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Designer Dialogues: Tessa Koot

12 March 2019

The creatives of Sectie-C, an Eindhoven based design hub, initiated BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE, a magazine that portrays different creative makers in their workplaces while interviewed by colleagues. What fascinates, inspires and drives them to do what they do? Especially for, BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE edited the interviews into interesting short stories. In this episode, we’re taking a look inside the studio of Tessa Koot.

After graduating the Design Academy, you left Eindhoven and then came back again. Did you start at Sectie-C right away?

I moved to Rotterdam for about five years. Then I came back and ended up in temporary housing in Stratum with an empty monastery behind it. When we had to get out of there, Sectie-C had just started. Back then there were those thin walls and every time we needed more space we pushed them out a meter.

Studio of Tessa Koot
© Saskia Overzee

Now you can’t even imagine what it looked like back then.

Indeed. Rob [van der Ploeg, ed.] had a business on the side with vintage stuff that he used to decorate the Smalle Haven and that was constantly being moved around. There was a mountain of vintage items out of which I would sometimes have to pull my own work out of. That’s now all changed completely but it’s fun to think back on it. A community like this is very special and that can also disappear. I’m connected with the terrain from the very beginning. I have seen it grow and I have made my hands dirty. I'm not going to leave here easily.

What is it exactly that you do?

I’m a designer.

A designer of what?  

Interior isn’t entirely accurate. Everything up to and including public spaces. You have to imagine that a roof could fit above all my work. Right now we’re making a lot of visuals. I also make buildings, but they are in service to what is inside of them.

Who do you work for?

That differs a lot. I like it best when a client just tells me what he wants and then gives me all the freedom I want. Then I can determine the context, because if someone asks me to make a chair that sits nice, I want to know where that chair will end up. I often create that space for myself.

What is the division of tasks between you and your colleague Sophie?

Well, in addition to my own label, Sophie and I have Studio ADD. The big difference between the two companies is that we use the render studio to accommodate the client’s needs. Opposed to if you come to me, I am really super leading.

Is that why you like to work autonomously?

Yes, I like to work autonomously. But I also like this! Clients don’t always completely trust me because I also have an autonomous collection. For example, once I said that a wall had to be black and the client responded: ‘But you are very extreme!’ Now we can show that it works with one push of a button and that it has nothing to do with my personal taste. Since we have this skill, I think that we are really much more on point and I can do my job much better.

Because of working with language less?

Yes, because that medium isn’t sufficient at all. What’s beautiful to me is certainly not what is beautiful to you. At the academy we are taught to talk about the same beauty, but a client does speak my language at all.

Would you say that the render is really your prototype?

Definitely. Think about it. With the autonomous physical works, I made a collection and I had to pre-finance it myself. It takes a lot of time because you make models first and eventually the final product. Then the whole bunch has to be crated up and shipped to Milan. I had to take care of a crew and arrange everything. The crew also had to eat of course and before you know it you’ve spent fifteen thousand euros. No joke.

Tessa Koot
© Saskia Overzee

Sounds very familiar.

So then you’re standing in Milan and everybody puts their greasy fingers on it, tapping it with their rings and what not to see if it’s well produced. After that you can just throw away the product of course. Now I have my visuals and if nobody wants to buy my work there is no harm done. To put an image like that in the spotlight only takes one push of a button so to say and it goes out to my entire network immediately.

But what’s your design process in that case?  

I do still make sketches and for my inspiration I have to go out into the real world. Basically, all elements are still the same, that’s also why I still want a space where I can do physical work.

So, you are trying to find a balance between the physical work and the designing on the computer?

 I feel like I am much closer to my identity as a designer now, because I can show what is supposed to come out of me.

Tessa Koot
© Tessa Koot

Why have you, besides your autonomous work, been starting offering making visuals as a service?

We became proficient in it and I really like working together too. Sometimes it’s also easier to work for a commercial party. With your own work it can become so complex to express your own ideas that it’s quite a relief to work for someone else.

There is a different intensity in working for others. And your own work is never really finished.

Exactly. Therefore, I think these two things exist alongside each other really well.

Final question: do you also take your work home with you?

Sophie still thinks there’s a difference between work and private, I’ve been trying to explain for the past five years there isn’t. Just joking! Taking your work home with you has such a negative connotation as well. As if it’s something you’re not supposed to do. I can’t shut it out, don’t want to either. I like it when it’s still marinating a bit at home so in the morning I can think; YES!

The full interview with Tessa Koot can be found in the first edition of BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE. You can follow BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE here.
Interview: Anne Ligtenberg and Mats Horbach / Photography: Saskia Overzee / Tekst editor: Martijn van der Ven / Translator: Tanya Long