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Profile: Yellow Nose Studio

Launched by Hsin-Ying Ho and Kai-Ming Tung, Yellow Nose Studio is a Berlin-based ceramic design and interior agency. The couple in work and life chase a perfect balance between the organic and inorganic, the logical and emotional, the handcrafted and the industrial.

Ying grew up in a family that for over 20 years worked together in a kid’s shoe business: ‘Sometimes business is not always as smooth as you want it to be. And you just need to deal with its ups and downs. So I think that I definitely get this courage from them, which allowed me to start the studio with Kai. Also, it’s important to not take anything for granted. We need to stay focused on what we are trying to communicate to people.’ 

At the same time, Kai was surrounded by a teacher mother and an engineer father: ‘I’ve learned from them to really do what you want and to be yourself instead of following what people want you to do. At the beginning of starting the Yellow Nose Studio, many people judged the idea. But for me, it’s really simple — we just want to tell the story in our own way and at our own pace.’

The creative duo met during architecture studies back in Taiwan at Shih Chien University: ‘We were taught to be wild and to make mistakes. It was a really special education system that definitely flipped both of our lives upside down. Architecture is no longer a simple academic topic that we need to learn, but rather a lifelong philosophy that influences us daily.’, Ying explains.

So we don’t see us looking away from architecture, but instead using it as a foundation to pursue our aesthetic. We keep trying to bring many different aspects into our projects while accepting the impact of our architectural studies, says Kai.

Actually the idea to start Yellow Nose Studio came when they relocated together to Berlin. In particular searching for ways to combine both professions and do something based on their backgrounds in architecture. So Kai studied at the Berlin University of the Arts while Ying studied scenography at the Technical University of Berlin. 

Berlin makes Ying and Kai feel inspired. As simple as an abandoned on a street chair or even the texture of a tree can lead them to a new idea. Mostly it is about the energy of the city, that is busy but not too much. As Kai describes: ‘Berlin has this gap (of free time and space) somehow in between the city that allows us to recharge.’ 

In fact, the harmony is one of the very important aspects of Yellow Nose Studio. The founders’ with their strong architectural background aims to work with raw materials and use them in unforeseen ways.

‘The balance of each object in one scene definitely comes from my scenography background. Kai is the one who always gets some crazy ideas out of the blue, though I will be the one that connects each of them into one big picture. The photographer we work with, Bennie Julian Gay, also has this strong soothing aesthetics that we are often inspired by. All of that brings our projects together and allows us to tell the story that we initially imagined.’ — Ying.

In effect, perfection for Yellow Nose Studio is to ‘show the character of the materials themselves’. As an example, their collection of furniture is executed in industrialized simple shapes. In contrast, the ceramics collection emphasizes the rawness of the clay. Therefore the rough details were left on purpose, instead of polished perfectly. When pieces exist in separate environments this strong contrast gives each piece its own unique character.

When creating a collection For Yellow Nose Studio one of the most important keys is storytelling. In general, having a story really helps with a better understanding of a product. People can relate to it and see themselves in a pre-created role. So it is crucial for Yellow Nose Studio to have a ‘character’ before the photoshoot that will be used in their campaigns. 

Above all Yellow Nose Studio exists in its own rhythm with balance at heart and a positive mindset, unlike chasing something ‘new’ or ‘big’ for the World.

As Kai says: ‘If one person got inspired by us, that’s all that matters.’

Yellow Nose Studio 

Photography: Jiuk Kim 

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AI Alt explained

Ksenia Nunis is an extremely visually driven person. The contemporary artist primarily investigates the balance between nature and technology in her work.

From childhood, she pursued an art career in any form. It felt as it was encoded in her. In particular she inherited it from her mom, a very wise nature-driven architect. Life in her hometown Tolyatti, Russia was surrounded by a beautiful beach with a pine forest and contrastingly man-made constructions that felt ‘soulless’

By the time Nunis moved to Moscow, Russia she decided to study Graphic Design. During this time she mostly worked with images related to Russian constructivism and suprematism movements. Moreover, assignments required experimenting with shapes and colors, but in their primitive forms. And highly valued precision with everything; from basic realistic drawing skills to gym lessons attendance. Whereas her second studies in Fashion Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, the Netherlands felt more ‘right’. In fact, teachers’ open-minded approaches helped her to concretize her esthetics as an artist and designer. 

