Sauerkids, Fromage Fondu #1
The world’s largest character art festival, Pictoplasma, kicks off next week in Berlin. Dutch artist duo Sauerkids (Mark Moget and Taco Sipma) are giving a talk at the conference. In an email exchange last week, Mark and Taco were kind enough to take the time to talk about Pictoplasma, character art, their design work, the future, and more. Their TTP collection is here.
1. Tell us about Pictoplasma. Obviously it’s a major hub of character art, but how did you get involved? You’ve spoken there before, so how will this talk be different? What’s special about that community?
Six years ago we were invited to contribute to Pictoplasma’s Character Encyclopedia and visited the festival in 2007. The festival has a great atmosphere and we really enjoyed the artist talks and exhibitions. It’s the world’s leading and largest festival of contemporary character culture, so we’re very excited to give an artist talk this year.
We’ve spoken before on other festivals, about Sauerkids in relation to our day job as graphic designers at Enchilada, but this year we’re trying to make our Pictoplasma talk more personal. More about our personal motives, about expectations from the outside world and how this influences our work – that kind of stuff.
2. And what about character art in general? If you had to define it to somebody, what would you say? Who are the other character artists you look up to?
Actually I don’t know what character art is exactly. I guess it’s art with influences, aesthetics, and narratives of popular culture and its characters: comics, packaging, advertising, magazines, etc. But that definition might be too broad. In that case Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Koons made character art too.
(And if character art is about cuteness, sweetness, colored rainbows and fluffy rabbits, we don’t recognize ourselves in that definition.)
We use characters as a vehicle to tell a (personal) story. About our fears, our memories, or the confusion of everyday life. I know a lot of our work is character driven, but it’s not a necessity to use characters. In other cases the focus is more with typography, photography, or even abstraction. We got started (unintentionally) as character designers, but we are always trying to broaden our horizon. We are now in the midst of trying some (more or less) abstract stuff and even furniture design.
Our main influences in character design are definitely Walt Disney and Tex Avery. But we also get inspired by outsider artists like Willem van Genk, who spent his whole life building his own personal universe.
3. You both work for a design firm (Enchilada). How do you separate the Sauerkids work from the work you do for clients? Have you ever stolen ideas from your “corporate” head and used it in something related to Sauerkids, or vice versa? And if they’re just totally completely separate, how do you have the time!
The main difference between working as graphic designers for Enchilada and as artists within Sauerkids is that with Sauerkids we have total freedom in what we do, which leads to all sorts of self-defined projects, whereas with Enchilada we have clients that really have a set goal and we have the responsibility to help our clients meet their goals.
At Enchilada we love to solve a communication puzzle and come up with a beautiful piece of design. With Sauerkids the involvement is more personal, in other words, we are our own clients. But of course we use the skills we use with Sauerkids for our professional clients as well.
In the end it’s very hard to separate your mind to perform just one task.
4. Sauerkids have been shown in diverse mediums from canvasses and prints to books and toys to skins and bumper cars (!!) and more. Are there other mediums (besides furniture, which you mentioned earlier) you’ve been wanting or looking to get into?
We took some small steps into discovering three dimensional projects, and that is definitely something to explore in the future. We have been working on an animation film for some time, but we discovered that you really need a very long attention span to produce films, even though they’re short. But we expect to have this short film finished half this year.
5. What was the thinking behind your website’s redesign? How’s the new site different/better? And on that note, what’s the plan for the future? What’s after Pictoplasma – and where do you see Sauerkids 5-10-15 years down the line?
The main idea behind our new site is that the old site was too distracting from the work. When we started Sauerkids some 5 years ago, we wanted the site to be our stage, our online representative so to speak. The site itself was an important player in our communication with the outside world. In our new site we wanted to eliminate the site itself. We just wanted it to be a vehicle to carry information and nothing else. Our new site focuses entirely on the work.
Due to the fact that Sauerkids is a hobby project, we have the luxury to be able not to make plans at all. In 2010 for instance we almost didn’t produce any new work at all. Just because we didn’t feel like it. At the moment we are in some kind of shift where we more or less go back to handmade stuff, originals, instead of computer aided stuff. So if we extend that progression we could be producing large-scale landscape oil paintings within 5 or 10 years. Who knows?