Hansje Van Halem

Posted by Fabio 26 January 2010

Hansje Van Halem is a graphic designer who lives and works in Amsterdam where she also graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2003 with a BA in graphic design. I have always been fascinated by her use of geometric patterns, pen illustrations in combination with skills of traditional Dutch graphic design craftsmanship, a favorite of mine are the business stamps Halem did for TNT in 2007.
Halem’s work doesn’t only consist of print as one can see with the project she did for a housing block at IJburg in Amsterdam where providing visibility for a glass facade of 12 x 6 meters was the task (see images and video further below).

Where do you live?
I live in Amsterdam, at the corner of a busy daily market. I work and live at the same place.

Does your surroundings influence your type of work?
Since I year I moved my workspace back into my house. I’m much more relaxed, concentrated and motivated than the last couple of years before. I can cook while printing and pet my cats while one the phone. My work didn’t really change, I just spend more time making more of it.

How would you describe your work in 3 words?
Books, typography, drawings

What general emotions do you call on when you create your work?
Curiosity, impatience and boredom.

What do you do to switch off?
To stop working you mean?
I watch TV to empty my head to not think about anything.

Who would your ultimate collaboration be with, from any field you choose, and why?
At this moment I’m dreaming to design textile. Guess I’ll have to find a fashion designer to collaborate with?
I’ve been obsessed with lines, patterns and textures for quite some time now.
I would love to see some of my designs turned in fabric for someone else to use.

Tell us something no-one else knows about you?
I check celebrity gossip blogs several times a day.

What did you struggle with the most when you were starting up?
Starting up as a independent designer after graduation you mean?
I was shocked about the battle you need to have on financial and administrative level.
That took up so much more time than coming up with an appropriate design.

Do you think its possible to retain your artistic integrity and be commercially successful?
I think it’s possible.
I know people who are quite close or at least find a good way to do both at the same time. Although…. As long as commercial doesn’t mean selling your soul to the devil. Being a graphic designer for me, sometimes feels as if I’m giving presents to clients. I give them the best and most beautiful thing I can think of. If you don’t like the client, it might become harder to come up with nice presents…

Do you ever get stuck for inspiration?
Oh yes of course.
Usually I manage after a lot of detours. Once I had to give back the assignment to design 10 new stamps for the Dutch postage service. I just couldn’t get inspired and could not find a way around it. Although it’s 1.5 years ago, it still hurts a bit…

What are some of your goals for 2010?
It feels a bit vain, but I’m currently working on a compilation book of my type drawings and sketches.
I’m not sure why and how but I hope to get it published.

Can you talk about any current or future projects that you are particularly excited about.
I’m pretty excited about the Schrank8 Home Gallery project I’m starting up at the moment. It’s a small initiative to show the portfolio of a graphic designer in the first place, maybe other designers and artists in the future. For now it seems to become great chance to see someones work ‘for real’ and together in one spot.

What is your favorite time of the day?
After 7 PM on a week day feels like a relieve, free time – even when I’m working.