Hi Sander! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? Who are you, where are you from and why did you want to become a designer?
Hi! I'm Sander Hagelaar. Born in Utrecht, raised in Wageningen and eventually completed my studies at the ArtEZ art academy in Arnhem. I actually became a designer more by accident. In high school, I had no idea you could study for that. I knew you could be an architect or an artist, but I had no idea there were all sorts of disciplines in between. A friend of mine was going to study industrial product design, so I started it too, without thinking too much about it. Once I was enrolled in the course, I immediately knew that it was for me, all my interests came together. However, there was only one thing missing and that was more freedom in research and the final form of the design process. So after my first year of Industrial Product Design, I switched to the ArtEZ art academy.
Looking back, it actually makes perfect sense that I'm a designer now. It gives me the kind of freedom that allows me to be myself completely. In my work, I am constantly pushing the limits on what can be done with materials. I can be obsessive about this, constantly challenging myself and constantly looking for stress points. I live to fail, haha. By nature, I am a quiet person who experiences little stress, but that is exactly what I look for in my work, for the adrenaline. It's the same energy I used to put into mischief in high school. That's how I created exciting situations for myself. In the meantime, the mischief has been replaced by researching materials and designs, in which I am actually trying to find a final form that radiates tranquillity.
On Instagram, you shared your work Fluid Current with us via #heyddw. Can you us tell a little more about this project?
Last year, I spent a lot of time observing and designing water. There are several projects coming up for which water was the inspiration, but one of them is about "water and electricity"; two things that do not go together according to our perception. That excitement is what makes it interesting to me. The main question was "How can I use water as a conductor material? I find it a challenge to play with people's perceptions and have them rediscover a material. I finally achieved this by controlling the material on the one hand and actually releasing it on the other. There is almost nothing more beautiful than one single drop of water falling. In Fluid Current, I let water droplets slide down a narrow track, where they eventually trickle off naturally. They then fall on a light that starts flashing. To the viewer, it seems as if the water droplet briefly turns on the light.
Liquids seem to be a recurring theme in your work. What do you find so inspiring about that?
It's a material where you're really collaborating with a natural and unpredictable process. I want to control that to a certain point and release that control once I design the framework. That way the material can do its own thing and finish the work so that it can surprise me again too. That co-creation with the material is what I'm always looking for. I don't need to control everything completely, that's already been done too often.
You just graduated from ArtEZ in 2018. What is the best lesson you learned there?
That's a tough one! If I had to pick one thing as my best lesson, I think it's that your work, and especially your graduate work, should always be your "best friend" in the end. Because when you finish art school, it creates a distance that makes you forget things too. But what you will always carry with you is the work you created there, you can't just forget that. So if your (graduation) work is not your best friend, you might not feel as satisfied when you look back on it. I developed that mindset during college which made me a lot more stubborn about what I was creating and the path I chose. And sometimes that can rub your teachers the wrong way, but it's often a lot more educational than when everything is always okay and you get good grades. And what some designers say about their study time is to make full use of the workshops and the workshop employees! At ArtEZ that was really great!
How would you describe your ideal commissioned project and client?
For me, the ideal client is someone who has a clear assignment or question and then trusts me with that responsibility. I can't really think of the ideal assignment, my mind immediately goes in all different directions about what I would think is amazing. But ultimately, all those ideal assignments come down to that it would have to be a real challenge and preferably something new for me. And because there is so much I haven't done yet, there are still so many challenges and ideal assignments.
How can we recognize a typical Sander Hagelaar?
I think my work often looks fragile and/or vulnerable. I am always looking for temporality and vulnerability in material and movement. By doing this, I want to stretch the limitations of human perception about the material and allow them to experience its fragility. I work from the principle that everything is temporary, that it will fall or perish one day, and this aspect is more valuable than the idea of something that will exist for eternity. Through my work, I want to give people the art of loss and mortality.
What is the most unique or remarkable work that you have ever created/designed?
I always find that hard to say about my own work. But what I'm most excited about right now is the work I'm currently working on. That's actually always the case. This is my biggest project so far. I don't want to say too much about it yet, but what I can say is that it has something to do with creating temporary spaces and architecture. I'm using dust and gravity for that. You can think of it as a space that is constantly changing and walls that breathe. I expect visitors will mainly be standing still or sitting down. It is work that needs to be experienced physically and I hope to launch it at Dutch Design Week (DDW).
How has the pandemic affected your work so far? How do you look back on the past year?
Just like for a lot of other people, several things did not happen because of the pandemic, of course. Also, things I was really looking forward to, like showing my new, big 'When They Fall' installation at LYNfabrikken in Denmark. This will only be possible when the lockdown is lifted again in both countries. The positive thing about it was that I was really able to work in my studio like a hermit and that I have started a lot of new projects.
If you could choose one person to collaborate with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist, anyone), who would you choose and why?
Phew, that's hard, just one person. I could learn from so many people, but if I had to choose someone or something, I would choose the Dutch Dance Theatre (Nederlands Dans Theater). I always went to their performances with my parents and my sisters and I thought it was very impressive. I would love to design a scenography for them in which I can use qualities like vulnerability and movement to co-create a unique experience.
Do you have any news to share with the DDW community?
Besides Fluid Current, I have been making spatial installations for the past year, but they are site-specific and need to be experienced physically. So I'm looking for collaborative partners, as soon as it's possible again so that I can present them somewhere. I hope to see you at one of my temporary installations!
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