Throughout her studies and further professional experience, Nunis learned diverse art and design techniques and observed a broad range of creative possibilities. Most importantly she discovered that each person expresses themselves in a unique, distinctive way. 

For example when she thinks in abstract terms and forms she creates a world without borders or time. This taste of freedom made her wonder if there were contemporary ways for other people to feel that too. To experience ‘creating’ that is in our being.

Since we live in a world of constant progress and new technologies, it is hard to separate oneself from all influences it causes. While Nunis finds progress intriguing, at the same time its damage to a non-much changing nature shocks her. 

Initially, she searched for a sustainable solution for producing art and design pieces in general. An answer that supposedly artificial intelligence would come up with. That would simplify shipping, assembly, and customization alongside keeping its artistic qualities.

With her latest project for VVOVVA the AI Alt she challenges us to investigate our true self in a contemporary life overfilled by technologies. As well as, remind us that art and design practices are connected with the processes of understanding and changing one’s self-perception. 

The mechanics of the AI Alt assembly slows down the user on purpose. The process is compared to today’s people’s urge to spend more time on self, or follow a healthy diet. Despite the fact that we ourselves created all of those distractions.

Primarily AI Alt is the universal language tool for creating art and design objects. In fact, AI Alt aims to investigate users’ inner child. To emphasize VVOVVA offers a user to embrace the playfulness that we all had as kids and beam it while assembling their AI. And it is up to the user to decide whether his/her AI will be transformed into a practical day-to-day object or an art piece.

Originally, the AI Alt collection suggests five initial variations of the sculptures and one ‘utility’ object — a fully usable table. Definitely it is assumed as a navigation gesture rather than a determinate guide. Every set includes oak separate pieces and branded steel clamps. It is important that the user combines the details as he/she wishes.

After all, VVOVVA proposes a method of using already produced (and overproduced) shapes by humans and nature in a sustainable way. So that people perceive things that surround us every day in a different way. Furthermore, to look at existing makings as tools to create art and design objects. 

More is coming…

Read the ‘Profile: VVOVVA’ interview here: 

Alt 219 Oak

Alt 0134 Oak

Alt 179 Oak

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Profile: Celia Hadeler

Contemporary artist Celia Hadeler grew up in The Hague, the Netherlands surrounded by two creative parents — a German father and a Peruvian mother. As they are both not Dutch, she grew up just in a different way: 

‘Since I was a little child I was fascinated by how both families and people, in general, could be so contradictory. My German family was very reserved and introvert while my Peruvian side was extrovert. I have a big admiration for my father and how he became an artist. Back in the days he really had to fight for being an artist. He grew up in the middle of nowhere, without any support, in times after World War II. Despite these hard conditions, he went for it anyway and with full dedication! This story is a reminder to me that you really have to do what you like. To follow your heart and to listen to your gut feeling, even when it is not the easiest way possible.’ 

In other words, Celia’s father plays a big role in her becoming an artist. As she explains further: 

He is a very disciplined and talented lithography artist with an incredible eye for details. I guess at the time being mostly surrounded by art; art exhibitions, art students have influenced me a lot. And as an only child, I was easily pleased with a pencil and paper.’

Celia loves and loved making art, although she didn’t expect to go to art school or making a job of it. Ultimately when Celia finished High school, she decided to go to the Royal Academy in the Hague KABK.

Nevertheless, after a year of studies, she realized that something was missing: I am a very analyzing person. Back then I realized that I wanted to think and to approach art in a more conceptual way. So I decided to switch to Graphic Design at the WDKA, Rotterdam. 

