André Wiersma, a lot of people know you as an instructor on Design Academy Eindhoven. You are strongly rooted in Eindhoven; you have your own workshop on Sectie-C and you have your own music band.
What people probably don’t know is that you are from The Hague and you hated school when you were young.
When I was ten years old, I came to Eindhoven with my father, mother and sister. I can remember that I felt it sucked to go to Brabant. I didn’t even know where it was. When I looked it up on the map I thought: ‘Those people are semi-Belgians, I definitely don’t want to go there’. Now I don’t ever want to leave, I have lost my heart to Eindhoven.
What is distinctive of The Hague, besides that they speak differently?
I was born in 1968, the time of the hippies. In our street you often saw weird tripping hippies, who obviously had a real good time. I thought: ‘When I’m older, I want to be like that’. I loved that world.
And have you become a hippie?
A little. I wanted to become a hippie and an inventor and have become a good mix of the two. When I was young Wickie the Viking was my hero, the little fellow that is always looking for solutions. My company name Wickie Design has derived from that. ‘Wicky Design, your first help for solutions.’ I call myself a “Multi-amateur”. I work on many different things and I love to figure out new stuff.
Who stimulated you to do something with your curiosity?
My mother pushed me to do the MTS precision mechanics. She felt that mechanics and electronics were a good fit for me and pushed me towards the right direction. I bloody hated school, but when I was there it was awesome. Finally, I could do something useful with everything that I had learned before. After the MTS I went to Design Academy Eindhoven. That was my own choice, but after I passed the first year I quit. I happened to be a maker and not a conceptual thinker.
Now you work at Design Academy Eindhoven as an instructor in the metal workshop. What are you like as a teacher?
When I studied there, I found the instructors to be very negative people. Little was possible or allowed. I did not want to be like that. You won’t hear me say ‘it’s not possible’, or ‘we are not going to do this’. I want to see how you can make something possible and be positive. I help students to work with the machines, but most can’t even use a file. There are students who come from a carpentry school or have a background in something technical and that you notice in the workshop. But there are a lot of students who have never made anything. Well, maybe only from cardboard.
You have affinity with technics.
I don’t interfere with the design. That is up to the designer, that is your thing. Technics are my thing. How do you create something that works and, at the same time, keeps your idea and design standing? First look at the mechanics, and then look at what you create around that, as a shell so to say. That last part is up to the designer.
What happens in your workshop at Sectie-C?
For the last four and a half years I have been here with my wife Margret, Emil van der Wijst, Sander Borgers, Erik Swinkels en Leke Boers. We came from the NRE-terrain. I sat there with Leke, my old partner. Emiel and Sander had a space above ours. When this space was available in Hall 4, we jumped on it with the whole group. I have my metal workshop downstairs and Margret has her space for painting. Sander and Erik are both professional musicians and Emil is a graffiti artist. He works on projects in the Netherlands and abroad.
How do you sell yourself, because you do all kinds of things?
I make prototypes. That is actually my business. People come to me with their ideas and I translate that into a prototype. I’m pretty good at thinking in 3D. At Sectie-C I take on small jobs to cover the rent of the workshop. The rest of the time I want to do whatever I like. What I don’t like to do? Production work. If someone asks me to make the same thing twenty times, I quit.
To be able to have this workshop is valuable to you, isn’t it?
I love to have happy people around me. I would recommend a part-time job to anyone. Three days a week working for a boss and the rest of the time chasing your own dreams.
You are not a consumer, are you? No gadgets or latest trends. What do you want for yourself?
I especially like music and festivals.
Speaking of music, you have your own band SueMe.
For twenty years now I make music together with Sander Borgers. At some point we started to rehearse once a week and write songs. We then got us a drummer and a bass player and that is when the SueMe family got started. The first time we went up on stage everything was new to me. Sander did this for years already, but to me this all felt unreal with everyone staring at you.
The music made me think of the The Doors, and I hear some spacerock and hippie influences.
Indeed, old hippie music is awesome. The lyrics of SueMe come from our own surroundings. “City of Magic” is about Eindhoven. “When stones turn to dust, only sweet air remains” talks about the time all the old neighbourhoods were torn down. “Why?” is a reggae-rock song. Why do you want to know everything? It is a personal theme, because all those students at Design Academy Eindhoven want to know everything all the time, while I’m like: ‘why do you want to know it? Just try it out!’. Take a left or a right and see what happens. It is fine if it sometimes goes wrong. Enjoy it.
The full interview with André Wiersma can be found in the second edition of BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE. You can follow BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE here.
Interview: Martijn van der Ven / Photography: Britt Roelse / Tekst editor: Martijn van der Ven