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Profile: Willem van Hooff

Willem van Hooff grew up in Eindhoven the Netherlands and seeing the Dutch Design Week every year was a big inspiration for him. When Willem was 16 years old he asked for an internship at Piet Hein Eek in Geldrop in the Netherlands (where he was based before 2010). This was for Willem the first experience in design thinking.

During his internship at Piet Hein Eek, Willem learned a lot of workshop skills and saw how he brings his products to the people: 

‘He has a very big range of sales from big unique art pieces, to a simple cup. I think it was very interesting that he does all of these things in the same place. His products have a rough look but a very clean finish, which has to be executed always in the same way that makes his ‘image’ coming back.’

Hooff studied in the department ‘Public Private’ at the Design Academy Eindhoven. As he describes as a ‘mix of public space and living’. 

‘You learn to work extremely hard, it’s the general vibe off the school to be there from morning till evening. There are so much different nationalities come together doing very free assignments. Mostly you learn from each other — the different ways of looking and working on a design. I’m very ‘hands-on’ in working!’

Willem continues: ‘Design Academy Eindhoven lets you discover yourself. Which can be very difficult if you always need to ask yourself ‘What do I like, what do I want to do?’. It helped a lot with finding my own style. As for me, I always work with the opposites. Starting with my hands, feeling the material and possibilities. Afterward, I start with research — to give it the right meaning.’

Work on new designs for Willem starts with sketching the ideas, brainstorming — deciding in which direction he wants to go.

While working directly with materials, almost all the time the idea develops during the phase when he starts experimenting. It can be the technique or look that feels interesting for the materials. Only after manipulating with materials and exploring their possibilities, Willem brings back the starting point of his concept.

‘In my designs, I love to bring materials, colors, and functions, together and to surprise people with these connections. Last year I started my research that led to the grid with the word ‘contrast’. I’ve made sketches about contrast and material samples of very big contrasting materials and placed them next to each other. Then I also grouped grid and concrete — even though these two materials always work well together they are opposites from each other.’

For a concept of the ‘Elements of construction’ Willem got inspired by simply looking at the city around him:

‘At one point in Eindhoven, they were building a big concrete parking lot in front of the airport. By a mistake, the parking lot collapsed on one side… I saw this broke open building, and took pictures of it — there was this grid structure coming out of the concrete.

I thought this was interesting and started looking at buildings before they would get covered in concrete. The transparent graphical structures were a big inspiration to start showing the aesthetics of the grid. And giving it a new function then, not only strength inside concrete.’

Colors of these pieces are powder-coated on the grid. The grid gets neat look and a soft touch so it’s pleasant to use.

The color palette for this project also resembles the city:

‘I tried to make an Urban vibe when the pieces stand tougher. Gray, red, blue, black — were my first choices. Now I’m also very curious about working with more colors because every piece is custom made and I’m open for changes.’

Production-wise grid parts are first to be made. Willem starts with a plain sheet of the grid which he bends and welds till the desired shape is there. Afterwards he powder coats metal parts at a Dutch company. As soon as all parts are ready for ‘use’, Hooff can move to the next stage which is quite fascinating.

Fascinating enough that he has a little ‘beach’ in his studio! It is an island of sand which is used to dig objects under the sand. He sand shapes each mold with bare hands. As the grid is buried halfway in the sand it gives him an opportunity to pour in the middle of the grid concrete shapes.

Sneak peek of the process making (video) 👉

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One of the favorite recent projects that Willem had a pleasure to participate in is from the Dutch Invertuals (the example of work is below on the left photo). He was invited to join their exhibition to design for less:

‘The world is over consuming so what can we do as designers? With an exaggeration, I tried to make the most useless and ridiculous objects that we as humans really don’t need. They are altars referring to our human basic historic needs’,

Hoff continues,It was my first project out of school, and I saw that you don’t always need to think of the function or use so your outcome could be very different than a product.

For example, in my grid series I’ve discovered this new technique of turning the materials of the reinforced concrete inside out giving it a new function.’ 

As Willem shared, this ongoing play with contrasting materials and techniques makes it possible to create a finished look for his objects. It’s not surprising that most of his customers are intrigued by the process making, which creates a ‘wow’ factor.

Just think of it, Willem van Hooff as a brand was launched just a month ago! 

‘I always wanted to create my own design studio, and now I feel it is the right time to make this step. I’m done studying, of course, I can still learn though I believe I learn from experience. I hope that I can focus more and more on my own business where I want to enjoy myself with my work and continuing new projects.’


