Natasja van Straten (51) from Apeldoorn specializes in pasting exclusive wallpaper. No rolls from the hardware store, but designer wallpaper from 250 euros per roll to sometimes 400 euros per square meter.
It was clear that Natasja was going to do something creative. Yet she ended up in this industry after a long detour through various professions. She studied in Zwolle at the Christian National Painting School, now known as Cibap. “I wanted to do something creative,” she says. But when she went to work at an advertising agency, panic set in: “Sitting in the office all day? That’s not for me!”
“It just didn’t make me happy, but I also didn’t know exactly what I wanted,” she continues. Her then boyfriend worked at the Royal Military Police (KMar). “And I loved everything he said about it,” Natasja reflects. “Take a course where you don’t have to sit inside all day and earn money. I wanted that too.”
Not yet knowing that she would ultimately spend more than fifteen years at the KMar, she started training to become a non-commissioned officer in 1995. Natasja enjoyed the camaraderie. She eventually became Chief Guard Officer and experienced a lot during her years in defense. “I rode a motorcycle in the motorcycle pool,” she says. “Then I became a detective and trained as a forensic investigator.”
For her work, Natasja was present at Schiphol for autopsies on deceased pellet swallowers. And she worked with the National Criminal Investigation Department on the investigation into the Schiphol fire. But as a forensic investigator she also had to deal with dead soldiers. “That was quite confrontational,” says Natasja. “Especially because with each year of service my own deployment to a war zone came closer.”
In 2011, her name was on the list for a deployment to Afghanistan. “The intention was that I would train local police officers there,” she says. “I, as a woman, go to a country like Afghanistan to train men. I just didn’t see that happening. And I didn’t want it either.” Natasja makes a decision: she quits the defense department.
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“I said goodbye with a generous arrangement,” says Natasja. “This gave me the opportunity to retrain myself.” Natasja trained at the photography school to start working as a photographer. This fitted in nicely with her earlier creative studies. “But after the training I didn’t think I was good enough to work as a photographer. In the meantime, my creativity had been fully rekindled and I had started making furniture from scaffolding wood.”
Other jobs also came her way through furniture making. “When I helped an older couple with the renovation of their home, the question arose whether I could also wallpaper,” she says. “Coincidentally, I was once trained for that, so that was no problem.” And after that first wallpaper job, another and then another followed. “And that’s how I accidentally fell into it,” laughs Natasja.
Wallpaper at €250 per roll means expensive precision work
Natasja van Straten – Behind the wallpaper
Natasja specializes in pasting exclusive wallpaper. “No rolls from the hardware store, but designer wallpaper from 250 euros per roll to sometimes 400 euros per square meter. It is expensive precision work and I like that,” she says. “I receive orders through exclusive decoration companies. They sell the wallpaper and I am hired to apply it. I usually work in special (monumental) buildings, at large companies or for people who want something special in their home.”
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Wallpapering the toilet
“My very first job was wallpapering a toilet,” Natasja remembers. “It was funny, because the ‘toilet’ turned out to be almost bigger than my own apartment. And the wallpaper was made of real linen.” Another special job that Natasja will never forget was in an apartment whose owners had a service contract with the adjacent hotel. “When the television had to be removed from the wall, I was allowed to call the technical service,” she says. “They came with three men to get the job done.”
Natasja finds the biggest challenge in the jobs that seem impossible. “Getting heavy wallpaper perfectly placed in the most difficult places or getting a complicated pattern right. It takes quite a bit of thinking and calculations and also a good deal of physical strength, but if I manage to do it and people are happy, then I can only be satisfied with the choices I have made.”
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