Shelf Sessions: Jochem Leegstra
“You know what: just a sparkling water for me please, thanks.” It’s 11.00 AM and those that know Jochem, know he doesn’t really need caffeine to start a conversation. We found out that talking about his books, fuels his engine even more.
In the somewhat undervalued Amsterdam neighborhood of the Oostelijke Eilanden we find NewWerktheater. A multidisciplinary space which functions as a restaurant, shop, event space, photo studio, gallery, and the head office of …,staat, a creative agency founded in 2000 by Jochem and his love Julia Kortekaas. In the beautiful spacious office, Jochem houses most of his books in a bookcase covering an entire wall (with a characteristic ladder on rails).
An astonishing sight to say the least.
Check some of the favorites from Jochem’s shelves.
Most of his books are about design, interior design, architecture, art, fashion, photography and pretty much everything in between. Some books are filled with sticky notes, and some have changed color over time. A wonderful archive that reminds of previous projects and ideas.
“That’s the essence of a book to me. I’d guess I have 2000 books and probably double as many magazines and they are all timestamps. Printed paper that represents a certain zeitgeist. Sometimes helpful as a reference in our work, but I would lie if I said I didn’t buy some of it just because I like to have it.”
‘...they are all timestamps’
‘...they are all timestamps’
Jochem is a real cognoscente. We immediately sense that Jochem knows what he’s talking about. He looks at paper thickness, materials, design and knows about some of the industry’s best printers. He shows us a huge campaign book he made for Nike and …,staat recently did a project with photographer Paul Jung. Next year they will work together with Rizzoli on a book about Schiaparelli’s perfumes. “Rizzoli is one of my favorite publishers and Schiaparelli is a very traditional elegant Italian-French fashion house. To work with them both still sounds like a dream.”
Although most of his books are relevant for his work, some of them seem a surprising match with Jochem. On and around his extremely chaotic desk you’ll find Studio 54, a signed copy of Fantastic Man, This is Not a F*cking Street Style Book, #SENDNUDES (“I love it when online and offline come together”), Ed van der Elsken and even Kim Kardashian’s Selfie book. “To me, Kim’s book is like art. For Rizzoli to make this book is quite a bold choice, but they’ve done it to perfection.”
Jochem has a story with nearly every title he grabs. “The Amsterdam book is special to me. We work a lot with Ewout (photographer of the book) and it’s a perfect relation gift for our foreign partners. One of the many MENDO books I have. Actually, I might have all your titles haha.” He unsuspectingly grabs a copy of Depart, not knowing that one of the Sizoo brothers is currently making photos of him. “No shit! That’s so cool. You should definitely sign this one!”
His relationship with MENDO started at the very beginning of MENDO as a bookstore. “I’ve been coming to MENDO ever since it just got open, so we know each other pretty well. It’s one of the reasons I was so sad about not being in The Workshop. When the book was made we were moving from our old office to this place so everything was very hectic at that time. Ah man, I’m still a bit bummed about it. Who knows, maybe we’ll work together in the future.”
Not all of Jochem’s books are from MENDO, though. Next to some very special Irma Boom pieces, he owns a lot of books that he has bought in New York. “I go to Atheneum for my magazines, MENDO for my books and some of the more exclusive stuff I’ve bought in New York or Japan. I’m also a big fan of Visionaire. They completely reinvent the concept of a book by collaborating with artists and companies and making something new, both in shape and form, but also in content. One of my favorites is no. 39 named PLAY, which was made in collaboration with Playstation and some of the world’s renowned filmmakers. It contains flip-book animations and I really like how it brings together film, gaming and books in a playful way.”
Most of his books are well conserved, but none of them remain closed. “I had bought a pornographic book in Japan and the customs in Dubai opened it and used permanent marker to erase all the private body parts. I also have a book from Tom Sachs, Tea Ceremony Manual. The US customs thought I was some kind of extreme right wing Tea Party maniac and they abusively opened it at the airport. That stuff makes me angry, but at the same time it adds a story to the book. I want to experience the full book, every page. Why would you buy something and never use it? Makes no sense to me.”
Some of his books are worth a lot, or have become very valuable over time. However, Jochem rarely buys anything above €150. “The most money I’ve spent on a book was Pretty Much Everything by Inez & Vinoodh which I have at home. During the release the box was €500, but usually I don’t go over €200. I have some Visionaires that might exceed that price though, haha.”
One thing an attentive visitor will notice is that nearly every book in the office is filled with notes. All referring to pages that trigger new ideas or capture the essence of what he’s been looking for. “I usually have two reasons to buy a book: I either let the store seduce me, or I specifically buy something for work. These books are a great way to see where we are in the world right now or how a certain brand or artist thinks and works. It’s one of the reasons why I love yearbooks and almanacs.”
One of his latest favorites is Studio Olafur Eliasson: The Kitchen, a book about the artists’ studio lunches and dinners. “I’m moving soon and I can’t cook, so cook books are my new thing. I want to be able to make ten solid recipes so I can casually throw that in whenever I have visitors. Olafur Eliasson is one of my favorite artists so this is a good one to begin with.
Similar to his new cooking habits, Jochem draws a lot of inspiration from his other books and uses that in his work. “It’s hard to describe exactly what we do here, we do a lot. But in general I would say we’re a bunch of creative people.” Working in an environment like this gives them the luxury of browsing through an extensive archival library of magazines and books, bought over the last 30 years. “These books and magazines tell me everything about our zeitgeist, about our inspiration, and now that I think of it, also quite a lot about myself .”
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