Mae Engelgeer | Textile Designer
The work of talented textile designer
(1982) can be described as fresh, modern and eye-catching.
With a background in styling and textile design, Mae combines bright colors, striking graphics and beautiful materials to create beautiful ranges of products, including bedding, tea
towels, cushions and scarves. I visited Mae in her studio off the Kadijksplein in the center of Amsterdam, in a building she shares with other creatives like illustrator
Maartje van den Noort
. With plans to expand from weaving to knitting, furniture fabrics, carpet-design, and ceramics, it was clear from
our conversation that Mae is only just getting started.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m from a small city called Harderwijk but have been living in Amsterdam for almost 11 years now. I studied styling and textile design at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute , and graduated with a collection of mostly handmade pieces that were silk-screened, knitted or embroidered. I worked in the fashion industry for two years, and learned a lot about the whole process. But I was itching to do more. I wanted to work for myself and work with textiles again. I decided to start an MA in Applied Arts at the Sandberg Institute , and it was there that I was able to experiment across a range of media. I studied with people from different disciplines, from jewelry makers to ceramists to glassblowers… We worked together and inspired each other’s work. It was a great experience, and I realized that textiles could be more autonomous. I had found the perfect balance between art and commerce.
When did you decide to work for yourself?
For my graduation project, I created a fabric that was picked up by the Frozen Fountain and sold in their shop. From there I created a collection that included blankets. I liked the idea that people could buy my products and have a little piece of mine in their homes. At that time I was still working part-time as a stylist and freelance designer. I had my daughter, and I worked part-time and created my fabrics next to that. But my drive to continue to create and to think of new things kept me going. Eventually I decided that I had to go for it. People were recognizing my fabrics and were interested. I was getting more requests which made me realize there was a place for my products. I believed I could translate my vision, of combining graphic elements and color, into products that people could recognize and want to purchase. When I found my studio space it was just another confirmation that I was doing the right thing. Now I’m still very happy when I wake up in the morning and bike to my studio. I don’t consider it work. I’m just doing something I love and I’m passionate about.
How's it going?
It’s been very busy! I presented my work in Milan last April and it’s been very busy since then. I realized that I want to focus on creating new things as a designer. I don’t want to become a brand and make only commercial products. I don’t want to sacrifice the quality or produce in countries or places I don’t feel comfortable with. I like working with different people or companies to create interesting products, and I continue to work with different mediums that are close to weaving. I’ve just starting knitting, making furniture fabrics, designing a carpet and even some ceramics… All with my own signature. Now that I have a child, I’m also more driven to make it work. And I want to maintain the flexibility of being my own boss. It’s a lot of work, even in the evenings, but then I have a day with my daughter in return. I’ve also been working with interns for the past year and a half, and it’s so nice to share ideas and not to have to do everything myself. Most of them are working for the studio as freelancers. It’s nice to build a team of creative people who know me, and the studio. I’m also working with new agents and distributors now, which means I have to let others do things a bit more then I’m used to. I’m very careful about that because I am what I sell and I believe strongly in that personal connection that I’ve had with my clients. I don’t want to lose that. I have a strong vision and I think I make good quality products. I will do everything I can to preserve that.
Can you tell us about your work?
I create designs that are mostly a mix of a graphic element, a new or specific color combination, and tactility of soft yarns. My work contains some kind of openness, and that translates to who I am as a person, but I think it’s also something that characterizes the Dutch.
How does a collection come to be? What's the process?
For every collection there’s one thing that I focus on. I created a collection with bows because I wanted to focus on an element that’s considered one of the most decorative in design. The next collection was a more blocky one, and previously, I gave the zigzag a new look. So that’s really the first idea I have. Then I think of a color palette. I pick out a single color like mint, or more recently, lilac. My concepts are less about a story but more about the materials and based on a feeling I have. I usually let an idea of mine sit for a few months and then translate it into a mood board. This helps to visualize my thoughts, for myself and for the interns. I usually sketch the design on paper and then enter it into the computer. When we’re at the textile lab, we translate it into an actual product by testing it on the weaving machine and adjusting the design if necessary. I usually spend one or two days at the TextielLab in Tilburg. It’s a very intense process. You don’t have a lot of time and you really learn to make decisions, fast.
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
Amsterdam is a busy city but you don’t have to participate in the chaos. I jump on my bike to work in the morning, to the studio, then off to a meeting… I’m really inspired by the liveliness, and the buildings. And I have a lot of friends who are involved in design in someway or another. I’m mostly surrounded by people who think like me, are inspired by similar things, and are open to new thoughts and ideas.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My day starts with coffee. You could say I’m a coffee addict! When I arrive at the studio that’s the first thing I do, or I get a coffee to go along the way. We turn on the computers and make lists of what needs to be done, and lay out things that need to be sent out. We might have a meeting, or several, throughout the day. But every day is really different. Yesterday, for example, we were knitting in the lab and today we’re here preparing the designs for the furniture fabrics. But Amsterdam is great because it’s so easy to get everywhere.
Can you name a few of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
I recently visited the Stedelijk Museum for the first time since they reopened. I went with my daughter, and we both loved it. It’s such an inspiring place, and I thought to myself, I have to come here more. I also love biking to work in the morning or spending time at the Vondelpark.
I’m definitely in a nice flow right now. I’m starting to think more strategically about where I want to go with the studio. I’m looking forward to working with more inspiring people and companies and creating beautiful products together. I have the feeling that I’m going in the right direction. And I just want to keep having fun!
Find out more about Mae and her collections on her website , and webshop Magasin Mae . You can find Mae's products in shops around Amsterdam including Restored on the Haarlemmerdijk.