Born @ WdKA
Product Design


Marten van Middelkoop + Joost Dingemans
Fri 28 Jun
Function Product & Material Designers
Year 2017
Major Product Design
Practice Commercial Practices

Nominee: Henri Winkelman Award 2019

Are you inspired by the same thing? / Two peas in a pod or completely different?

Marten: We are definitely two peas in a pod, it happens quite often that we start talking about the same idea at the same time to each other. And that’s awesome because we need to discuss very little. We do have a very different design process from each other. Working on a design project together is the only time we have fights because we both are stubborn. But the work always comes out better in the end. We are now working towards an exhibition where we take on different little projects within a big one, that way we can criticise each other's work, without getting into fights, because we both have the final word about own part.

Joost: Our inspiration is like a conjoined tree. At the basis, we have the same interests: materials, brutalism, shape and industry for example. Then there are a lot of branches that might and some cannot conjoin. For instance, I love things that are so ugly they become beautiful to me. Marten does not. So having the same basis - with of course different eyes and minds – we also think completely differently and get inspired by different things. What makes it strong in my opinion is explaining how certain things inspire me or him and having a peek into one another’s perception.

What is your favourite WdKA memory?

Marten: It is hard to choose one, I have a lot of good memories. I loved the late nights in the workshops, and I loved making crazy stuff like melting ovens for metals and stone. Travelling to India is definitely one of the top memories. I have never had soo much inspiration in one week, and I met my girlfriend there!

Joost: I remember loads of things vividly, I had four years full of different experiences. I guess the one to think and talk of the most is still the trip to India. The department Product Design organised an intensive 10-day journey throughout all the crafts and industry segments of Ahmadabad. There, a local architect Mitraja showed us all the ins and outs of the city and brought us in contact with the local artisans. Another moment worth remembering was when I accidentally threatened my teacher Agata Jaworska that her head could be on display in Schell, the famous butcher shop in Rotterdam.

What did you gain from your study at WdKA?

Marten: I think the most important thing I have developed is the sense that anything is possible. You can do whatever you like and need and the academy enables it by providing workshops, teachers, fellow-students - all contributes to making great stuff.

Joost: Before I started adventuring within the bubble of WdKA I had a terrible notion of what Product Design actually was (read none). All I knew was that I wanted to be able to create lots of different things with huge freedom in material and shape. Studying at the academy taught me what design is but also due to the multidisciplinary approach made me see the importance of collaboration between different fields. Now I have a broad network of people working professionally in different fields whom I can work together with and who also happen to be my friends.

How/Where did your collaboration start?

Marten: We started working together pretty much from the start of the course, helping each other out and discussing each others project. The first time we actually realised a project together was also when we started Plasticiet. I remember we talked about it: "Haha this is the first time we work together". And we never stopped since ;).

Joost: Marten and I were in the same class and also followed the same minor. Throughout the years we were literally always brainstorming together about our projects to an extent that we decided we had to force ourselves to talk about other things as well. That formed the basis of a collaborative mindset and friendship. It was during the minor New Frontiers that we actually started working on the same project together with Yvette and Anne-Marije. Marten and I continued brainstorming about other projects as well and we ended up spending five days or more a week working together on Plasticiet.

Plasticiet is a man-made marble crafted from local plastic trash, showing the potential of an underrated waste source

How did your collaboration become a success? Was it a long way full of hardships or did it ‘just happen’?

Marten: It basically just happened. When we work together we get so much done because we motivate each other. We are getting better and better in dividing the work, learning about our own strengths and weaknesses. But it mostly is a lot of fun, because we both love playing with 'silly' stuff.

Joost: I think the main reason for how we work together successfully is the insane criticism that we bombard each other with constantly. We burn down each other’s ridiculous concepts but keep on sparring about it until we find a compromise.


We transform profoundly useless waste into beautiful man-made material

Are you pioneers?

Marten: F*ck yeah.

Joost: Does Willem de Kooning not create pioneers? Are we not WdKA graduates? I guess if the WdKA is a successful academy and they stay true to their statement it should be obvious that every student is a pioneer. The key is to hold on to that position after finishing school. I do consider myself a pioneer in the sense that I am continuously re-inventing shapes and methods of working with the question in my head 'is this going to have an awesome mind-blowing result?’ and wondering how it relates to the contemporary world. Does what I plan to do add value to it? No? Skip it!

Entrance Desk @ Interieur Biennale Kortrijk 2018 with Studio Verter

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

Marten: I think the future of my profession demands flexibility since the playfield is continuously changing. I find it cool that we are now living off melting garbage, and the fact that it is possible means that anything is possible. I love the traditional forms of product design too, but this market is quite saturated and therefore unbalanced. There are very few designers who live and thrive on only product design. Many work in interior design, graphic design etc. to come by. I think that the future belongs to non-conservative companies.

Joost: Anything can happen really. Who'd have thought in the age where we massively killed whales solely for their oil thinking that the world is an unlimited source of things that keeps on restocking like the shelves of a supermarket, that we now live in a world where supermarket shelves are always stocked but at the same time we’re constantly battling the effects on the world’s environment due to extreme globalisation and mass production? What I hope though is that in some distant future I can drink a cup of coffee in my disposable cup, dispose of it and think: Ha! There once was a time that this would have made me feel like shit, but we’re now living in a world where we have such a great abundance of renewable energy and have gotten so ridiculously good at recycling that we can do whatever the fuck we want. And then design with that thought in mind. We will create awesome things.

You never leave your house without…?

Marten: A sample box! People love talking about Plasticiet and showing what we make always helps. We actually got quite a lot of customers and collaborations by randomly talking to people about it.

Joost: Next to my keys, phone and wallet I’m sad to admit that would be an extra pair of socks in my bag. I have smelly feet and I often work late hours. The feeling of clean socks on my tired feet gives a great energy boost next to a fresh feeling.

I am actively living the dream I had when I started my education at the Academy

Joost Dingemans

Any words of advice to future students?

Marten: If you have a good idea, just do it, and fully go for it. With Plasticiet we had some luck because it was picked up by the right people, but that also happened because we truly worked our asses off for the past year and made sure we were seen. Throwing in every bit of time and money we had without being sure we would land on top. But I do believe that if you fully devoted to doing something - you will succeed.

Joost: Yes. Make choices. Even if it’s a bad choice you’ll at least know that it was the wrong one. If you keep on lingering between options there will be only one certainty: you will not make any progress and in the end, it might be too late to go back. Make a choice, go for it and then decide whether or not it was a good one. You can always (to a certain extent) take a step back and will learn an important thing: that idea sucked!

Name your favourite recent project.

Marten: We are now working on exciting stuff for an exhibition in Monk on the 7th of June. We are going to move away from making sheet material a bit. We’re going to show the full potential of working with recycled plastics.

Joost: It's an ongoing one: getting some of that good ol’ leisure time back haha. I have the tendency to be workaholic and I actively need to protect myself. Besides that, I am writing this interview the day after I worked until past midnight - doing material experiments with Marten all evening long. I can’t really tell what it is going to be, but think of candy stick production.

Future plans and hopes.

Marten: I hope that we find a steady flow in the company so that we can start focusing on designing more. I would love to dive into a completely new world soon, with all of the knowledge and experience that we got from the past year.
Joost: I hope and plan on that Plasticiet keeps growing for a while so that I can go to bed and think; today we shipped out some cool material again and someone will make beautiful things with it. And it’s all made of someone else’s trash. And then in the meantime, I’m living a chilled out life, taking on a lot of projects involving all kinds of material and shape. I am actively living the dream I had when I started my education at the Academy.

Plasticiet website

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