Hey Elvis Wesley! What a great name, how did you come up with it? And what is your real name?
The name actually started as a bit of a joke a few years ago during a work placement at Studio Fraaj in Rotterdam. During my studies at DAE I regularly illustrated and shot short videos in which a person appeared. This character had strong connections with pop culture and various (pop) artists but there was also a lot of myself in there too. It was a kind of alter ego. I decided to give the character the name Elvis Wesley. As time went by I started to realise that the name covered far more aspects of my work and so I decided to call my studio after him. My real name is actually Kanye Wesley.
Haha, okay Kanye Westley! Could you briefly describe who you are, where you are from and why you became a designer?
I was born in Rotterdam and grew up in Stad aan ’t Haringvliet. As a child I watched lots of cartoons, I tried to re-enact these animations with action figures and self-made puppets. I made film sets from everything I could get my hands on. I loved creating absurd colourful phantasy worlds in which I could completely lose myself. This underpins the work that I now make. I sometimes think that a part of me is still a little kid that just wants to play with Play-Doh, colour with pens and stamp around in the mud.
What best describes you as a designer and where do you look for inspiration?
I see my work as an interwoven cross-pollination of different disciplines and methods. Elvis is the sort of linking factor here. I draw inspiration from a great deal of things. Often from people, and especially (pop) artists, and how they dress, talk and behave. But from religion too and especially religious objects. The precision and dedication with which these kinds of objects were made intrigues me. It is fascinating to see how much labour was put into the adoration of something so intangible as a god.
What is the most special or remarkable work you have ever made or designed?
That is a piece of work I made while studying at the Design Academy. It is not the most beautiful piece of work or the best that I have ever made, but it is very indicative of my method. It is a series of visuals called Video Surgery. I filmed a person and cut up the image into pieces to create another character. A method I often still employ when making visuals.
On your website you say that experimentation is the key to innovation. How do you incorporate this in your work?
That’s right. I think that there are many ways in which innovation is possible, but in my case experimentation with technology and materials is how I arrive at new work. Through experimentation and building on what you have done before, things occur that you could not have predicted beforehand. I believe that experimentation ensures diversity.
What would you still like to achieve with your work?
It would be cool if a moment came that I could work on such a grand scale that I could get lost in my own manufactured world. But I believe that I would never come back.
Besides your work as an individual designer you are also part of the designers’ collective Envisions. Here you often all work with a single material as a starting point making the process the end product. Experimentation is an important factor here again.
What is it like as a collective with many different disciplines to set to work on a common objective?
This never fails to be an interesting operation. Everyone has their own vision and signature. And in every project it is considered how this can be shown to its best. It is great that as a group you can create a larger and far more complex piece of work than you can on your own. What I find especially good about the collective is that during a new project we meet regularly to discuss each other’s work. Everyone is a designer, but they all have their own personal take on things, it is a good moment for reflection.
Since we are talking about collaboration.. If you were able to choose anyone in the world to work with (a designer, politician, artist, scientist or someone else), who would that be and why?
I would really like to make a video clip for Panda Bear. I have been a massive fan for many years and I really believe his methods for making music are very similar to how I make my work. I once told him how much I loved him via Instagram, but he did not respond. So, Panda Bear, if you are reading this, I rillie want toe collab wit joe!
Can we expect to see you at DDW this year and what are you going to show?
You bet. As part of the Talent Development Programme from the Creative Industries Fund an exhibition is being organised in the MU. There will be work on show by all the participants including myself. However, I cannot say too much about the content of the exhibition and the work that I am going to make for it.
Do you have any news you would like to share with the DDW community?
Of course. I am currently busy with a campaign for a famous shoe brand. It is going to be fantastic. The campaign will be launched around February 2020, so keep an eye out!
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