SIMON STEPHENS – PLAYWRIGHT

Simon Stephens, 44, is a playwright whose productions include a highly acclaimed adaptation of Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. His play ‘Song from far Away’ is set in Amsterdam with Lloyd Hotel written in as the chosen location of the principal character Willem.

You immersed yourself in Amsterdam for the play and here we are chuffed that you included the hotel in it. How did you go about building a Dutchman as the play’s character, Willem? Or is he not particularly different from an Englishman?

“I research my plays in any different ways. The writer Russell Shorto’s AMSTERDAM was an important book for me. But I was also inspired by many different sources. The films of Ozu or the British Film Director Terence Davies and the stories of Richard Ford were important. Much of Willem was inspired by a series of interviews that I carried out with the songwriter Mark Eitzel when we started work on the play in 2013. Willem crystalises an interest we both have in finding the humanity in the the financial traders whose work so often denies human compassion. But he is also drawn from Mark’s sense of self. And from mine.”

Each of your plays has a song attached to it. Often this is an existing one, what made you ask Mark Eitzel to write one especially?

“I’ve written with Mark before. We wrote a play about Brighton together. And we wanted to write together again. We may write more. We go to cities. Visit the cities. Wander round. Stay in the hotels. Drink in the bars. Meet the people. Write stories that make sense of what we find.”

ROBERTO NEGRIN – COUTURIER FOR DOGS

Dressed in a gold costume we came across couturier for dogs Roberto Negrin from New York. He visited Amsterdam briefly to do a photoshoot and filming at Lloyd Hotel for an online commercial. RTL-Boulevard jumped to the opportunity of talking to him.

Christmas is a very good time for Roberto’s business, but the even better is Haloween. That’s when his clients really want to show off at parties and events. ‘Lots of people like the costumes and I love cross-play, dressing up as animal characters and the dogs as cartoon characters. So for us Haloween is huge’.

He came upon his passion by accident, seven years ago. His mom taught him some basic sewing techniques and how to take measurements. His first outfit won ‘Best Dress’ and ‘Runner-up to the crown’, and off he went designing couture for dogs. Now, he has clients all over the globe; doing commercials, tv-productions, and dressing out the pets for special happenings.

He was in Amsterdam to test the waters, to see how the Dutch market reacts to his sense of dress. ‘I find the Dutch are animal lovers, yet dog owners are still a little shy to the idea of dressing up their dog, showing their affection for the pets. We want dogs to be themselves, to be comfortable. We choose the right fabrics to match their fur and their skin. When you see the dog, it has to make you smile. It has to fit in with the dog’s personality. I supervise all outfits, because it is my creativity, if we are away, we try to do Skype interviews, so it’s a very personal approach. I treat my work not so much as a business, I see myself as an artist.Sometimes people try to force their dogs into a big gown, but I am more into tiny dresses or tutu’s. I have a name to protect. You don’t want to see a dog in the street struggling in an impossible outfit.

SAKAIDA KAKIEMON XV – JAPANESE POTTER

The exhibition ‘Asia’ in the Rijksmuseum, showed how Japanese design was introduced in the Netherlands through the 17th century VOC.

One of the specialties the Dutch elite loved immediately was the precious, luxury porcelain of Kakiemon. Soon this was favoured over the Chinese porcelain.

Now, the celebrations of 400 year porcelain crafts in the Japanese Arita region, brings the 15th generation, Sakaida Kakiemon, to Amsterdam and Lloyd Hotel.

 

This year we celebrate the Japanese-Dutch connection. What do you think we can learn from each other?

Firstly it is important to recognize that 400 years ago we already made these pieces of porcelain. And the Dutch with their tradition of trade, brought them to Europe. Of course both countries have changed a lot since then, and we have to take into account what the differences are to go further, together. In my case, I have to consider how we can offer a new Kakiemon style, in line with the tradition which is suited to the nowadays way of life. I think that is my task: keeping the essence of the tradition and creating new things.

 

Firstly it is important to recognize that 400 years ago we already made these pieces of porcelain. And the Dutch with their tradition of trade, brought them to Europe. Of course both countries have changed a lot since then, and we have to take into account what the differences are to go further, together. In my case, I have to consider how we can offer a new Kakiemon style, in line with the tradition which is suited to the nowadays way of life. I think that is my task: keeping the essence of the tradition and creating new things.

