Dutch creative duo We Are Out of Office invite us into their home

We are out of office is Winneke de Groot & Felix van Dam, both from Utrecht, Holland. Specialising in colourful screenprints, risographs and collectable pins, they've worked together since meeting at art school.

A typical workday starts quite late over here. We’re both not really morning persons. If the weather is nice we go outside for a coffee. As we are living in an old cherry orchard there is nothing better than waking up under the trees, surrounded by cats and chickens, in the morning sun. (although navigating through chicken turds can be annoying!.

Going to the studio means going downstairs. We live in this small ‘artist community’ which consists of three buildings in an orchard just outside of Utrecht. Thirty artists of different disciplines live and work amongst us in this community.

The heart of the house, the kitchen where they eat and prepare their meals.

A relaxed spot for a morning coffee

We live in an old cherry orchard; there is nothing better than waking up under the trees, surrounded by cats and chickens, in the morning sun.

Felix van Dam

We’re both schooled as graphic designers but we figured we wanted to do things different, we didn’t like the idea of ending up behind a desk improving our illustrator and indesign skills for the next years to come. We’re both kind of DIY type of persons, we wanted to be as independent as possible. We both fell in love with screen printing a long time ago so we figured we needed all the equipment to print at home. Back then this was a small student room. We started printing these small ‘products’ for fun. A package of postcards, a small print etc.

A scarf design by We are out of office; expect more to come later this year.

We started printing these small ‘products’ for fun. A package of postcards, a small print etc. All the money we earned selling these things we injected in our travels, our other big love.

Felix van Dam

All the money we earned selling these things we injected in our travels, our other big love. That’s when we came up with our name: We are out of office. We travel, we get inspired, we make stuff, we sell it and we go traveling again. At least that was the plan. But then we figured we could make a living this way and we started to do things a bit more serious. So this was a small what happened before part, let’s go back to the start of our day.

Fresh and fruity pin designs by We Aer Out of Office

Normally we’ll enter the studio somewhere around 9.30. Our studio is this designers children’s room/playground. It’s one space but roughly divided in two. The dirty and the clean side (people don’t really see the difference). The dirty side is our screen print and risograph workshop. It’s all ink, squeegees, screens, paper and tape. The clean side is where we keep our stock, where we design the stuff and where we make the packages we have to send out. But the one thing what happens everywhere in the studio is that every inch of flat space is covered with things. From paper bits to ceramics, from collected Asian packaging to design books, from camera’s to pencils, you name it.

A corner of our living room where the pair like to spin records.

A favoured format, We are out of office have released more than forty different prints this size – it’s an ongoing project. They reflect things that they like in these prints.

We don’t really sketch anymore. We figured our sketches are always better then the final design we make. We like the kind of ‘it has to be done in one try’ flow. The outcomes are more surprising, there is more energy, it feels more ‘real’.

Felix van Dam

This is the part where it gets hard to explain what a typical day looks like. It depends from day to day. It depends on the projects we are working on and the stage of these projects. The workflow is roughly the same though. If we have to screen print we coat screens in the morning so they can dry before burning them. Then we try to handle emails and sorting orders. When that’s all done we start designing. This part goes always the same, for both own projects and commissioned work. We talk our ideas through and then we start making things. We don’t really sketch anymore. We figured our sketches are always better then the final design we make. We like the kind of ‘it has to be done in one try’ flow. The outcomes are more surprising, there is more energy, it feels more ‘real’.

Still life is a reccurent theme in their inspired prints

The way we make images varies from time to time, sometimes we draw, sometimes we cut and tear, sometimes we paint, sometimes we combine all of these methods. We try to invent new ways of working (new for us) to keep things fresh and sharp.

We like the stage where we can produce; we like the alternation of tasks in a day. We design and think in the morning, print in the afternoon. We are bad at letting things go, so when we are working on a project we can work for 7 hours straight on the same things for a couple of days. This isn’t the best way of working and it can get a bit frustrating. It’s sometimes better to leave things for a day or two, and look at it with a fresh mind but we’re really bad at that. We try to work with lists but we always ending up ignoring them.

