Maartje van den Noort | Illustrator
As a frequent visitor of the smaller, more unique shops and boutiques in the city, I happened upon the work of talented illustrator
Maartje van den Noort
(1981, Gouda). A
postcard collection of
(including a parakeet, jay, golden oriole, blackbird, and more) caught my eye, and the honest simplicity of her work intrigued me. Moving from Zeeland, where she
grew up, to Rotterdam, where she pursued studies in graphic design and the visual arts, Maartje now calls Amsterdam home. She lives with her husband Ruben van der Scheer, and works in a
studio space in a creative hub right off the Prins Hendrikkade. I visited her in her studio to find out more about her passions and what inspires her.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Zeeland, the lower part of The Netherlands. Drawing was a big part of my childhood, I remember drawing princesses and making dresses for Barbies with my neighbor. I kept myself busy with creative projects. I knew I always wanted to do something creative in my life. I knew I wanted to make things. I moved to Rotterdam to study graphic design at the Grafisch Lyceum where I studied graphic design and styling – I remember watching a film about Lidewij Edelkoort (trend forecaster) and being mesmerized! It became quite obvious that I was a little too messy for graphic design, and one of my teachers suggested I attend the Willem de Kooning Academy . And I did. I studied autonomous arts, which meant that I was freer to do what I liked. The academy is quite a conceptual art academy, and I definitely learned a lot. I was able to experiment, and realized I was drawn to drawing, to illustration. The two studies, combined, were the perfect mix.
When I finished my studies, I was living in Gouda, and I was determined to become an artist. That is what I studied after all. I had a few small jobs here and there, and started making my own products. I knew the ladies of Restored (Petra van Roon and Marijke Hukema) who asked me to create lanterns for their store on the Jan Evertsenstraat (the store is now located on the Haarlemmerdijk and is run by Marijke and her husband David). In 2009, I was working more in Amsterdam, and made the move here in 2010 when I married Ruben. I guess you can say my career blossomed when I moved to Amsterdam.
What has your experience been working for yourself as an illustrator and graphic designer?
I love working for myself. It has been a long road, full of frustrations and learning to accept that this is my way, but now I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes the insecurity is difficult, but I can live with a little of it, and I’m happy to take on new assignments. It’s all an adventure. Sometimes it all gets to be too much and I get stressed… That’s the hardest thing about being your own boss, there is no 'end of the day' as long as I don't say so.
Can you tell us about your work?
I focus primarily on illustration, and apply the drawings to other materials like textiles. When I graduated from the academy, I often caught myself looking to combine textile and paper. I enjoy applying my drawings to different fabrics, and would actually like to experiment more with textiles. There’s something about it… There’s usually a story, or some kind of history… There’s depth to textile that I often miss in paper.
People often ask my, why birds? Why nature? In the past I have focused more on people, then I went through a phase of houses and structures and forms. Slowly my interest transferred to nature. I think it was around the time that I admitted to myself that I love to draw, that my work doesn’t always need a concept behind it. Nature is such a complex, beautiful subject, and full of contradictions. Interesting enough for me to work with. The bird postcards are just products really while other work of mine, like these prints , is a little more free, open to interpretation, and able to spark your imagination…
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Yes, although, I have to admit, it freaks me out sometimes and I feel like the city can drain all my energy. But the city always brings me something new. I love the diversity of the people, the smallness of the city, the Flevopark that is so close to our home, and my neighborhood and my neighbors. They really make me feel at home. Having friends next door is such a luxury. And I value all the small boutiques where I find other people like me. People who are like magpies and try to find beauty and display it in their own way.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 8am, have breakfast, pack my things and bike to the studio, which is only about 10 minutes away. At around 10 or 11am I need coffee, so I either make it in the studio or I buy it on my way. In the studio I check my email and make a list of what needs to be done, then pack orders that have been placed in my online shops. At around 1pm we have lunch together – I share the studio with Sandra Turina, Maike Wiegman and Nicola Reiter. After lunch I bike into town to drop off packages, or I spend my time making new things like drawings, scarves or etchings. I also like to spend time at the Grafisch Werkcentrum Amsterdam. I try to do this around one day every two weeks. But, to be honest, everyday is very different as I have so many things to do.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
For shops, I can recommend Restored, Bon Bon Boutique and Annliz. For food and drinks, my favorites include Boterham, Wilde Zwijnen, Latei, Branderij, Qawha D’or, Elena’s Pasta / Mezzo and Orloff.
What’s next for you?
I hope to work together with other designers or brands to create beautiful new products. One day I would love to illustrate a book, and I would love to continue creating illustrations for magazines. But the most important thing, for me, is to keep creating. I need to continue to find the time to sit down, and draw.
Thank you Maartje for this interview and for inviting me to your beautiful studio! Maartje's work can be purchased on her website , or at several shops around the city including Restored and KOKO Coffee & Design . For an overview of stockists, check out her website .