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Portrait of a light artist

It's Monday morning. Interview setting: a former sex club in Eindhoven. Since a few years, this is the workshop of designer Nando Dolleman. The idea: an interview about light art in the city of light. Nando debuts this GLOW with an enormous light installation in the Kazerne. The outcome: a conversation about the beauty of making mistakes. And of Youtube videos about disco balls.

Towards the end of the three-hour conversation, he uses a word that sums up everything that happens in this studio: the sandpit feeling. Playing, building and collapsing of creations. Room for experimentation is necessary for the designer who graduated last year. Fortunately, this space is literally here. A few years ago, Wooninc. made this eighty-square-meter workplace available to him.

When you enter, you stumble over the experiments. On the left is the chair, based on a 'forgotten method to calculate complex geometry’', that was on the Graduation Show of the Design Academy last year. Next to it is the 'bending machine' that he recently purchased to be able to produce the steel frame of the chair on a larger scale. A process that could easily be outsourced. But that takes time, money and doesn't always work out the way you want it to. "Then I quickly think: I'll do it myself." Pay attention to that sentence, because it will pop up regularly in the next three hours.

Studio Nando Dolleman by Nick Bookelaar
Studio Nando Dolleman by Nick Bookelaar

You have artists or designers who discover what their strength is and focus on it. For the rest, they call in the help of others who are good at something else. That's not how it works with Nando. 

He likes to experiment by himself and to make his own mistakes. He is adept at it and even teaches it at his old school, the Wood & Furniture College, in Amsterdam. He coaches students in the creative process. Shows them how designing something is built up in small steps, and how to continue to build on what you have learned.

He will be presenting his own piece of work this GLOW in the Kazerne. A great platform for a young designer. When we meet with him, he has just had two weeks of no sleep and only pizza for dinner. Suddenly he was asked to showcase his work already during the Dutch Design Week in the Kazerne and the whole installation had to be built up in no time. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, but the work is hanging and soon thousands of GLOW visitors will also be able to admire the Transience Machine as it is called.

His fascination for light came early. As a little boy, his parents occasionally allowed Nando to go to Radio Piet in Arnhem, the electronics shop where everything was for sale to build his own light show. And still, he says cheerfully, "I enjoy watching a youtube video with reviews of disco balls".

The idea for this GLOW project started with a rainbow. The breaking of light into primary colors that merge into one another. These are really simple things that amaze him and that he converts into seemingly simple, but in practice quite complex projects. In this case, he searched half the world for good prisms, the right LED lamps to illuminate the prisms (he is now able to make his own LED light), engines with the right power and a panel to attach everything solidly to them. The result is a poetic piece in which four times four prisms rotate very slowly, indicating the passage of time.

Studio Nando Dolleman by Nick Bookelaar

You'd almost forget, but the "museum" where Nando works is also where he lives. "In the back is a small kitchen, next to it the bedroom. So it's not possible to really distance yourself from your projects. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I wake up and walk to my studio with my MacBook open, and my camera on, to check on something I'm working on. I have a friend who thinks along with technical things and who fortunately allows me to call him anytime."

If you look closely, you can even see a small prism installation in his bedroom. He has attached it in such a way that it can easily be turned on and off with a switch. 

What if he really wants to escape from everything? "Then I take my canoe and paddle over the Dommel. Along the river you will find such magical and quiet spots, this is where you will find the most beautiful light in Eindhoven."