Just outside of Utrecht in the Netherlands, there is a cherry orchard. And in that cherry orchard, there is a risograph workshop and screen printing studio, run by couple Winneke de Groot and Felix van Dam. An idyllic scene, no doubt, seemingly ripped from a struggling art student’s daydreams.
Say hello to We Are Out Of Office.
Winneke and Felix are Dutch graphic designers with a passion for bold and bright imagery informed by their mutual love of traveling. After attending the School of the Arts Utrecht (Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, HKU) together, they joined forces in more ways than one, first as a couple, then as artistic collaborators, and now as business partners.
Drawing inspiration from packaging design, food, toys, and trinkets they’d come across in their travels around the world, Winneke and Felix developed their distinct style of bold risograph and screen prints. Their practice has since expanded into producing goods, like ceramics, rugs, and even large-scale sculptures, all fueled by the duo’s drive to keep pushing themselves creatively.
We wanted to hear more about Winneke and Felix’s work style and artistic process, and Felix was kind enough to answer a few of our questions below.
Describe your aesthetic in your own words.
Our work is bold and colorful. It’s also playful and a bit naive.
How did you develop this aesthetic?
We think color is very important, so that’s always something we think of a lot. We also want to do as much as we can by ourselves. I think that resulted in the printing methods and the materials we choose to work with. We started screen-printing back in art school as that was the only affordable way to make prints in bold colors. We printed with a crappy set-up at home and on the road, and that’s where our style developed. We tried to make simple but powerful images that are also easy to print. We make a lot of collages and use a lot of cut paper. We like the way the edges look and the unpredictable things that happen during the designing process.
What is it about packaging design aesthetics that you find so inspiring?
We both studied graphic design, and deep down somewhere, we still love typography and the way it gets incorporated into design. We also travel a lot and love to see how people approach design in other places.
What has the process been like for you as artists to evolve from creating prints to other formats like sculptures and household items?
We never make plans for years in advance, we just started somewhere, and now we’re here.
We started printing because we liked how we could make something out of nothing and in such a short time. Prints have always been one of the things we’re interested in, and as our attention curve is short, we soon started working in other media. We really like to look at materials that are new to us and figure out how we can make them work in a way that feels right for us. Every once in a while, we have a new “obsession” with something; this can be a technique or a material. We start experimenting, and sometimes that works out very well, and sometimes it doesn’t.
What’s it like being business and creative partners as a married couple?
For us, it works pretty well. We never planned it, though. It just happened along the way. We started screen printing postcards in our student bedroom for fun, and it got more serious and even more serious along the way (the business part!). It’s convenient in so many ways for us. We have the same frustrations, same happy times, same holiday, same working hours.
For a lot of people, it sounds a bit intense, but for us, it doesn’t feel that way at all. The only negative thing I can come up with is that it’s always about “work.” It’s hard to really get away from it, also because we live on top of our studio. We have to take long breaks to get our minds away from ideas, projects, etc. It usually takes about 1.5 to 2 weeks until we stop talking about these things. That can be a bit exhausting, but it’s also a good thing as it means we’re both very passionate about what we’re doing!