After years of working as a graphic designer Simone’s passion for handmade products resurfaced and after making the decision to do what she loves, she went after her dreams.

Where did your design journey begin?

I studied at the Academy of Arts Minerva in Groningen the Netherlands and even though I originally wanted to become a fashion designer, I loved studying Graphic Design! In my 5 years of study, I learned all the classic types of printing and the computer was only just beginning to make its mark on the profession. Drawing, painting, designing, and printing were always a passion and at the Academy, I learned to combine all those into my own style. After working for over 20 years as a Graphic Designer and mostly working behind the computer, I started to miss working with my hands and wanted to change that.

How did you start selling your products?

I started screen printing again: low volumes of my drawings and just enjoying it. A lot of friends told me they wanted one and asked me if they could buy one: that’s when I started to visit local markets and offer my work to local shops. I always loved ceramics too and was fascinated with the history of Delft Blue work as well as the large history we have in Friesland with ceramics and specifically tiles. There are still a few small businesses making these and I wanted to make my own modern twist on these. That’s how my first collection of white tiles started. People fell in love with them.

Is your work all about these tiles?

No, I don’t really like to be put into one box with my business. There’s so much creativity inside me that it always changes. I’ve sold photo’s I made, Tote bags with prints, pillows, handmade paper with prints as well as screen sprints, cards, and many more different objects. I love designing products specifically for shops that are uniquely made for them. That way they have a unique product to sell. That’s also the reason I only have one shop in every city selling my products. They get the exclusivity to sell my products and customers won’t find my products everywhere. That way I can keep my productions small and keep them handmade. That’s the weird goal I guess: not selling as much as possible, but selling quality products and keeping them unique and handmade. I love working together with local artists as well. The handmade paper is made by a woman in Groningen who makes it from paper cups: something that’s easily thrown away and not of much worth. Remaking it into paper and making a beautiful print on it makes it into something more valuable.

Is your production & packaging ecologically conscious?

Well, I try to be. With all the packaging and the huge consumer-driven society, it’s not always easy but I try. For example, the packaging of the tiles is made of rest material that’s leftover from a big packaging printer. The packaging therefore can change from time to time. The print on it is hand stamped. The tiles are partial leftovers from larger productions. Some I’ve been getting from a company in Friesland. I try to source my material locally. If not in the Netherlands, then at least in Europe. If I ship out orders I reuse packaging material that can look rough, but it’s still strong enough to be used. The tiles and prints on it are baked in a ceramic kiln in my town as well: not a huge production facility but a local place. This is also why it can take up to 2 or 3 weeks before I can finish a new order. And because I don’t have much stock either I try to limit the leftover products and not add more waste.

What's your favorite part of having your own business and what is the least?

The least favorite is easy: the numbers!! I hate working with numbers and I know it’s important to do when you have your own business but yeah, I’ll never love it. My favorite part is… there are so many. Meeting customers and making people happy with a design. Designing unique products for shops, meeting fellow designers and other inspiring people. I love the personal connection and working on one with someone. Either a ‘small’ personal design because of a birth, like birth tiles, a wedding announcement, or starting a big brand or label for a shop. Like with the shops: no one knows their local public better than the shop owners themselves. Every region has its own specific demands and this small difference can be so inspiring to work for! I’ve been lucky enough to have had an exhibition in Heerenveen about my ancestry. I’m half Indonesian and both my grandparents came from a time of turmoil (the second world war in Indonesia and the Netherlands). The exhibition was about both parts of the family: the Dutch part as well as the Indonesian part. Acknowledging both sides unified inside me, their granddaughter is what drove me to do this exhibition: to make people understand that there’s no black and white and no good or bad. There are just people fighting for their future or their lives. I’ve always loved to combine history and the present time so I’ll always try and combine these two: history and future.

What are your future plans?

I just opened my own office and that feels like a big step already! It’s great to share it with someone that has her own business as well and to be able to talk about topics that every business owner deals with. It’s a very lonely existence and even though I’m mostly a loner I do like this way of combining jobs. In the future, I want to work on the relationships I have with the shops that sell my products. I’ve been asked to exhibit my work at Maison & Objet and I was blown away with that! I didn’t do it, because, in my opinion, I wasn’t ready yet. I’m a small company and I don’t have huge stocks. When I want to exhibit there, I want to be able to fulfill the promises I make. So for now I’m still designing new products, testing them out in low numbers, and slowly building them into something steady. As long as it makes me happy and smile, I’ll keep doing it. I’ve been in the corporate world long enough to know that that kind of stress is not my ultimate goal, neither is earning huge sums of money. I’d rather make the world prettier and friendlier.

What tip would you give a future designer?

Stay true to your heart. It’ll always make you happier to do what you love than to do what is expected of you. Money can only go so far. Good friendships, happiness, and health will get you much further.

Anything you'd like to add?

Yes! As of this year, I’m supporting a charity. It’s called Stichting DON and it focuses on curing Diabetes 1. I was blown away by what happened to a friend of mine. Her kid of 2 years old was suddenly diagnosed with Diabetes 1 and I was shocked to learn how horrible this disease is. Most take it as something ‘normal’ these days but watching her and her family trying to deal with all the turmoil after Diabetes 1 entered their lives made me change my mind completely. So for every tile with a heart illustration that I sell or one of my shops sells, I’ll donate €1 to this charity. I hope they’ll find a cure to this disease and I’m proud to be able to support them this way.

Photography: Simone Renou

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