This article is number three in our series in partnership with Dutch Design Week that looks at whether the ‘new normal’ has brought a new level of intimacy to the studios of creatives in the Netherlands.

Because of safety measures, self-isolation and social distancing, we’re having to reshape certain relationships. Many of us are having less contact with people and spending more time in secluded bubbles – on our own or in smaller groups. What does that mean for creatives and the way in which they interact with their audience? Have their relationships – with studio visitors, (potential) clients and collectors – become more intimate? Moved from formal and business-like to more personal and close? We’ve partnered with Dutch Design Week (DDW) for a series of interviews with creatives in the Netherlands to discover whether the ‘new normal’ has brought a new level of intimacy to the studio. Iris van Daalen and Ruben Thier of sustainability-focused Studio Thier&vanDaalen share their thoughts on the topic.  

What impact has the ‘new normal’ had on you and your business, and the way you run your studio?

IRIS VAN DAALEN: Because we live and work at the same address, and thinking about new items is not something we can stop doing, we’re designing more and more things you actually need around the house: a bathroom mirror; a good light for above your table where you eat, meet and work; a nice way to store and show your precious items. We can try out these new ideas and prototypes in their real scale at home. Taking a step back to let them sink in for a while, we can keep refining the materials, colours and overall dimensions until we feel the product is right.

RUBEN THIER: Being at home so often and seeing friends struggle to divide work and private life in the same space, we’ve become increasingly aware of the items that surround us. We would therefore like to work more with design labels to bring our ideas for this new situation into more homes.

After seeing friends struggle to divide work and private life within the same space, says Ruben Thier, he and Van Daalen would like to work more with design labels to ‘bring our ideas for this new situation into more homes’.

The Plastic Mine is a line of home and garden accessories – including shelving – made from overproduced factory plastics.

IVD: Over the past few weeks we’ve invited our clients and contacts to come and visit us at our home and studio for a new edition of The Young Collectors during Dutch Design Week. The idea was for people to come in and see how we work, live and collect during this new and altered situation. Because it was planned as a relatively small and focused exhibition, we were sure it would fit in with the regulations regarding COVID. Nevertheless, the organization had to make the tough decision to cease the live programme this year, our exhibition included. At the last minute we changed things to focus on more direct interaction with our contacts, mostly online though. We’re video calling clients to help them make decisions or to show them new ideas, or meeting one-on-one at a safe distance.

RT: Or driving around the country with half of our interior in the back of the car. [Laughs.]

Has the lack of physical and sensory contact with your pieces affected which pieces you’ve sold or developed?

IVD: Photography, in combination with social media, made up for the lack of physical contact in a new way. It’s become more important than ever to transfer the right material feeling, scale and sensitivity of the item to the screen or magazine. In this way, you have the most honest possible impression of our work, without being able to touch it. But the nicest thing to see is how people play with our designs – for example, our sustainable colour shelves appearing in striking pictures on Instagram mixed up with vintage items and work from other designers.

RT: Luckily we have shown our work in lots of different places: design weeks, exhibitions and such. Now that people are at home more often, they’re feeling the need to collect new items to update and change their interiors. Sometimes functional, sometimes happy and colourful.

A series of vases play with the contrast between industrial steel and the craft of glass blowing, an ode to the latter by literally placing it on a pedestal.

A coffee table from The Plastic Mine series.

How did ‘confinement’ impact your creativity?

IVD: I find restriction stimulates my creativity – what can you do within strict boundaries? In a way, the focus and urge to get things done has increased. We also picked up and carried on with things that existed only on paper as sketches. I believe beauty can be found in the smallest things. Don't take the world for granted and look around you. We can now fully experience the autumn, for example, due to the cancellation of trade-fair presentations and such. We can go outside, hike and see beautiful colours, light and reflections. I like that.

Interior Reflections is a series of accessories including candle holders, whose filter projects a coloured trace of light onto its surroundings.

Have you experienced – or do you expect – that the current situation will change the types of companies, clients and producers you work with?

RT: Not only is sustainability more and more important; it’s actually the real ‘new normal’. We’ve been working with sustainable materials and industrial waste for quite a long time now. Our challenge is to bring these processes to the labels and producers we work with.

IVD: Work from home, travel less. When you do travel, make it count. In our eyes, it’s about buying from makers, designers and companies that operate sustainably. We see it as a challenge to create new items made from local materials, such as the overproduced factory plastics we turned into The Plastic Mine, a line of home and garden accessories.

RT: This is a worldwide movement, where people are in search of unique, bespoke and/or crazy items. Made locally, but shipped globally.

With so many design events cancelled this year, what are the alternatives?

RT: It’s sad to see design weeks not happening in real life. Digital only is a different atmosphere, since real-life fairs are not only for seeing and experiencing new work but also for meeting friends, colleagues and new contacts.

IVD: Luckily there are still great magazines that publish curated content in beautiful settings and layouts. Next to this, social media are indispensable extensions of the studio. Contact goes directly through Instagram – though while it’s great for creating new content, it can also be a bit time consuming.

RT: The most important thing is focus: we don’t dive into every possibility nowadays but look closer to the contacts we already have and collaborate to make things work.

At a time when design weeks are being cancelled to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, creative workspaces are open on an appointment basis, with or without design week. We are nowhere without creatives and their workspaces.

Hero image: Iris van Daalen says she and Ruben Thier see the current situation as a challenge to create new items made from local materials, such as overproduced factory plastics.