NAN GOLDIN - Berlin Work 1984 - 2009

CORY ARCANGEL - Here Comes Everybody

STEPHEN SHORE - Uncommon Places


WDSTCK is an art design collective that brings curious, otherworldly objects into the sphere of real life. Each artist and designer appreciates the temperament, limitations, and potential of the materials they work with to emphasise the narrative that nature in all its wonder has to offer. Walking through their atelier it’s enticing to ponder the various journeys that the sculptures and objects that lay before you may have traversed to reach this point. One can see a lot of passion, thought, and tender-loving craftsmanship and care goes into the process of making each piece. Perhaps what is most striking are the morphed shapes, the warped edges, the imperfect beauty that each object encapsulates. WDSTCK collaborates with resellers and interior designers who use the WDSTCK name as an extension of their showrooms. They create truly magical one-of-a-kind environments filled with awe-inspiring creatures, features and state of the art functional objects. Of the seven different artists that comprise WDSTCK, Jesse Sanderson takes the reigns at their Amsterdam-based atelier. We caught up with him on a sunny but crisp Monday morning in July on the Papaverhoek.

Jesse, thanks for having me at your studio today in this semi-industrial yet picturesque area of Amsterdam. Are you from here?

Actually, no. I’m from northern Holland, Friesland. It’s where all the farmers live.

Did you grow up surrounded by nature?

Not really because my parents moved a lot. From Friesland to Groningen to the completely other side of Holland, Maastricht.

One of my good friends is from there. You have a wonderful guy up in bell tower who plays the organ; check out his tribute to David Bowie that he played for the whole town just after he passed.

I think I missed that. I moved there when I was 6 but left about 10 or 15 years ago. It’s a nice city to grow up in but after a while you’d rather go to a bigger city. I lived there in a sort of community. I don’t know if you’ve heard of anthroposophy - It’s a kind of philosophical grounding to nature… a kind of sect. For children it’s really nice because there’s a lot of same-thinking people in one area. So I grew up there but after a while I said “Goodbye, I’m off!” to travel and do other things.

Having that background and this connection to nature and sustainability how do you use that in your work?

I don’t know if how I grew up can be seen in my work. I cannot say the reason behind why I make a certain object. It’s more about getting inspired by the every day. What you see, if I go hiking with my dog for example, in the forest I see sculptures everywhere. It’s how I look out onto the world. Maybe it’s had some influence but I cannot really say what the link is.

It would seem that you are into things which are imperfect, raw, and rough. And these qualities you see in nature all the time but at the same time you see such perfection and incredible symmetry. A tree for example can appear perfectly symmetrical and although man may try to re-create the most beautiful, simple objects from nature, the original beast conquers.

Yeah, I think that could be a link to my background. I grew up with no real design. My house was one big mess. I could put a nail into the wooden floor and my mother wouldn’t say, “No, you can’t do that.“

And did you?

Yeah, I did (laughing). Friends were often thinking this family is completely crazy. Not all of my designs are imperfect but the ones that are, I like the most. Because then you have more connection with yourself. Nobody is really perfect, and I’m glad nobody is perfect. So I think in the direction I want to go in terms of making things, they’re actually really maybe a little bit early.

Rather than something looking like it’s in it’s final phase of production, you prefer something to look unfinished.

Yes, so that you wonder “Do I like it or?” Make you question it.

Most of my friends are musicians and they spend hours upon hours in the studio and sometimes days just working on one track but they’ll find that no matter how much time they spend on something it’s never perfect or exactly to their liking. As a creator yourself, how do you know when to be satisfied with something you make?

If you’ve gone too far and you’ve done too much to it, well…. you have to know when to stop. What I’m working on now is making sculptures of branches. And I’m making them in bronze. So I have to look for the right shape. Actually, it’s really hard. If you have a kind of sculpture in mind and you want to make it with natural parts it’s really hard to find. And then you wonder can I add on to it a little bit or shape it to how I want? Then, you have to watch out to make sure you don’t go too far and you should leave it how it is even though it’s not completely how you want it but it’s the shape of what you’ve found originally so that’s how it should be. That’s the thing I’m busy with now.

