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"tomado" Tag

Putting a book on a bookcase

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I decide to fracture the Steidlijk’s linear path of the new Base collection, on a personal/performative dérive, I notice an object, ‘Bookshelf – 1960 – Unknown’ it hangs politely and awkwardly in a small amount of white space in-between a series of wallpaper like paintings by the situationist artist Constant and a collection of Post-War Dutch Design by Jan Van Der Togt. From the bottom up, 3 different coloured rectangular shelves are spaced evenly and fitted onto a thin steel frame, the frame extends an extra 2-3 inches as it curves tightly around 2 nails that are protruding from the wall.The colours, pale reds and yellow and a light grey, a great post-modern colour strategy, they look like faded colours of a Mondriaan.

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 21.00.23

The object was created by the Tomado Company. Tomado is a design company that was very popular in the Netherlands. It has now recently had a resurgence in popularity leading to a very sleek and minimal book being printed called “TOMADO – Van der Togt’s Mass articles Dordrecht 1923-1982” I was very eager to read this until I realised that it was only printed in dutch. The online space were I tried to find sources were also very barren, almost all of the pages where only hosted on Dutch domains that have to get translated via google once you loaded the web page. I didn’t want to struggle with some poorly translated foreign articles so I decided the only way I could get into true contact with this design was through…

1)The Museum – An easily accessible yet unreal space.

2) People – People have experienced real space, people are harder to access. People don’t have large doors where you can enter and exit.

I had heard from Dutch tutors and Dutch friends’ mothers about small experiences with Tomado and offcuts from its history, from what I patched together, Tomado created must have furniture in post-war dutch life because of how cheap it was to produce and purchase. With the popular flat pack system being championed by IKEA at the time, Tomado began to follow suit and made there furniture nomadic; it was easily transportable outside the house AND due to the design only requiring two nails, it became easy to transport in the inside spaces of the architecture. The Netherlands was also greatly improving it’s social housing meaning that instead of families living together in one room, the members of the family dispersed into the different rooms of the house. Children for the first time ever had their own rooms, and with that their first design objects, their first Tomado.

I wanted to see the object in a different space, I used the city for this. Armed only with a creased A4 photograph of the mystical bookshelf and the phrase “Ik spreekt Engels?” I started looking for Furniture stores. I spotted my first piece(s) of tomado furniture accidentally in the window of a coffee shop.



The whole inside wall was littered with the same tomado shelf, around 15 of them, they were hung in a way so that it emphasised the logo “DIGNITA” in thick two-line wall lettering. On the shelves there were bottles of prosecco and cacti that were way out of the reach of any human to grab. This reminded me a lot of how the Stedelijk had exhibited the furniture, it was devoid from any human interaction. I asked where they got the Tomado from and they gave me directions to Overtoom. Here I met a nice Dutch woman who said she does have Tomado objects in sometimes, but it usually goes within “seconds”. I asked her if she used to have any of the furniture when she was growing up and she replied “fuck no” and then said “I hated it, but if you didn’t have it you always knew someone who did”

I now find my self lost in a strange space, it’s a gallery. There are a of shitty materials lying on the floor and hung on the wall, curled up straws, large pieces of cardboard and a lot of plastic jelly. I become aware that everything moves in some way, either attached to pistons or to small motors. I go back to what I thought was just some cardboard and I see a small toy camel being spun 360 degrees by a motor. After staring it for around 1 minute I realise I am a camel. Like the camel has a dessert, I have a city, I have to go to different sources to pick up information which leads me to the next source. Through these sources I am given GPS coordinates that I must travel with. I am self sustainable as I access my pocket satellite which I can replenish at different Café’s, I pretend to be a customer and instead siphon their wifi, After I am quenched and have loaded the web page, I travel the city again.


Eventually I found an antique fair,  after showing my piece of paper and saying the magic word beginning with “T”. I was soon led to meet a man called Willem Poos,


(Willem Poos)

Willem talks to me about how he likes to go to England to buy Tomado furniture and sell it in the Netherlands. He clearly has a passion for this stuff. He also had the bookcase when he was growing up and he said he remembered very clearly that he had a book called “Wim is Weg” translated as “Wim (short for Willem) has gone” I then had the idea of returning to the Stedelijk (the only place I knew the object was) and activate its function as a bookshelf.

I found that the only place selling it was in ‘De Bijenkorf’  an Expensive Dutch mall. The building looked different to how it did when I googled it, it was now encompassed in a outer layer of scaffolding, it wasn’t stable in the real world nor was it stable in my memory. I found the book inside and left for the Stedelijk.


I returned to the fabled bookshelf and upon seeing it I realised this design was placed here because it wanted to be appreciated as a design, yet I found this hard to do as it had no function in the gallery context. It existed as how you would see a photograph of furniture in a catalogue, something that could fit into an empty hole (literally, as in a hole in your apartment) in your life. What I wanted to do was reinsert a personal experience ‘thing’ to make the bookshelf into a design object again. And then I put a book on a bookshelf it stuck out a funny angle with around 2 inches hanging off the edge.


it didn’t really fit.



Marshall Moderism

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


The Design Derby exhibition at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam compares what was happening in design in the Netherlands and Belgium from 1815 to present day. Pieces were picked as representative of the era of design in both countries, which allowed you to make comparisons of the objects for design and aesthetic value, but also by being displayed chronologically, you are able to see where on the timeline they place and thus allowed you to to understand the context in which they were designed and the preceding works/ inspiration. I picked two pieces from the 1950’s produced during the post war reconstruction period; a fascinating time for the reestablishment of design as a social, economical and cultural actuality.