FRANCK BRAGIGAND – Painter

Museum Director Katia Baudin once described Dutch artist Frank Bragigand as the ‘last true modernist’. His practice includes a range so diverse it spans from the restoration of furniture to public space interventions and hotel bar design. But if only for the sake of context, ‘painter’ best describes Bragigand’s role in his latest exhibition, Art Language, on show at the Lloyd Hotel (2016) and Gallery Lumen Travo in Amsterdam.

The Lloyd’s history with Bragigand goes way back, when he was asked to design the popular Red Bar for the hotel in 2008. Complete with a mirror ball in the centre of the space and mostly standing-only places, the Red Bar demanded a kind of presence from guests. It wasn’t a place to get comfy, it was a place to move and socialise. Similarly, Bragigand’s latest work is a challenge to becoming comfortable in the world, one that, according to Bragigand ‘stopped being understandable at some point’.

Bragigand refuses grand gestures and statements in favour of phrasing uncomfortable questions about what art or painting is today. His challenge manifests in two parts of Art Language, the first is a series of wall-mounted colourful ‘painterly’ graphics – that is utilizing graphics and words but with a painter’s approach. In the second part of the exhibition Bragigand gives form to certain ‘constellations of knowledge’ around topics such as climate change and religion using white, ephemeral floating spheres – resulting in sculptural information visualizations based on years of research and reading by the artist.

URSULA DAVIES

Ursula studied languages at university and got a first taste of the creative world when she spent a year abroad working in a contemporary art centre. Since then she has always been interested in the business side of creativity and culture. Her first job was for a placemaking consultancy called Locum Consulting, then she spent a few years at the UK Design Council which she left to run operations for a photography start up. “All those things have been super useful for my job at Makerversity.”

What brings you to Amsterdam?

I run Makerversity, a co-working and learning space for professional and aspiring makers and creatives. We’re opening our second site in Amsterdam this summer so I’m here to help get it off the ground and recruit a local team.

When did you start Makerversity London and how did you come up with the idea?

Makerversity was originally set up by 4 designer makers – Joe, Tom, Paul and Andy – about 3 years ago. They had all found it hard to find the right kind of workspace in the city and also really cared about providing better opportunities for young people to make, so when an opportunity to take over some disused space in the basement of Somerset House came up, Makerversity was born! I’d known Tom and Joe for a few years through work and was part of an early group of Makerversity supporters and then formally joined about six months in to set up the operational team and run the business day to day.

Our members come from all sorts of backgrounds – design, business, technology, engineering, craft, art, innovation, marketing. We provide a good range of general purpose making and prototyping facilities, with both clean and messy space to work in. That covers digital machines – like 3d printers, vinyl and laser cutters, a CNC machine – as well as wood and metal working facilities, textiles, electronics and an assembly space. We like to work with our member community to work out what they need and build that into our machine offer as we go along.

LAXMI NARAYAN TRIPATHI – TV CELEBRITY, PRIESTESS AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

Millions of Indian pilgrims descend on the city of Ujjain to bathe in the city’s Shipra river. This is the Kumbh Mela, the world’s biggest religious pilgrimage, held every 12 years. Now consider this: in 2016 for the first time in history, a transgender (hijra) congregation joins the pilgrimage and the high priestess at the head of this congregation is dancer-turned-movie-star-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-social-activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi.

Like most revolutionaries, Laxmi has commanding presence. This kind of single-minded steely demeanour has served Laxmi well, not only in the context of photoshoots (which she excels at, by the way) but also at high-level meetings at The United Nations. It’s here in 2008 that she presented the plight of sexual minorities, claiming the first ever Asian Pacific transgender representation at the assembly. More recently she was called up for a high-level meeting at the United Nations on HIV/AIDS by UNAID on the issues surrounding the disease.

Moments of brevity are few though. In her home country, Laxmi has been securing the roll out of a 2014 Indian Supreme Court verdict on transgender. The verdict which she championed, sees the state and federal government commit to restoring the lost dignity of transgender people in society. “I was born to take care of people,” she says. “I am reclaiming transgender rights, Indian culture never discriminated against transgender, lesbian and gay people. It was a morality introduced by the British in our society.”

Part of this reclamation is about changing what Laxmi calls the “invisibility” of the transgender community. The biggest obstacle in making the community more visible is lack of inclusion, she says, “Policy makers can’t sit in rooms and decide policies for the transgender community without us”. Also, transgender debates can’t stay on the level of transgender bathrooms she argues, consider “proper workplace policies for the transgender community.” She stresses, “The most important thing is your constitutional right, the basic human rights cannot be taken away from you.”