Mostly affected by his off-study time, Willem is sure that ‘at one point at life it’s okay to start taking a risk’

That is exactly what he is doing now — taking a risk and focusing on his professional growth as an artist and designer. What as he described is the reason for Willem van Hooff existence as yet small, but professional company. 

Thinking ahead and being focused on the visual quality, Wilem is hoping to share his functional art to many homes to share his view on a new Dutch style. For now, he is continuing investigating different shapes for his series ‘Elements of construction’ (see products below).

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Profile: Tim Teven

The studio of product designer Tim Teven is a calm space mainly filled with inspiring materials in different textures and with various tools. It is located in Eindhoven the Netherlands in a quiet neighborhood. 

The urge to make things was in Tim since he was a kid. It is his curiosity about how things are made that pushed him to join Sint Lucas Design school when he was 17. Four years of this school were quite basic studies nothing ‘high-end’ for him. While at the same time, it was a good base for further studies in arts and design, sort of a pre-school before moving his education further and joining studies at Design Academie Eindhoven. He graduated in 2018 with projects Recycling Reject and Ductile Assembly.

Being focused on the making process includes researching and understanding different purposes and properties of the material. So it is natural that as a starting point Tim Teven is working with materials, industry and production methods. 

Handling materials in an unconventional way are expanding possibilities and opening up the horizon of undiscovered textures and applications (of that new material). These ‘surprises’ which were created by countless experiments Tim translates into technical and visually attractive detail. From the beginning of the design process and throughout research he combines the technique into sustainable and attractive looking products.

This healthy obsession with design and art for Tim just happen naturally. His friends since childhood were ‘artsy’ as well: ‘You know, we were this group of skateboarders. One — photographer, another — graphic designer. We did a lot of graffiti and going to a design school was a very natural outcome.’ 

It’s interesting that Tim’s parents are not connected to the design industry directly — they are both working at a steel company. His dad was always very handy and creative by making things for the house, for example, chairs, garden construction, and etc. Perhaps this could’ve had been a bridge to Tim Teven creative future.

Nevertheless, both parents supported their kid’s dream: ‘If this kind of study would be available to them like it was available to me, they would both do it. But my parents came from a different era and a different part of the Netherlands. Kind of area where you go to school which is within a 20 km radius around your village and there was no design or art school. Then you couldn’t just go there and there was no internet to find it.

I think it’s very interesting to make objects that end up in peoples lives. I think in a quite industrial and technical way.’ as Tim explains.

A chance to work with diverse companies and industries gives him an opportunity to bring different techniques and materials from the industrial field into a domestic environment.

This process works well for all connected parties, as it gives new insights into big production industries as well as to the customer and the designer himself. It’s a fascinating process of involving people around Tim’s passion to create that finalized minimalistic well-made product.

Connecting the industry, materials, and techniques to the domestic domain — this is what keeps Tim moving. The process of endless search of opportunities within industries brought him all of the products he has ever made. 

For example, by using waste material from a paper factory or a technique used for making washing machine panels he has produced a unique furniture and introduced it into a new user field. 

In terms of production Tim does a lot himself, it includes the developing of new tools and tricks to get to the desired result. In this way of production, learning comes by doing and that makes easier to further develop the product especially when other people are involved.

‘Recycling Reject’ is a popular project from Tim Teven. It came to him when he visited one of the Dutch factories and saw how many paper fibers go to waste. 

The paper can be recycled up to 5-6 times only, afterward it’s a waste. As designer explains he ‘had the urge to start looking for a purpose’ for this particular material waste. Eventually, the purpose formed in a series of furniture pieces which were participating in many exhibitions throughout the Netherlands. The experiment demonstrates one of the new ways of solution to their waste problem. 

‘If you compare this material to a pressed cheap wood — then, it is an expensive material. But, comparing it to a natural stone — that is a cheap material. It’s not that simple, there are a lot of different components in it. Currently, I’m trying to get to this level of the material properties so it would be possible to compare it for example to a marble because then you’ll have a good competition.

Marble is indeed a natural material, but taking a marble out of the mountain is of course absolutely not a sustainable way of gaining your materials plus it takes a lot of energy. So it would be very good if you could switch from marble to a recycled look-alike which is produced efficiently.’

— Tim Teven talking about his project Recycling Reject (photo above).

Future of this sustainable material for Tim looks bright, he would like to use it in different shapes and maybe work on more durable properties.

The idea to make a series named Pressure Vases came from Tim’s interest in forces applied to the material:

‘By applying force and using it in a controlled way you can influence the behavior of a material. I was doing several experiments connected to this and one of them was pressing tubes until they start to yield. Beautiful folds and shapes appeared emphasizing the plasticity of the usually very solid and hard steel.’

