Marieke van Elsäcker -“Success to me, is creating from the heart.”

Written by: Sidney Steinmann
On her website Marieke van Elsäcker (32) says it short and sweet. She’s a Creative Director from Amsterdam that knows how to come up with well thought out concepts. Preferably projects that fit in the zeitgeist and have a deeper meaning than just selling stuff: “Over time it has become clear to both my clients and myself what my vision and background is.”

Your website is very brief. Is it some sort of minimalism or do you have another reason to keep it short?

I like staying in the background. I like the anonymity. It feels uneasy to put myself and my work in the spotlight. But to a certain extent you have to, when you’re a freelancer. It just doesn’t feel natural when I do it. At the moment my website works well enough for me: people can find me and they first have to get in touch to ask for my portfolio. That’s a good way to create that first connection!

Are you a little shy, maybe?

In my private life or when I’m working, I’m not shy. But I am in a sort of conflict with the narcissistic undertone of social media. While, at the same time, I love looking at other people’s work when they share it. I think I should do so more often myself, as awkward as it makes me feel.

You’re working as a creative director for companies like Nike, VanMoof and UNHCR. How did you get to this point?

I started out as an editor for an artsy fashion magazine. To keep it short: I wrote a lot of articles, did a lot of interviews and research. Then I was asked by a fashion brand to work for them as a marketing creative. My workfield shifted from text to visuals. Slowly but steadily I combined my experience in the field of writing and doing research with my visual creativity. That’s how I got into freelance assignments as a creative director, which requires working more conceptually. I’m working independently for six years now and it takes a couple of years to find out which role suits you best. In the beginning you just accept every job to be able to pay the rent. Over time it has become clear to both my clients and myself what my vision and background is. Because of that I now get approached for projects that are close to my interests and personality. I’m really happy about that.”

What are you working on at the moment?

“I recently finished an exposition and I’m now working on a skincare line for men. The line will be called ‘Krien’, which literally means clean in Surinamese. It’s founded by two friends and celebrates inclusiveness and self care for all men. It’s a much needed addition to a one dimensional mainly white segment. I’m also spending my days doing creative direction for a couple of new brands, a book and a series of sculptures. Next to my freelance jobs I’m also entrepreneuring myself these days.

Very slowly more videos, commercials and publications are being released. Were you able to keep working for the past year?

In the beginning everything was very quiet, because all photoshoots were on hold. Everyone was holding their breath thinking: what is possible and what’s not possible? Right now everything is up and running again, but it’s an interesting phase for the creative process. Things I normally draw my inspiration from like visiting museums and travels are all not possible to do. Where are we supposed to get our ideas from now?

Yes, where do you get your ideas from now?

I walk a lot! I try to appreciate my own environment more by looking at it with fresh eyes. I live in Amsterdam for thirteen years now and I’m still in love with the city. The canals never bore me. It’s not like: okay, I’m going for a walk and I’m going to get inspired. But my eyes and thoughts usually wander off to details that stand out to me. The way the light hits something or the colour of a traffic sign might give me an idea for the set of a photoshoot. I try to prevent getting my inspiration from the internet. Everyone is looking at the same Pinterest images which can cause every shoot to look the same.

Is it possible to come up with things from thin air or do you need a little push?

I consider going to museums as a part of my job, because it helps me build a collection of visuals in my brain. Knowledge that I can draw elements from for new projects. It’s also remarkable how ideas can just pop up when you decide not to take out your phone, for instance when you’re at a red light.

What do you prefer to do when you’re not working?

Spending as much time as possible with my dear friends. Lately I’ve been trying to read more, but that hasn’t worked out very well yet. And walking of course! Whenever work and the weather permits it, I try to go outside.

To conclude, what does success mean to you?

Collaborating with others and creating something that doesn’t exist, that’s everything to me. The ultimate goal in my work is authenticity, I believe. Everyone has their own frame of reference from which they view the world. How was your life leading up to this moment? What movies did you happen to see in your childhood? All these big and small events cause you to make something that I probably won’t be able to. Success to me, is creating from the heart.

Website: marieke.co/
Instagram: @marieke

Featured image by Mounir Raji
Images in text by Keng Pereira

Written by: Sidney Steinmann