In fact, It was a huge change and very challenging for me because I dropped in a kind of ‘nerdy class’. Everybody talked only about computer programs and I never used a computer in my life, except for Word program. And I just played and experimented with all those programs, which also happened of lack of patience. By using and clashing all different kinds of computer tools, interesting designs started to pop-up. But when somebody would ask ‘how I made it’, I had no clue. So I think this a bit who I am — a ‘playful’ person.’

Celia fell in love with Fine Arts when she started her studies at the art school. With every assignment, she would become very enthusiastic and excited to work with new materials and techniques. Everything seemed new and at the same time, she felt like everything was possible.

In other words, while Fine Arts gave her the feeling of working freely and thinking in no restrictions. Graphic Design forced her to think more in terms of form and function. She started to search for a way to combine the craft versus technique.

‘I was always asked the question ‘why’? I find it interesting to think about how we as human beings act in certain ways and I ask this question ‘why’. Art is so interwoven and connected with philosophy. A color or a shape, everything has an effect on us. In graphic design, I got closer to that conceptual aspect. For example, using a red dot, I had to answer; Why red, Why round?’

From both studies, Celia learned different skills. KABK was a year of freedom and happiness. Throughout that year she produced all sorts of arts and studied a broad range of techniques. Unlike at WDKA where she mostly learned how to deal with hard critics and defend her ideas.

During her studies at the art academy, she felt confused: ‘Though I studied so hard for it during the internship I directly realized I didn’t want to become a graphic designer. I am not the kind of person who can sit still the whole week behind a computer. So after I finished my studies I decided to go to Peru for 3 months, but not for a holiday. I wanted to work and to experience daily life.  

After all, I found work in a creative advertising agency where I designed. Usually, I was a window dresser, while some days I worked together with a friend who was an interior designer. She introduced me to the world of rugs and textiles! In the end, I stayed 1.5 years, it was a very intense period where a learned a lot.’

For Celia, the beginning in Peru turned out to be very rough, a lot of things went as not planned. She wanted to create a new rug or wallhanging, something that didn’t exist yet, an art piece:

‘I produced my first art rug in Peru. I’ve made a complicated design and to use shading in the textiles was not easy to do. By the end of 6 months, I finally saw my finished rug. It was absolutely not the design I had in mind! It opened my eyes because it forced me to come with a new idea. I started to look for a new way to produce my art rugs and a manufacturer close to the Netherlands.’

Celia born and raised in The Hague and is a quite high-sensitive person so she felt like overload in Lima, Peru. Too many impulses appeared: sounds, smells, lights, people, everything was ‘a lot’. At some point, she realized she needed a more neutral and natural environment, something she was used to. 

So when she came back to the Netherlands she started to appreciate the Hague so much more than ever before. In particular, her life in a safe city with nearby by the sea and forests. For her, it felt like the freedom to bike again.

At home, still fascinated by the trip to Peru she didn’t stop thinking about rugs. She discovered beautiful old ancient Inca textiles and a lot of colors in general that South America offers: 

‘I think previous years I needed more color in life. When I arrived in Peru I wore a lot of black colors. I don’t know why but suddenly I felt almost like a gothic person, although nothing wrong with that. I simply started adding more colors to my life and in particular to my artworks.’

When Celia came back to the Netherlands she had no money or house — she started from scratch. Surrounded by a lot of contrasts she grew up with a simple life thus never felt like missing something: 

‘In life, you always need contrasts. For example, whenever my father sold a painting (lithography) the whole family always celebrated it! I think it’s good to not get too much attached to the material things in life. Everything becomes extra if you can appreciate it. I grew up with different cultures and traveled as a kid, which exposed me to new people and situations. It is good to feel humble. I try to translate my personal character and experiences into my work, everything is connected.

Celia went through a path with its ups and downs to become a professional artist.

This being said, for her the best experience became life itself: ‘Life is a paradox; it’s beautiful and at the same time challenging. Life consists of contrasts. For example, suffering from heavy migraine seizures. Since the age of 13 it forced me to deal with contrasting extremities. As a coping mechanism, looking for ways to give me peace and quiet, I started making collages, searching and cutting folds and structures in the fashion magazines. Which led to the project Folds.’

