Willem van Hooff grew up in Eindhoven the Netherlands. It was a big inspiration for him to see every year the Dutch Design Week. Already at the age of 16 years old, he went for an internship at Piet Hein Eek in Geldrop, the Netherlands (where he was based before 2010). In fact, Willem remembers it as the first experience in design thinking.
By all means, during this internship at Piet Hein Eek, Willem learned a lot of workshop skills and observed 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.’
Moreover, Hooff studied in the department ‘Public Private’ at the Design Academy Eindhoven. As he describes as a ‘mix of public space and living’.
‘I’ve learned to work extremely hard and it is the general vibe off the school to be there from morning till evening. There are so many different nationalities come together to do very free assignments. Mostly you learn from each other — the different ways of looking and working on a design. For example, 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 me a lot to find my own style.
I always work with the opposites. I start with my hands, feeling the material and possibilities. Only afterward, I continue with research — to give it the right meaning.’
Similarly, work on new designs for Willem can start with sketches of the ideas, brainstorming — deciding in which direction he wants to go.
While working directly with materials, almost all the time the idea is developed during the phase when he is 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. To surprise people with these connections.
Last year I started one of my researches which 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.’
As a matter of fact, Willem got inspired for a concept of the ‘Elements of construction’ by simply looking at the city around him:
‘At one point in Eindhoven, there was a construction of a big concrete parking lot in front of the airport. And by a mistake, the parking lot collapsed on one side… When I saw that broke open building I took pictures of it — there was this grid structure coming out of the concrete.
Above all, I thought this was interesting and started looking at buildings before they would get covered in concrete. Therefore the transparent graphical structures became a big inspiration in showing the aesthetics of the grid. Also giving it a new function, not only strength inside the concrete.’
In order to achieve a neat look and a soft touch for a pleasant use, colors are powder-coated on the grid.
Not to mention that 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 colors were my first choices. Now I’m also very curious about working with more colors. In reality, every piece is custom made and I’m open to 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. Afterward, he powder-coats metal parts at a Dutch company. As soon as all parts are ready for ‘use’, Hooff moves to the next stage which is quite fascinating.
In particular, Willem has created a little ‘beach’ in his studio! It is an island of sand that he uses to dig objects under the sand. Basically he sand-shapes each mold with bare hands. While the grid is buried halfway in the sand he has the opportunity to pour concrete shapes in the middle of the grid.
In addition, see the sneak peek of the process making (video) 👉
One of the recent favorite projects that Willem participated 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. I’ve made altars referring to our human basic historic needs’,
Hoff continues, ‘It was my first project out of school. I saw that it is not necessary to think of the function or use of the product. So the outcome could be very different when you think in that way.
For example, in my grid series, I’ve discovered a new technique of turning the materials of the reinforced concrete inside out which gives it a new function.’
Willem’s ongoing play with contrasting materials and techniques helps him to create a finished look for his objects. To emphasize, the most intriguing part for his customers is the process of making, which creates a ‘wow’ factor.
Important to realize that Willem van Hooff launched his brand only 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 does now — takes a risk as an artist and designer, focusing on professional growth. After all it is the reason for existence of yet small, but the professional company — Willem van Hoff.
Willem thinks ahead into the future and stays focused on visual quality. He hopes to share his functional art to many homes to share his view on a new Dutch style. For now, he continues to experiment and to investigate different shapes for his series ‘Elements of construction’ (see products below).