14 June 2017

Van der Spek Meet Up - June 2017

This last week I spent a few days in Rotterdam visiting Van der Spek and at the weekend we had a meet up with a small group of people attending from various parts of Europe.

This was the third Van der Spek meet up that we have held. It was as enjoyable as all the rest, but I think we even improved on the previous ones. We kept more or less to the previous format, although I suspect we might look to change a few things next time around. 

On Friday night we met up in Rotterdam for a meal and a 'getting to know each other' evening. The weather was very kind so walking outside was very pleasant and the evenings are of course still very light. 

TL - Petra, TR L-R Max, Rose, Natasha, BL Max and Rose, BR L-R Anke, Karina, Max
L-R Max, Rose, Steve, Priscilla, Petra, Natasha
On Saturday morning we travelled to the Van der Spek workshop in Puttershoek just south of Rotterdam. 

The group was made up of people that had never been to the workshop before and a few that had or had attended one of the previous meet ups, so it was nice group of people. Quite a few of us had met each other before as well. 

Petra introduced us all to her family, Rene her Dad, Andrea her Mum and JP one of the long standing members of the team. 

Everyone got a 'Goodie Bag' which they enjoyed looking through with leather samples being a very useful thing to have. 

Petra give a detailed introduction as to how their products were made taking us through the various steps in the production cycle from cutting the leather, splitting the leather to the correct thickness, thinning (bevelling) the edges of the leather so it can be folded over (booking). 

Then Petra showed us how all the parts fitted together for assembly in to the interior. The differences between carton, bontex and bontex frame. As well as the soft liner or interleaving material used as well between the inner and outer layers of leather.

Rose did this excellent video of Petra's presentation: 

After a refreshment break, I announced the poll for the new Van der Spek Touch Me collection. The new leather and colours introduced last Autumn have been selling very well.

It was at this time last year that we started off the process to choose those colours. So given the way sales of those new colours have been going, Petra decided to get the group at the meet up to do the initial sift on the colour chart from about 40 colours down to the 'Top 10' colours so a poll could be carried out to select three new colours for 2018. 

The initial poll went very well and I managed to get the Facebook Poll on to the Van der Spek fan group later that afternoon. And here are the ten colours being voted on at the moment. 

After lunch we had a presentation by JP who quickly explained how the leather hides were treated and processed before Van der Spek bought them to make them in to planners and other products. 

L-R JP, Natasha, Priscilla, Anke, Karina, Alexa, Rose, Rene, Max
One of the things I love about the Van der Spek team is the way in which they can turn an idea in to reality in a matter of hours. Not months, years or never.... hours. 

You also need to understand that over the last 3-4 years they have significantly expanded their product line of planners or rather types of planners. 

With regards to ring bound planners there have been a few minor improvements/alterations to their normal default designs. These have come about as a result of customer feedback. 

Just over two years ago they introduced the Van der Spek Nomad Travellers Notebook cover initially in custom made models only but last year they also added a Touch Me Nomad

One of the suggestions I received during one of our monthly Philofaxy Skype chats was some form of insert that could be used as a zip pocket, credit card holder etc. You can buy plastic inserts that can be fitted to a travellers notebook. I have one I received some while ago, but over time these plastic ones can fail when the plastic ages, becomes brittle or splits, potentially allowing the contents to fall out!

So after some discussion on Thursday and Friday we came up with an idea on how to solve this issue by making a leather insert. In a matter of hours we had a selection of three inserts to show people on Saturday!

Rather than repeat it all here if you are interested in knowing more, please check out the blog post and video at Travellers Notebook Times.

Some people put in some orders making use of the discount voucher in their goodie bag. Petra was on hand to help with design decisions

In addition there was a simple short quiz for people to answer a few questions to win a Van der Spek product. 

Petra was constantly answering questions about every aspect of the business and the products, getting out hides to show people, helping people with choosing things, nothing was too difficult.

L-R Alexa, Carla, Rose, Priscilla being shown an real Ostrich hide by Petra

We were also allowed to wander around the stores areas as well, discovering things that aren't as yet on the webshop!

Real Ostrich hides
Orders ready to be assembled by the team in the next few days

Thread in all colours of the rainbow
Krause rings in gold, lots of them, they have lots of Krause rings in stock. 
In the evening we went out to another local restaurant and enjoyed a lot of discussions about planning and other topics. Rose got presented with the quiz prize that pleased her immensely!! We will watch out for what she asks for with great interest.

Sadly like all nice things, they have to come to an end at some point. So instead of good byes we said see you again sometime in the future as we all made our way home on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

I would like to thank Petra and her family on behalf of everyone for such wonderful hospitality and for giving us all full access to their workshop and being willing to answer all our questions and sharing so much with us over the weekend. 

Van der Spek will be at Plannercon Europe in October and I'm sure they might have some nice surprises for us there.....

See you again soon....


  1. What a great review! Thank you for sharing! Still dump that I did not make it.... See you next year :)

  2. Thank you for the wonderful commentary and pictures! Am aiming for next year as well!

  3. Thank you for the wonderful commentary and pictures! Am aiming for next year as well!

  4. Thanks for a great post & it looks like you all had a great time! Would've loved to have come, but it would be hard to resist buying something when surrounded by all that amazing leather...

  5. Love the info and it's nice to be able to put faces to names. I'm still trying to figure out what leather and size I want and Petra has been very prompt and helpful answering my emails