Discover Eindhoven, The Netherlands in this catalogue of creative happenings

Exceptional human beings

June 25th, 2010

Filed under: ART & DESIGN

Matylda Krzykowski in the flesh

From my perch on the restaurant terrace at the Van Abbe museum this afternoon, I spy Matylda; a tiny neat figure in white and grey, bustling through the glass atrium. From that distance we instinctively wave at each other – vigorously. She comes out onto the deck and rushes towards me, a friend of hers, Fabian, in tow. Never before have I met a complete stranger who kisses me three times and greets me warmly, like an old friend.

Matylda is the creator of, a precious collection of interviews with an impressive array of designers and creatives which centre on one main interview technique: she calls it drawn interviews in which the subject must do 3 things – draw yourself, write one word that describes you and draw your favourite object. So simple, yet so powerful, it has two things going for it: charm and endurance.

Matylda's most recent drawn interview with Herman August Weizenegger

Matylda graduated from the Arts Academy of Maastricht as a product designer, in 2009. But she isn’t a practicing designer, not just yet. Since starting her blog more than two years ago, she’s heard too many stories from the established designers she’s interviewed, about the other/past lives they’ve had – why would Matylda want to commit to her design career immediately? The idea of the blog was to understand the work of creative giants, to help her with her studies. Through the habit of keeping it, she wanted to find out whether she was sure she should become a designer. Now that she’s graduated, her blog project has grown wings. Off the back of some Dutch funding coin, she is doing a range of projects. One of them is to continue with matandme and to publish a book on the drawn interviews – probably on her own. A trained graphic artist, Matylda can visualise how the book should look; she isn’t quite ready to relinquish even one small part of the creative direction to a publisher. Her aim is to launch the book and have an exhibition in five major design destinations, such as Berlin, London and Moscow. Maybe even Eindhoven.

I ask whether she has been a drawn interview subject herself and she says she’d been “forced” into doing a few in the past, because she’s bad at saying no if people ask nicely. I recognise the type, so I don’t ask her to do one for me but I do ask her to just draw a picture. And this is what she did.

What Matylda drew when she saw me

What do you make of a personage like Matylda, or as some friends call her, Mat? She is at once playful, serious; courageous, naïve; passionate, contemplative; but the thing that holds her all together is her sincerity and willingness to share. She takes pride in not having sold out. Her lifestyle hasn’t changed drastically since she stopped being a student a year ago. Okay, she travels a hell of a lot (she was in Basel, London, Antwerp, Berlin alone in the previous month), and yet she cringes at the idea of charging people to use her photographs from her blog. “What would I charge? Twenty-five Euros per photo? I couldn’t do that!” Her integrity is important, on the inside as well as the outside. “But, I don’t look poor!” she quips, telling me wears her mother’s clothes (Luckily her Mum has exquisite taste, she enthuses). Matylda wants to help; she is committed to being completely authentic; the absence of Google Adwords or any other advertising on her site makes this message so much more powerful. A peek into her “about” section of her site is telling in its charm and honesty: that’s authentic communication.

“The people I meet, they’re just humans. I’m a human, they’re a human.”

Matylda is full of stories and rattles off anecdotes and predicaments from her years as a design journalist – although she wouldn’t dare call herself one. Invited into people’s offices, studios, homes, Matylda leaves her interview sessions, sometimes after just 30 minutes – other times two or more hours and with a full belly – buzzing with renewed energy and the desire to further her journey into understanding design and the people who do it. But there has been the occasional semi run-in, probably because she doesn’t suffer from hero-worship.

“I had been trying to get an interview with Li Edelkoort in Eindhoven for ages, because I admired her in a way, and I had asked nicely and was eventually told to get in touch with her assistant. So I did, but I never heard anything back. Some time later, I was in Milan at a lunch, and I was placed next to Li at the table. I thought I might have the chance to ask again to interview her. But for the entire lunch, Li ignored me. I didn’t understand why she was so rude. In the end she agreed to do a video interview because two of her acquaintances suggested she should. But she wasn’t very nice to me. You know, I think, the people I meet, they’re just humans. I’m a human, they’re a human. When I saw Li in Milan, she was there with her partner, who seemed like a really nice guy. I do hope they are really happy together…But to be honest after that experience, I lost a bit of the respect I once had for her.” While this was possibly one of the least rewarding encounters, Matylda has hundreds of other amazing ones to concentrate on and be enriched by.

“Lalala was just a joke. It makes me happy.”

Matylda signs off with a characteristic “lalala”, instead of any other semi-conventional “cheers” or formal equivalent. She was to meet Marcus Fairs from Dezeen in Milan during Design Week for the first time. Outside his hotel he was being swamped by people who wanted to talk to him. Matylda said she stood back a bit from the mob and looked at him. He broke away from the tumult and looked straight at her. Then he pointed at her and said “You’re the lalala girl,” which thrilled Matylda to bits. Her trademark sign-off is just an extension of her. And it’s not to get attention, but it does make her memorable. “Lalala was just a joke. It makes me happy,” she laughs. Still, there’s no out-and-out (eep!) branding in that lalala sign-off; it’s just who Matylda is. People ‘get’ her. If you have the pleasure of meeting Matylda you’ll understand that there’s no veneer. When she’s in the room, online, at the computer, interviewing you or being interviewed, what you see is what you get.

According to her buddy Fabian who patiently sits in on the entire interview, Matylda “never stops”. She is on the cusp of joining the designer collective that started sometime last year with Fabian and friends in Maastricht. The desire to be non-committal fights with a genuine need for a workspace and the energy she gets from other people. “But what if I get an offer to do a project in, I dunno, Shanghai? I’d just want to go!” Matylda shrieks. She has a boyfriend in London, family roots in Poland, grew up mostly in Germany but has connections to the part of Holland that sort of juts into Germany – Maastricht. With this kaleidoscopic background and this constant urge to travel and absorb ideas, Matylda is sort of frenetic in her pace. She has 4 mobile phones, all pre-paid and for different countries. I ask her how she rests or relaxes, but she barely pauses long enough to answer the question.

Like Matylda, I interview creative people in the hope of continuing those connections – networks offer dynamic opportunities to tap into how people get meaning out of their lives through what they do or are exposed to. She and I will be seeing each other again – I’ve been offered to visit her in Maastricht, anytime. There’s no doubt that Mat would introduce me to a plethora of people who would also be ready to share, collaborate and be kind to me as well.

I leave the Van Abbe museum, flushed and exuberant and full of renewed energy. I have met Matylda Krzykowski, a human just like me, but an exceptional one at that.

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