Representing the creative future

Studio Job: Design soulmates

Studio Job, the Dutch luxury design studio consisting of former lovers and dynamic work duo, Job and Nynke, presents the world with a new idea of interior and industrial design. Their studio becomes synonymous with “neo-gothic” while their work is widely collected in public and private sectors. We travelled to the seaside town of Knokke to hear more.

The seaside town of Knokke has been a major weekend getaway destination for sun-greedy city folks of Brussels for years. It is located strategically close to the Dutch border while its beaches lie adjacent along “the Belgian Riviera” where the likes of James Ensor or Alfred Verwee brought Knokke to fame in the late 19th century. This romantic period was also a time when German composer, Richard Wagner, came up with the concept of Gesamtkunswerk, or translated as “the synthesis of arts.” This new collaborative philosophy brought changes to fashion as the industry began to redefine ideas of space, volume, and movement. When Viktor & Rolf unveiled their A/W 2013 collection in Paris, critics were equally fascinated in the total-work aesthetics of their show, including the scenography of wilting flowers acting as backdrop for the runway, designed by another duo known as Studio Job. Their inspiration came from the work of a 19th century English textile designer, William Morris.

Last August, the same design duo paid homage to something less traditional at the Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery located along Knokke’s infamous promenade, Het Zoute. “The banana is becoming a monument,” exclaimed Job, one of the founders. “It refers to Andy Warhol — and bananas are the most popular fruit in the world.” He started his career by founding a different company, called Oval. “One of my final exams included launching a very successful design company while also destroying it again,” he explains. “So it was like a rise and fall (like a phoenix), but more inspired by Ziggy Stardust from David Bowie. We launched products during my final exam and it became successful with a lot of publicity and sales. Unfortunately I had to finish it because otherwise it wouldn’t be the rise and fall but it would just be a rise.”

“We believe that we are living in a post-craft era.”

Quite recently, Studio Job’s wallpaper design won first place (among other nominations) at EDIDA award for Elle Decor in Milan. They also won the prestigious Nationale Staalprijs in 2008, a great milestone when the design studio had not even turned 10! Studio Job’s clientele includes big names in the industry such as Bvlgari or established public institutions such as MoMA and V&A Museum.  Job Smeets met Nynke Tynagel at the renowned Design Academy of Eindhoven in 1996. After graduating, they founded Studio Job in 2000: “We met 19 or 20 years ago and we were lovers for 18 years. Together we wanted to make a dream possible, a dream that never existed.” In present time, the duo go their separate ways romantically, but professionally their relationship has never been better. As Nynke explains; “As a duo we started really young. We developed some kind of language together. The good thing about our communication is that we complement one another. I am the 2D person while Job is doing 3D. It’s a good combination because we’re not necessarily in each other’s same fields. We used to be a couple, so we were very much in love when we started — and that makes you shameless together!”

Over the course of 15 years, Studio Job has been producing gravity-defying objects that emphasise the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk. The Bauhaus movement in 1919 applied the term to architecture and industrial design by uniting the arts and crafts movements. In Job’s own words this term brings up his greatest imagination: “Gesamtkunswerk is equivalent to Wunderkammer. It is a space where everything matches, a room of curiosity,” a reminiscence to the duo’s collaboration with Swarovski at the jeweller’s newly expanded theme park in Wattens, Austria. Job also shares his views on the current socio-political dilemma in art and design; “Art is moving much more towards craft while design has a tendency towards concept. And hence, we believe that we are living in a post-craft era. Applied arts means something else in the US and the UK while decorative arts has a connotation of ‘decoration,’ which we think is a badly marketed word. So we thought it would be interesting to call it ‘art applied work’. It’s a functional object that is also a work of art.”


The duo shares a big fascination towards the use of bronze in various shapes and colours. To no one’s surprise, the Banana Show exhibition consisted of a series of polished light bronze objects titled “Banana Lamps,” while Nynke’s selected sketches and drawings from the past 20 years were hanged proudly for the world to see. Apart from Andy Warhol, the exhibition also referred to Keith Haring, a former artist-in-residence at the location where the Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery is based. Job had something more to say about the exhibition: “It’s like Tragicomedy. What I want is that pieces have different layers. It should be comical but it should make people think. Why Banana? I mean the theme itself is quite Banal! We do every piece for ourselves. It’s a little narcissistic, I know, but it’s the only way to add personalities to our works. With any work that we do, we want to have as much freedom as we can. Our works often have quite confronting and dark themes, (imagine the Titanic sinking on a table) – I mean we now live in the 21st century, so today it can be New Gothic and tomorrow it’ll be the Renaissance or Pop Art, who knows…”

From their atelier in Amsterdam, Studio Job has brought the concept of collaboration to a whole new level. Whether it is converting a Land Rover Defender into a “Hotch-Potch on Wheels” or designing a postage stamp for the new Dutch king, Job’s advice to those who want to pursue their dream in art and design is quite straightforward: “You have to adapt the building of your first atelier to countess possibilities. It’s not the studio that does the work, but the brain.. Start from scratch, don’t build a whole factory, not even a big loan from the banks. Just start with your own hands! I mean I started with cardboards at a student apartment with a girlfriend and two cats!”