adventure that this is entirely common in the potter community: a small, minimalist figure telling the world you made something.

I hope all those people get what they came for: that specific spot on the pavement, and a fun day to help them Konmari their house. In the meantime, I also hope that the Amsterdamse Bos is quiet on King’s Day. I’m looking to take Anja and Lemonade there for a quiet afternoon, far away from the crowds.

  1. I’m referring to the episode “De fiets is niets” (“the bike is nothing”) of the impeccable podcast 99% Invisible by Roman Mars. ↩︎

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