From the beginning and as an initial idea, Celia thought to develop and create an art piece, an art rug or wallhanging. 

For a long time, Celia searched for a technique that could translate shading into textiles. In particular, she uses dark and white contrasts in all of her art pieces, which our eyes deceive as almost 3D. Trompe-l’oile (French for ‘deceive the eye’) a modern art technique that emphasizes her designs in the right way. In other words, it is a method that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion of depicted objects existing in 3D.

Production of the series Folds starts with a search of an ideal and interesting shape, a fold or a drapery. Sometimes this process takes weeks or months. Celia uses a lot of different kinds of fabrics to find an ideal appearance; the right softness or shininess. 

When she finds the right texture she takes a lot of pictures. During a photoshoot, lighting plays an important role as it influences the appearance dramatically. Then she edits the images and prepares the production file. In the end, when everything is ready she sends her design to a producer in Belgium. Who afterward ships it to another company in Holland which specializes in the finishings of a rug. Every art rug must be cut out by hand as Celia Hadeler uses irregular shapes.

She works in an intuitive way with color. Every art rug is different and depends on the choice in folds and colors: 

‘Using a specific fabric; more velvet or silky kind adds a certain feeling. For example, the artwork ‘Old Pink’ has very minimal folds and the soft pink color. When ‘Orange Orange’ has very ‘out there’ colors and the bold voluptuous drapery that beams totally different energy.’

Hadeler’s fearless choice of scale and color immediately attract all attention to the art piece, no matter the space size it is presented in. More than that, it transforms the space completely and involves viewers in a game. It makes them wonder if, in fact, the surface is flat. 

When in real life, the artworks also may serve as day-to-day floor rugs thankfully to its dense soft pile structure made from polyamide or wool.

To summarize, Celia finds a feeling of peace and calmness in a single piece of a fold, in its abstract and figurative way. The series Folds resulted from her contrasts in life. She creates a new world when shifts the focus of a fold: zoom in and out or play with lighting, color, or texture. With Folds, she translates her perspective on the simple beauty of a fold. 

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Profile: Maarten van Aken

As a teenager Maarten van Aken used to paint with watercolors, landscapes and such, though it never occurred to him to become a painter: 

‘I started industrial design because I thought I should go to a university if I had that opportunity. Eventually, it was not the right choice for me. I needed more freedom and it was my parents actually that nudged me into going to an art academy.’

For Maarten, the industrial design at the University of Twente was a lot about using methods to find flaws in designs and coming up with new ideas to fix a problem. These methods obviously work but it made him feel trapped: 

‘I needed more freedom. I also couldn’t picture myself behind a desk all day. Switching to painting felt like a dive in the deep end. I noticed it was ‘it’, so to speak because it felt like such a relieve once I started painting. It was and is exhilarating, something I never felt during my previous study.’

Although there are some things from an industrial design that stuck to Maarten when he decided to choose art. 

For example, this experience brought him technical thinking and good depth perception (from working with 3D-programs) as well as having to construct technical drawings on paper. Partly his love for architecture and design comes from his studies too. 

Maarten van Aken previously studied in university, found the study at AKI/ArtEZ (from second-year — Fine art 2D/painting department) as a complete shock. The vibe and mentality towards life were completely different: 

‘Teachers actually told me they first need me to unlearn everything I learned, because in order to be an artist you have to let go of any restrictions you’ve put on yourself. And my time at AKI felt like a continuous process of letting go. There was a lot of freedom and I think it taught me self-reliance above all.’

Being in a constant process of self-improvement and self-reflecting helps Maarten to stay focused and be on his toes: 

‘I remember one teacher told me I was painting too much with my brain, while it’s the hands that paint. Of course, the brain controls the muscle in the hand, but I understood what he meant. Overthinking things can get in the way of a lot of things including a creative process. For me, in the painting, I found my nature and the process has been to discover and act on this nature. Before I tried to be someone I am not. This, of course, is an ongoing process. We are never done learning.’