Working within limits. For example, this piece of wood you’ve used for this light sculpture - Burning Ego - you’ve used a pretty straight piece of wood and treated it.

It’s an old technique that we use with a lot of objects. It’s an old Japanese technique. You burn the roots and then you brush it.

Photo: Courtesy of Wdstck

That’s quite tricky.

Yeah, but then actually you use the root colour of the wood and if you paint it you don’t get the right feeling and if you burn it you can use oil and get black all over your fingers and then it’s really nice. I don’t know if you’ve seen them already, maybe the chair or the seat objects…

Ah yes, the one that has fur on it and sort of looks like a giant tarantula that may start crawling toward you at any moment?

Yes, those objects are made from branches which I then cast in bronze. I’m more into those sorts of things at the moment.

Just quickly back to the burning technique for example, it could be challenging to burn something which could catch on fire in an instant. How do you manage not to burn the house down?

We do it in a very controlled manner with a kind of blow torch machine. The object doesn’t catch fire.

Photo: Courtesy of Wdstck

Ah, so you work at slowly toasting it so to say?

Haha, yes that’s it.

That happens here on site?

No, that happens somewhere else. We do the prototyping here and some of the end production for tables. The tables are more for the commercial side, we need to have money somewhere (laughing).

Right and you’ve got different producers throughout Europe right?

Yeah, we produce in Romania for example, in Friesland we have a welder, we produce things all over. We develop it here and then we send it over to skilled makers, to all kinds of small workshops.

As a designer is it important for you to innovate and evolve? What keeps things interesting?

Stress (laughing). Stress is a really bad thing; if I’m stressed I cannot design. I’m completely blocked and that doesn’t work. I’m not really searching for new designs. I don’t press it too much. That’s the nice thing with Wdstck; we have other designers. So if I’m not creative at a certain point another will be. So, I focus myself on that. Sometimes I have a period when I have so many ideas to manifest and then I really push it. I’m not in a flow where I have to make a new object every month. That doesn’t work.

That kind of pressure is debilitating.

And how I get inspired is always different. It’s not as if I go to the movies or… maybe alcohol is the best inspiration (laughing).

Sure, sometimes a lightbulb goes off in a drunken moment and you save it for when you can work on it.

Yeah or I write it down. Or put it in my phone so I don’t lose it.

Working with all of these natural materials, wood, bronze, steel, etc. - do you think about sustainability?

Well, I think it’s a bit of a hype to re-use things. I really like the hype also with not eating meat and caring more about your actions, surroundings and imprint. But I’m not focussing on creating things that are better for the environment.

Whilst it is a bit of a tangent, it’s something I often think about how much longer we can go on consuming so much all the time, everywhere. When I’m in America and I see how big it is and how big the portions are and how much waste there is, I feel that it might just implode on itself at any given moment. In Europe, there’s a different attitude and from what I can see it’s much more conscientious overall.

Everyone’s consuming, taking. Sometimes I’m doubting what I’m doing. I’m not overly materialistic but I buy clothing, I buy things…

You’re human after all.

Yeah but I don’t want to have a nice tv, chair, or... I’m a creator so it’s a little bit on the opposite of who I am otherwise. So sometimes I question myself -who wants to buy these chairs? And they’re thinking about a lot of things. And then I wonder, why don’t they go to the secondhand market and buy chairs for 10€ and then you’re fine (laughs). That’s nice as well. I’m filling the world with new stuff when there’s already so much stuff. So that is a little bit of a dilemma or a double-edged sword for me. And that’s the part I don’t really like in terms of what I do.

