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Mae Engelgeer

When last spoke with Mae Engelgeer she had just launched her first textiles collection.  Soon to launch her third, she has built her work into a neat little company that is sold in Holland, the UK and Australia.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 15-03-2012

Mae Engelgeer has spent the past four years building her textile designs into a commercial success.

Her work is often compared to the work of Scholtens and Bajings – a reference that Engelgeer finds hugely gratifying.

“Of course their work is amazing and beautifully graphic so it is flattering to be compared to them,” she says.

And like Scholtens and Baijings, Engelgeer started her production runs at the Textile Lab in Tilburg.  Now in her third collection she is still producing with them.

“You can do things there that can’t happen elsewhere,“ she says.  “I design my work in the studio then spend a few days there experimenting with different weaves, getting the colour combinations right and the designs correctly formatted.  The advantage is that you digitally produce small quantities, and the disadvantage is that the costs are quite high.”

Still, a trip to China to tour various factories convinced Engelgeer that although she wants to be commercial and expand her business, she doesn’t want to produce abroad.

“I like the more personal story of keeping it made in Holland,” she says.  “I know my work would lose something if it were made in China.”

Since she started designing textiles what has changed is her vision.  Engelgeer wants to be commercial – she wants her designs to be bought and enjoyed.  She wants her work to have life.

“Now I want to design things that people really use,” she says.  “I want to be practical – not just make things in my studio and have them end up in galleries.  I want to make a living from this and be as vivid as possible.”

Engelgeer is refreshingly honest and real.

After graduating from Amfi, she worked in fashion for two years before completing a Masters in applied arts at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.  Now she has an atelier in the east of Amsterdam in a space Sandberg rents at a subsidized rate to graduates.  

In each of Engelgeer’s collections there have been throws, baby blankets, cushions and scarves.  Now she is making tea towels in more designs to try and increase her sales points.

The way she approaches her work is to focus solely on the design and colour.  After selecting the finest yarns, she almost leaves the weave and feel of the textile to find its own way.  

It was the same approach she adopted at the Sandberg.   “I came from fashion where the focus was always on shape and cutting a textile, so it was great to finally be able to just use the textile itself as an actual object,” Engelgeer says.  “Now I have come full circle back because I am making products again, but I still have that approach.”

Engelgeer knows she can’t forever stay producing in Tilburg forever.  “My goal is to expand and collaborate with brands,” she says, “but I want to find ways to keep that in Holland.”

Engelgeer’s third collection will be released mid April and has the same fluorescent orange pop of colour she is known for.   She has also incorporated grey, blue, aubergine and mint green into the collection that deconstructs traditional diamond patterns with extra lines to create a dynamic looking textile.   

“It is still all very much me,” she says, “colourful and playful.”

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