Decorations in the park (the Noorderplantsoen), during the ten days that the annual Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival is held are often refreshingly original, and in some cases thought provoking for the viewer. Summer 2012, saw the inclusion of an unusual collection of birds throughout the park: outlines of over 30 familiar species native to the area, and they were constructed from detailed, three-layered laser cutouts of mirror. Each was mounted on heavy iron bases by metal nuts and bolts and displayed at intervals throughout the park; one could spy a kingfisher hanging from a pole, a heron balanced on a branch staring intently into the distance, or groups of birds standing in the water’s shallows.
A promotional postcard from the festival, which turned out to be a pitch to the CBK (Centrum Beeldende Kunst) to realize the project, led my curiosity to contact interior designer, Carolijn Slottje.
Carolijn told me that apart from the obvious decorative aspect, the thinking behind this project was to make people aware just how many bird species are resident in the Noorderplantsoen, and what effect the presence of a festival can have on the indigenous flora and fauna.
I met her at her studio, in part of an enormous, high-ceilinged old school premises destined for demolition, and run by the anti-squat organization, Carex. It is here that she has all the room necessary to work on the five or so projects that she completes per year; either under her own name, or as part of the collaborative label (with Eileen Blackmore, Martijn Westphal): Young and Hanson. We ascend a series of bright red wooden stairs to the slightly warmer, large-windowed, mezzanine area of the studio, and sit in the sun, with large glass beakers of hot amber-coloured tea.
A graduate of Minerva, Carolijn has had a great deal of interest surrounding her work, beginning with her graduation project: Capilliar. This organically formed and ‘intelligent’ display structure has exhibited in Berlin, been written about on blogs, and drawn attention from museums for its originality. Looking like a magnified cross section of blood vessels and arteries on a glass slide under a microscope, and constructed from a series of adjustable rubber membrane cells, plastic straws, and with grey plastic tubes as inner display areas, this book case can be adapted to fit any space.
I ask Carolijn where she gets her inspiration from. It seems that her design philosophy and approach comes from her interest in natural structures, the stories contained within patterning, sustainability and fair trade. Finding inspiration in the mechanical working of things, for example bionics, she then figures out how she can translate this for human use. Or from nature: the already documented information on how a leaf unfurls, or the resistance of a riverbed. Knowledge gained from the former has already been applied to the technology of how a satellite opens in outer space. The natural world for her is inspirational through its planned chaos: “If you fill a pot with stones, whether big or small, they will naturally fall to accommodate each other within the pot, and find their own level.”
It can take up to a year before Carolijn can finally launch a new product on the market. Not only does the designed object have to be able to exist in its surroundings, but there is the question of feasibility; materials have to be costed, the end design has to be tested for safety, and then there is the question as to whether there is a market for it.
For the future, her objective is not so much about making a name for herself, but to maybe work for Ikea or Hema, producing products with the underlying philosophy of them being financially accessible and attractive to all. Also, she would like to use her knowledge for the design of a “good chair for a well-known label.”
If you’d like more information about Carolijn’s work: www.carolijnslottje.com. Or call her: here.
Read & download issue here