But better to fill the world with interesting creations than half-baked ones or made in china standard fare. Back to what we were saying earlier about the Wdstck collective consisting of other designers, does everyone share a like-minded vision or is everyone doing their own thing under the Wdstck umbrella?

Chiel Kuijl, who makes the hanging chair, The Floating Divan, he’s actually an artist who doesn’t make products but rather sculptures with ropes and he uses potatoes and he connects them with ropes in forests or museum gardens. And this hanging chair is just an object which came out of his work. And we collect it and said we can do something with it. So, he does something completely different from me or the others. There are a lot of artists that have their own things and then we just adapt a product from them into the collection. And when I started working with different artists I started thinking how is it possible that you make such nice objects and you still have to work in a bar or restaurant? And that’s the sad thing. People are so focussed on big names or people that are really famous but there’s so much more to it than that. And that’s why I thought we had to make a brand name with all those unknown artists and give them a platform. It’s not something new; there are more and more brands developing that might be similar to ours but it doesn’t concern me what they do.

Do you like to collaborate with other artists or designers if an idea strikes you or do you prefer being alone in your own zone?

It depends. In some cases it’s really nice to collaborate with others. But I really have my own thoughts on how things need to look. For example, if you design something I could give you some advice or feedback; that’s a good collaboration. Or I’m the designer and you give me feedback - but to design something together? I’ve never done it before. It could be nice to have two very different perspectives and ways of working come together.

Even from first glance on your website, a special energy comes through, the designs are so unique. They instantly capture you. I think too much of today’s world is homogenised and like fast food instant gratification, not only when it comes to food. From all the cookie-cutter furniture to high street clothing shops.

Yes, there’s so much, it’s overloaded.

And It’s all the same. Why this oversaturation?

It’s the same when you go to a restaurant and you have a menu which has over 30 dishes on offer. The overabundance of choice and therefore waste that comes with that is crazy.

Absolutely. But here we are in this really special setting which you also get to call your work place. It’s along the water with an industrial feel due to the surrounding factories but it’s also serene with the vegetation and birds and such. It must be inspiring to walk in and say hey, what am I going to do today?

That’s right. But we moved here about 3 months ago so that’s not that long. It’s quite hard to find a space which is affordable and well-located and it doesn’t come free so you need to work to get it all running. You’re running a business after all. And I’m definitely not a business type of guy.

Artists always need someone on that side. What do think for you is the biggest drive to carry on making and giving and sharing your creations?

Actually, I think the biggest drive is for myself. If I get enthusiastic about something then I really think I’m in my own world. It’s like if you play music or create something, you enjoy it yourself first and foremost. After a while that fades away but in the process, you’re enjoying it. And I’m enjoying it the most when I’m creating something that I feel both hate and love for. And you go back to that imperfection. But if you feel both hate and love for an object then it triggers you and that’s what I really miss in a lot of functional objects. Also in art, you can put it on the wall or you have a design which is really perfect and everybody really likes it. I prefer to have something more in the middle, a bit of both love and hate.

Is it important for you that when someone looks at one of your works, that they don’t instantly understand it, that it throws them off guard or surprises them?

Yeah, exactly. I think if the objects are special like this, you have just one in your home or space, you wouldn’t have your house full of things like this. Like art, so that you have an interaction with it. You can do something different with it or put it somewhere where you don’t expect. And if that’s happening it gives me power to re-create.

So, what do the cards hold for the future for you Mr Sanderson?

I’m busy working on some new objects. I’m going to wait until the parts arrive. I’ve done the design first and put some things together and then I need some professionals to help make it and that takes some time. I’m waiting for that until I can take the next step. Now we’re also really focussing on connecting with some partners abroad. We are in touch with some galleries and architects overseas. I think Holland is really small for what we’re doing so we need to expand. We need to grow more outside of just Amsterdam. It’s a great place to live and create but the world is so much bigger than that.

Text + Interview: Yasmin Martinelli | Photos: Benjamin Lagos


Graham Caldwell



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