‘The technique is not only for aesthetics but also holds in the bottom disc to close the bottom of the vase. Then by powder coating it the steel is protected for damage and corrosion and the shape of the vases is more visible.’

The colors were selected specifically to work well together with the shape. Some colors make it look very soft and others give extra shine to the folded shapes.

Two years ago Tim’s aim was to open a platform that will help with the production of other designers in need and help factories with new views on their own capabilities. But currently Tim is enjoying more developing his own projects in which he finally saw potential worth pursuing: 

‘For now, I’ve got very enthusiastic about starting my own design studio first and of course I’ll gain a lot of knowledge which I can use later on in many ways, for example helping other designers with their production’.

‘I don’t consider myself a brand. I’m a designer and I work and want to work with different other people in the design field. Maybe one day I will have my own brand.’ — Tim Teven

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Profile: Natasja Alers

Natasja Alers is a Dutch artist and co-organizer of the Grauzone festival.

Music is a huge part of Natasja’s professional and personal life. When she was 5 years old her hero was Michael Jackson which stopped only when she reached the age of 10 and discovered punk rock — it opened her eyes.

For more than ten years Natasja organizes concerts in Amsterdam and The Hague. Since 2012 she partnered up with Mark Emmerik to bring us the Grauzone festival, an international multidisciplinary festival which started in the Melkweg (Amsterdam) and will take place in February 2019 at Het Paard, The Hague.

‘I think that art & music are connected to each other, it’s also an important drive for me, and I can’t and don’t without both components.’

‘My mom brought me in touch with ceramics, she is an artist herself and she always stimulated me to experiment with different materials. Since I got in touch with clay, it felt so natural, that I had to do something with it. But I didn’t realize that I still would work with it now, only that I would work as an artist.’

Her very first sculpture was made when she was 10 years old. Right from the start, she learned that it wasn’t an easy task to work with ceramics. She made a portrait of her cat, but as Natasja laughs and explains the glaze turned out ‘horribly sad’.

Natasja’s career in ceramics started very early and confrontation with herself was already there which later on defined her artistic choices:

‘I got confronted with my body a lot. I had x legs (still have) and other kids confronted me with it constantly, so I became since that moment really aware of my body and later of a human body in general. The mind and body are in direct connection, and I always found it intriguing how this works together in a positive and negative way. Sometimes you see weird and odd shapes of the body. Same with trees, I do see here amazing shapes in nature which really inspires me.’

She continued chasing ceramics and follow her instincts, which evolved into studying at The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Soon it became her home:

‘I felt free to do what I needed to do. Also, some conversations with teachers triggered me, but the freedom and possibilities helped me to grow way more and to explore what was important for me. The confrontation with yourself is an important lesson, even it seems on short not too.’

When Natasja graduated from Rietveld in 2012, she immediately became a freelancer. Since she was a kid she was dreaming of being an artist and being independent. She couldn’t wait to work in her own studio and work for herself.

Throughout her life, this choice became more and more concrete — since from every ‘normal’ job she ever had she would get fired in a week or two. Next to other things that she already did like organizing shows, DJ-ing, making sculptures etc. she worked for years in her uncle’s motorbike shop: ‘It was a really nice atmosphere. We listened to Motorhead and the Ramones, while I was putting together motorbike parts.’

The decision to be a freelancer as Natasja says was easy: ’It’s something you need to do, and don’t have to think about it’. Some of us are not build to work for other companies or a boss, it is much easier to work by your own rhythm and stay happy. In Natasja’s studio, things happen out of instincts and passion.

Every sculpture, vase, an object is made by hand and unique, made with different feeling and technique. These works have a strong character and a strong physical presence, which allows Natasja to make sculptures and applied arts with a feeling that can speak for itself. She communicates through her sculptures. 

‘I like to make works what I don’t need to explain, but that you see what I felt when I made it.’

When objects give a bit strange and uncomfortable feelings, that’s the point when Natasja starts to enjoy the work the most. Currently, Natasja experimenting with casts of nipples. She makes vases, pots and weird undetermined ambiguous shapes out of them.

‘For me an interesting part of the body, if you look into the history of sexuality, taboos, religion etc. If you only take out the nipple and repeat it, it becomes something totally different.’

Natasja Alers is mostly working with press molds of casted body parts and making hand-build sculptures.

The press molds are later on combined into a new sculptural collage, to a new shape that triggers her and gives a feeling that she wants to communicate. Hand-build sculptures are most of the time build up massive. When the shape is right she leaves 1,5 cm layer and recycles the unfired clay, so the process of making is very sustainable.

At this moment Natasja is working on big 2D sculptural wall-pieces and preparing some new collaborations with other artists for more conceptual art.