I chose two pieces with very similar aesthetic qualities and obvious connections visually/materially, produced a year apart they are from exactly the same period so can be perceived from a single point in European history despite different national situations.
The first piece is a bookshelf designed by D.Dekker for Tomado – Dordrecht in 1958, The shelves are a genius design, with simple brackets on either side and tin trays which can be slotted in at any level, there’s a variety of combinations/arrangements of the unit so they adapt easily to any room.

Tomado Bookcase

The second is desk and chair by Jacques Seeuwes, designed for the architecture department of the University of Ghent in 1959. The only colour used is a bright blue Formica on the table, which compliments the soft dark tones of the oak seat and foot rest.  Its a vivid primary colour which is fitting with the modernity that was being practiced in the design at the time, when the chair is tucked under the table, there is brilliant flow of the basic forms, and the subtleties in angles of the chair suggest a certain spring to it by highlighting the ergonomics which contrast to the stubborn rigidity of the black tubular frame, they both exhibit a neo-plastic approach to design. This is collection of research i made in order to further understand the situation of each country after the war and how design fit into their society at the time. What were the inspirations/ defining influences in the Netherlands and Belgium which concluded in two very similar pieces of furniture.

Jacques Seeuwes Desk


De Stijl introduced an important merging of art an design by promoting an Utopian philosophical approach to aesthetics. The goal was to catch timeless beauty in spare precision, De Stijl movement was a reaction against the excessive decoration of the Art nouveau that preceded. It was an attempt at a universal language in design and aesthetic, that applied rules which erased all subjectivity to the artist because the individual was loosing its significance, ideals of the period shift from visually heavy to visually light and ‘de Stijl could be seen as social redemption.

During the post war reconstruction period, Tomado thrived because its products represented the incoming modern Dutch household; cheap, affordable, functional furniture. The core of Tomado string furniture was formed by pragmatism, before the war there was a demand of bits and bobs and comfort in clutter, but in the aftermath, there was a desire for a fresh functional way of living to maximize efficient recovery and thus wanted to be surrounded by practical and rational possessions. Tomado’s minimalist airy structures symbolized the modern age, and these bookshelves in particular were commonly present in households around the country, just like IKEA is nowadays.

tomado bij charlie ikea


The Dutch government returned to the Netherlands from its exile in London in 1945. The government, while in London, had created plans which would speed up the country’s challenging industrial and economic reconstruction, there was no conflict between industry and the arts, because the Netherlands has a trading history and sourced its cultural input from its colonies in Asia. This meant that recognizing the need for mass production to furnish homes wasn’t politically opposed and the dutch produced functional furniture for the masses with talented designers appointed to every sector, Marshall Aid investment into the Netherlands accelerated industrialization and by 1950, 38% of the population was working in manufacturing or some form of industry.

In Belgium, there is a rich history of the arts and crafts from their own country because they had no interest in their colonies in Africa. This meant that high level professional craftsmen worked hard to produce and design quality products, and then after the war they were fighting against the industrial takeover. However there were a lot of poor factory workers and thus mass production was a cheap necessity, people weren’t as encouraged by the government to pursue design careers whereas in the Netherlands every state company had a designer.

Marshall Aid played a large role in the modernization of Europe, with the investment to rebuild its financial economical and industrial systems, and along with the money came the intention to inject a new ‘spirit of productivity’.

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In Belgium they funded the Belgium Office for Increasing Productivity (BDOP), which supported The Design Centre. Design in Belgium was struggling to find its place in society, The Design Centre aimed to broaden the understanding of design as a social, economical and cultural phenomenon, however, the BDOP demanded a definition of design which was appropriate to the contribution towards the economic efficiency, it was struggling to leave behind the origins of design promotion, dominated by national export interest and be recognized for its social and cultural value by the Belgian government, this was frustrating because of course they believed that design is the most visible and pervasive cultural manifestation of a country at any time.

Industrial design was redefined in Belgium  in the 1950’s, and planted foundations in 1954 under the reign of the first social-liberal government.
Industrial design is a creative activity whose aim is to determine the formal qualities of objects produced by industry. These formal qualities are not only the external features but are principally those structural and functional relationships which convert a system to a coherent unity both from the point of view of the producer and the user. Industrial design extends to embrace all the aspects of human environment which are conditioned by industrial production.

With this definition you can understand how the values of De Stijl integrated easily with this new wave of industrialization. Design was being viewed as a practical notion where productivity and efficiency is key, with such a mechanical demographic, it makes sense that the prevailing approach to design in Belgium was that of De Stijl – the international modern style, and easy to replicate in industry.

After WW2 De Stijl became known as the International Modern Style. However without Theo van Doesburg to lead the way and enforce the ideals and definitions of the movement, the strict pre-war rules were broken. The post-war reconstruction forcing society to depict a new way through complete disarray towards the future, efficiency was key and maintenance of artistic values weren’t withheld so preciously. Broader structural design properties of industrial materials could be worked with more easily in mass production too and the extreme ideals of De Stijl were not practical anymore.

To conclude, the unifying desperation of each country to rebuild after the upheaval of the war and the catastrophic state in which the Nazi’s left, meant the productivity objectives that accompanied the Marshall aid from U.S, persisted to define the countries’ reform and thus profitability and potency heavily determined design of the post war era.


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