Aleks Pietrzykowska and Kim de Haas started Els & Nel in 2012 with the Weekly Journal, which is a planner designed exactly the way they wanted to use it. None of the existing journals were perfect, so they set out to create the perfect one for themselves.
They love everything about paper and print which is why they design stationery products for everyday use. Since the journal was a succes and the first edition of 70 copies was sold out within a week, they’d like to expand the collection with complementary products.
Work and pleasure intertwine in their daily lives. Flexible conditions demand a flexible mind, adaptable to having multiple projects as well as a sudden change of plans. Being more organized about work means more flexibility for play. By re-thinking and challenging existing formats we hope to offer a functional alternative.
Conversation Els & Nel
Where are you from and where do you currently live?
Aleks: born in Gdansk, Poland. Lived in Berlin for a while, after a few detours around Holland I’m based in Amsterdam again!
Kim: Born and raised in Utrecht and currently live in Amsterdam.
When did you become an artist and what was your first project?
Aleks: I never considered myself as an artist, I’m a designer. Kim is the arty one!
Our first project together was the Weekly Journal 2013, that’s how it all started with Els & Nel
We had this idea, pulled some saving money together and just did it.
My first personal project was ages ago in art school, silkscreening some awesome t-shirts or something.
I never had a moment when i decided: “So from today I’m a designer” It’s just a mindset that you just make or create things what has been there since i can remember. And yeah after some years you're like “oh yeah, i’m a designer”
Kim: According to my diploma I became a designer in June 2010. As far as my work process goes; I see a specific situation or product with a flaw where I think I can contribute to an improvement. Like with my first project. There is a Art School in my home town, but for newly graduated artists there was almost no exhibition possibilities, none to little open workspaces or places to meet each other. So I set up a temporary exhibition space where I invited young artists to show their work. And with every new exhibition I would host an opening event where we could get together. My goal was never to be own gallery, but to give an impulse to the art-scene and artists in Utrecht. So when this was no longer necessary I took a step back.
This solution focused mentality is where Aleks and I met and how Els & Nel started.
Did you study art in school, if so where?
We both studied Fashion Design & Communication at the Utrecht School of the Arts (NL), that is where we met. Last year Aleks did 1 year Master Contextual Design at the Design Academy in Eindhoven (NL)
What inspires you? Any particular artists?
Aleks: I can be inspired by everything, mostly daily things or daily life. It can be something really simple like a totebag, i use everyday but it’s not really working when you ride a racebike and then i come up with a solution. At the moment it’s colour combinations you’ll find on the streets/buildings. And architectural structures and patterns in the city. I fucking love cities! Every city has it’s own pace, people, colour palette, vibe etc. I can be so happy just strolling around or sit on a bench and watch everything happening for some hours. So inspirational.
Artist wise i tend towards colours, light, minimalism and modernism. Josef & Anni Albers (actually whole Bauhaus movement was great) Sol Lewit, Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, James Turell, Olafur Eliasson.
Kim: As part of Els & Nel the daily routine is my biggest inspiration. What grid, line or shape can provide a helping hand in planning work, free time and the moments in between.
For me personally I get inspired about the moments, images or art that shows a part of the human race we normally would neglect or don’t talk about. This can be a death dove in the middle of the road or a illustration serie that portrays homeless people smiling. A unapologetic something playful portrayal of the whole spectrum of the human race.
What are some of the ideas behind your work?
Aleks: Whenever I’m making something, i keep telling myself “keep it super simple” So that’s probably something i meanwhile started to live by.
For Els & Nel we design stationery products for everyday use. It’s important for us to
re-think and challenge existing formats, to (hopefully) offer a functional alternative.
With the success of the journal, we’re looking to expand its collection with complementary products. Not just for the sake of making things, but products that we actually use. Our philosophy is characterized by simplicity, for us it goes beyond a visual style — it’s a way to have a more dynamic life. With Els & Nel we strive to bring some clarity into your daily business.