Hyshil Sander | Illustrator & Designer
on the Heisteeg in the center of Amsterdam, a certain set of postcards caught my eye – cards by
illustrator and designer
(1983). Her playful, ethereal and dream-like drawings stayed with me and I was inspired to
find out more. Living in IJburg with her husband and six year old daughter, Hyshil works several days a week in a studio space in Amsterdam Noord. I met up with her to find out more
about the inspiration behind her work and her experiences working as a freelancer.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in the countryside in the north of the Netherlands. At a young age I was already very interested in magazines, which, as you can imagine, wasn’t very common where I grew up. And as a child I loved to draw. All children draw, but my mother used to tell me that it was pretty excessive with me. It was not a surprise that I ended up studying at the Minerva Academy of arts and design in Groningen. I moved to Amsterdam half a year before I graduated – I really couldn’t wait to start working. My first internship was with Elegance, the magazine. From there I worked for several magazines including Elle Girl, Santé, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Red, Elle, and Vogue. I switched between contracts and working for myself, and took some time off when I had my daughter at age 23. Now, I have been working as a freelancer illustrator for the past year and a half. It is the first long stretch of time that I have been illustrating and working on my own projects, and it’s going really well. From making birth announcements, graphic identities, and window displays for shops, to selling prints on Etsy, my work is so diverse. I have been really busy but I love it and I'm very grateful.
What inspired you to start working for yourself?
It has always been a part of me. I think it can be traced back to my time at the art academy. The Minerva Academy is – well, was – a very free academy, and I really identified with that way of working. After working with contracts for a while, I was really ready to start for myself. I had built up a large network over the years, learned a lot at the different magazines, and had made enough connections to find work myself. Once you start to work for yourself, and it’s going well, it’s really hard to go back.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I have always been very inspired by my childhood in the countryside. I remember riding our horses without saddles early in the morning, before my parents even woke up. Or playing a hide-and-seek game in the summertime, my sister on horseback, and me, hiding in the fields of tall grass. Or that one time we found a gigantic carp fish in a pond on our grounds. The beauty and dreaminess of all of it, but with an odd twist… My work is also very girly and feminine. It's very important to me that my work is soft, and compared to all those women who feel the need to be hard edged to prove that they’re strong, I believe in being vulnerable.
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
I really love Amsterdam, and feel very at home here. What inspires me most is that Amsterdam has been preserved very well as a historical city. You can find sights, like street corners or doors or windows, that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Not like the old photographs that have faded over the years - they feel distant and make it hard to imagine what it was like back then. But you can just be walking in the city and find yourself walking back in time. I really like that about Amsterdam. When I graduated from the academy I was really fascinated by this idea in general - I took photographs that tried to capture the unity of landscapes. It was that time gap, between what it looked like years ago and what it looks like today, that really intrigued me. And it still inspires me today.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The start of the day is usually quite hectic. I make my daughter breakfast and take her to school. And then it depends. I have, what I call, practical days and workdays. Practical days mean doing things out of the house, like sending Etsy packages, visiting shops to stock up on products, or making window displays. These days are really fun, but also very tiring. Or I spend days at the studio that I share with creative studio Boereiland. My workdays are real office days - I check my emails, drink coffee, draw for most of the day, and have lunch with the others. Then I head home to pick up my daughter. In the evenings, I relax and hang out with my husband and often work some more.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
I really like Amsterdam Noord, where my studio is and you can find places like the low-key hangout, Noorderlicht. I’m also partial to Amsterdam Oost, where I lived for a few years. I was recently in the area for dinner at Wilde Zwijnen, one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I love visiting museums, and preferably by myself. The Stedelijk appeals to me more in terms of the art, but I prefer the Rijksmuseum to wander through the galleries. And the shop Velour is really my discovery of the year. If there could be one place where I could get everything for free, it would be there!
What's next for you?
After designing the graphic identity for Lennebelle Jewelry, I was asked to work together on a children's line (Lennebelle Petites). Together we came up with some really fun and cute ideas for mothers and daughters - and I designed jewelry! This will go into production very soon and I’m very excited about it. I’m also working on my first exhibition with my friend and wonderful photographer Hüsne Afsar, which will be a series of illustrated photographs accompanied by a small booklet. Meanwhile, Christmas is almost here so the cards are flying out and I’m working on a birth announcement for what may be a Christmas baby. Yesterday my amazing daughter turned six and two days before that my husband had his birthday too, and tomorrow it’s off to Red magazine for some good old freelance designing!
Thank you Hyshil for this interview! You can find her products for sale at Hear Hear (Heisteeg 8) and ANNA+NINA (Gerard Doustraat 94), and on Etsy. Be sure to visit her website for more information and request custom work, and follow Hyshil on Facebook and Instagram .