“During busy periods the studio can get a bit crazy! We have a huge cardboard problem.”

A couple of drawers full of risograph and screen prints at the We Are Out of Office studio

The way we make images varies from time to time, sometimes we draw, sometimes we cut and tear, sometimes we paint, sometimes we combine all of these methods. We try to invent new ways of working (new for us) to keep things fresh and sharp.

Felix van Dam

We try to take some time for lunch, cook something simple, have another cup of coffee and have some quality time with the cats, Paling en Vis. (Eel and Fish). Sometimes we have lunch with friends who are also living here but not as often as we want to, our workflow is different so we have lunch on different times. In the summer we have lunch outside, which is a big killer for the motivation to get back to work. When we are out of coffee we knock on the door of Ellen de Bruijn, our illustrating neighbour and friend.

Tray for &Klevering 2017 Summer collection

We really like the whole ‘business’ thing, making products, direct contact with stores, seeing our work in shops. A couple of years ago we didn’t want to do commissioned work anymore.

Felix van Dam

If we are not working on commissioned jobs we do some research in the afternoon, at the moment we are producing scarfs for the second year and we want to get involved in socks too. That means a lot of calling and emailing around, we want them to be made in Europe and we don’t want 1000 pairs to start with. We really like the whole ‘business’ thing, making products, direct contact with stores, seeing our work in shops. A couple of years ago we didn’t want to do commissioned work anymore.

We felt we needed some time for our own projects and for improving our own style and way of working. After a while it all became a bit predictable and we started looking for commissioned work again, we like the balance between our own thing and working with clients.

Commissioned work surprises us, we come up with ideas we wouldn’t come up with on our own. We are interested in how print and product can be connected. There are things we just can’t do on our own, we are just a small studio, so we think it’s really nice to make designs for clients who have the abilities and resources to produce on larger scale.

This is the first big print we made on our own risograph (RP3700). We would love to design ceramics, instead we design prints of ceramics.

We somehow always work in series, we don’t know why but we always think of an exhibition with walls filled with prints of the same size, with the same subject alternated with ceramics or wooden sculptures. This is almost always a starting point for us.

Winneke de Groot

We somehow always work in series, we don’t know why but we always think of an exhibition with walls filled with prints of the same size, with the same subject alternated with ceramics or wooden sculptures. This is almost always a starting point for us. We are really into Asian packaging design, and by the lack of clients asking us to design their packaging we started making prints of them. We collect them everywhere we go, we take them home as precious souvenirs. We think aesthetics are really important, off course design has to be functional, but we like to show the beauty of things, we want to show things how we see them. That sounds pretty corny but is in fact what we do. The fun thing is that our work gives us a goal whilst traveling; searching for all these weird things we don’t know, learning about the use of aesthetic of a region or culture. Ending up in all these places not mentioned in the Lonely Planet.

We started making pins a couple of years ago, we liked the idea of making this small product including packaging. It all got a bit out of hand en we made over 25 different ones at this moment.

On a Sunday we sometimes want to enjoy a day off and the first thing we think of is: ‘Let’s make some stuff!’.

Felix van Dam

We try not to work in the evenings, we still do that often but we think it’s good to take some downtime. In the evenings we try to eat with friends, go surfing, visit some exhibition openings and enjoy the free beers or just watch stupid television to empty our heads. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, we used to screen print and design in the evening or in the weekend as a side project / hobby thing, but now it’s called work which is weird because it’s still great fun.

On a Sunday we sometimes want to enjoy a day off and the first thing we think of is: ‘Let’s make some stuff!’.

Felix van Dam & Winneke de Groot ala We are out of office

www.weareoutofoffice.nl  | Instagram: @wereoutofoffice

Share

Posted on Sep 29th, 17 by | Twitter: @inkygoodness

Adam joined Inkygoodness in 2016 and is now a director of the company, working closely alongside founder and creative director Lisa Hassell. He is one of the main contributors to the site, and as editor-in-chief, the first point of contact for artist submissions.

Posted in

Share