Oil paints are a medium that requires patience as well as a bit of planning ahead which is a perfect fit for Maarten:

‘I quite like that about it though. I think being patient can also be helpful for the process if you embrace it. It gives you more time to reflect.’

Besides art and design studies there are more memorable practices that helped broaden Maarten’s horizon. For example, his trips to Finland in November 2016 (one month) and to China in October 2017 (6 weeks) were very interesting experiences for various reasons:

‘Finland was a test of being on my own. The residency took place on a small island that was mostly deserted.

I was in awe of nature and never felt so at peace, just walking on the island. When you are completely alone you can’t escape your thoughts though. I had some confrontational moments with myself which all had to do with lying to yourself and trying to be something you’re not. One of the reasons my paintings are usually deserted is because it’s in my nature to prefer being alone. Of course, that shows in the works. It doesn’t mean I’m anti-social or lonely though.

The exchange to Dalian, China has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I had never been to Asia up to this point and it was thrilling to experience the differences and similarities. It challenged me personally and professionally and I feel I’ve learned a lot in the process. 

A new environment, out of your comfort zone, is a great place to push yourself and try new things in your work, whilst meeting new people and making friends.’

Maarten van Aken in his paintings captures sort of a transitional dimension between humans and nature as he describes it further:

‘In any painting or photo if there is a human presence your attention will naturally go towards that person. This also creates a certain physical barrier between the viewer and the image. I noticed at some point if I leave humans out of the image, space becomes the subject and as a viewer, you can feel more close, you can more easily immerse yourself in the painting and project your own stories.’

Seemingly ordinary spaces became interesting in large part because of how the light defines space and intersections. I always liked to play a bit with perception and I learned such an intersection can also be called liminal space. 

A liminal space is a time between ‘what was’ and the ‘next’. It is a place of transition, yet time seems to stand still. And it became obvious that I could use that frame of mind to play with space and perception. 

Most recently I tried to play with reflections. It started as a way to justify bringing in the nature elements into my paintings. 

If you stand in front of a window and you look inside, a cohesive image of a new space is being formed of both the interior and outside world. The reflected nature seems to take over the desolate space. I felt it as an omen, nature takes back what humans left behind.’

There is no time clock set on Maarten’s paintings, it just varies a lot how long each one is made. For example, bigger paintings take at least a month. 

Pictures and drawings are the starting point for new work — sketches and small watercolors on paper with gouache until he finds something that he thinks would work well on a bigger canvas. 

‘Over time I found that if the initial composition is strong, the painting will usually work out well. If I have doubts, chances are big the later stages will be a struggle because you’re trying to fix things. But both ways can be good and sometimes a seemingly failed work can suddenly surprise you.

The works are built in a lot of layers, starting out thin. Beginnings are fast once the idea is there. Then with each new layer, more thinking is required to see what the image needs. So every step takes more time in between. More than once a painting is deemed finished because I haven’t worked on it for a while.’

The light plays a big role in Maarten’s ‘art investigations’. Between February 2017 and June of 2018, every other day he would make a small painting with gouache on paper inspired by the poetry by Hans van Wijk. 

‘His poetry in many ways is also about light and they formed the starting point for each work. I started it also because I felt stuck in the bigger paintings. 

Sometimes you follow your own rules, but you forget why you made them. So I wanted to break from that. This is also the reason they are all outside and show a lot of nature, whereas most of my paintings are inside places. 

One thing I did not expect was how good it felt to finish work at the end of the day repeatedly. Sometimes you work on painting all day and in the end, it still feels like you hardly progressed. That can give a lot of pressure where you feel you haven’t done enough. 

It was very satisfying to create one finished piece every other day.  After 1,5 years though I felt the project served its purpose. I still make those gouaches, but not so strict every other day.’

As for today, the most important thing for Maarten is to keep developing himself and follow the path he is on: 

‘I’m very excited to see what work will come out of it and where it will bring me. I’m not really thinking about concrete achievements though.’