RAYMOND FRENKEN – WRITER AND EDITOR

Raymond Frenken, writer and editor, is one of our frequent guests in Lloyd Restaurant. “Writing is a craft. That I’m able to contribute to artist books, as cultural artefacts, is a luxury. The titles I work on aren’t throw away books: they are designed with a lot of attention and time, they can be appreciated and kept for 100 years or more. As a freelance writer I don’t have an office. I am at my most productive in a place that’s anonymous enough to work and personal enough to feel at home. That’s why I come to Lloyd Restaurant. It’s not completely silent but the buzz doesn’t demand my attention. The kitchen prepares a special toast PDC for me, made with pain the campagne. And when Bjorn is in the kitchen, some extra ham and cheese.

SAYAKA ABE – ARTIST

We are always happy to see guests come back time and again. Last week Sayaka Abe was in Amsterdam to organise an exchange programme for seven Japanese high-school students from Jonier high school in Kamiyama, Japan and Students of the Dutch school Pietergroen from Katwijk.

Born in Japan, Sayaka graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Sandberg Institute – Fine Arts and is at home in both cultures. Her work often comes from personal stories of people she meets and stories she collects and can take various forms. She makes incredible drawings on textile too!

Sayaka and Lloyd Hotel Amsterdam go a long while back together. In 2009 she took part in the Rodekool met Stampot project, in 2012 we hosted a workshop she and Krimo Benlaloua organised as a part of their interdisciplinary design and art platform Home-Work. In 2013 she set up a temporary post office and invited our guests to share experiences of their stay. in 2014 Sayaka took part in a group project Uchinokoto in CBK Amsterdam Dear Sayaka, thank you for being such a loyal friend.

LEVI MAESTRO – VLOGGER AND VIDEOGRAPHER

Videographer Levi Maestro from Los Angeles, CA stayed with us for 10 days to discover Lloyd Hotel and make a video about us. We met up to get to know him a bit better.

What brings you to Amsterdam?

“I’m travelling in Europe. Trying to see new things and make videos along the way. I have my own production company, so I’m doing work for companies as it comes. Like this video I’m making for Lloyd, I only thought of it two weeks ago. I was thinking that I want to make videos about places that I like.

 

Usually my videos have a multitude of things happening: persons, places. It’s about so many things. I wanted to start profiling places that I could dig into more. This place is something like that. It has a lot of layers. So I’m going to try to make videos now, sort of the same I’ve been doing all along, but for instance I’ve never made one just on a hotel. Those are the things I’m looking, well, not looking for, but like when they come along, then I act on it, you know? It’s really cool when you’re in a place that’s so much different than when you’re from, because things tend to be more interesting.

What was the very last thing you photographed?

“That was probably my room, 602. The reason I like this room so much is that I always thought the A-frame roof is so neat. Like in the States, you barely ever see it. Only in maybe some really old houses in certain kind of states, but it’s very rare. There’s something about it that seems so fake, right? It seems kind of like a dream, like a fairytale type of place. And it’s funny, because the swing is not even that much big of deal, but just it being there makes it a whole different kind of place. Very cool.”

GAYATRI DATAR – CO-FOUNDER EARTHENABLE WINNER OF THE POSTCODE LOTTERY GREEN CHALLENGE 2017

The genesis of EarthEnable began in 2013 when Gayatri (32) travelled to Rwanda as part of a Stanford class on Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability. The problem: 80% of Rwandans live on dirt floors that encourage disease and infections. Gayatri, now based in Rwanda, set about addressing this issue with an affordable and sustainable idea: an earthen floor finished with a custom-developed oil. No concrete, substantially less emissions and reduced chances of disease.

How did you approach problem solving in a brand-new context such as Rwanda?

“Design thinking changed the way I think about problems and how to solve them. This was a major turning point in my life. Before, as a management consultant I came up with a hypothesis, did the analysis and then came up with an answer. Now, instead, I spent two and a half months just learning and being with people in their homes in Rwanda; being open to spending time learning and being empathetic. You can’t lack empathy and design a product for someone’s needs. And empathy can be taught. Innovation can be taught too. I learned it, I am a living example of this.”

 

EarthEnable was the winner of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2017