Featured Studio

Studio Mals

October 2019

Martin van der Molen and Silas Nout, Creative Directors at Studio Mals, recently took the time to chat to us about how they connected in university and developed their photographic illustration style. They spoke to us about finding the time to play Mario Kart while running a studio, why they love taking interns, and how to make your skillset work for you.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

Silas and I (Martin) met in art school in Rotterdam where we were going to study illustration. The funny thing is, in those first days of school, you’re still trying to figure out who are the cool guys and who are not. Silas was not a cool guy — more of nerd. So I, of course, being one of the cool guys, didn’t hook up with him right away. A few months later though, most of the cool guys got kicked out or dropped out, so eventually Silas and I started collaborating.

Our first jobs were designing flyers and CD covers for local events and bands. We also did some editorial illustration for magazines. These were already photo illustrations, because we liked that very much.

We started making short films and animated GIFs because a client pushed us into it. At the time we had no clue on how to do it, but we bluffed our way through it and made it work. It became our first step into ‘film’. Eventually it got more serious and evolved into making the colorful and playful images and film we do now. It all evolved and grew very naturally.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

Mals crafts high quality eye-catching images and film. Our work is very tangible, preferably handmade, and has a playful attitude to it. We’re meticulous crafters who cherish the details. We cultivate calm and go for distinctive aesthetics. The result is clever, playful, and ridiculously sexy handcrafted eye candy!

What are some of the best and worst parts of your job, day-to-day?

The best days are spent in the workshop and on set. Creating the things that only existed in your head before. That moment when the sketch you made is actually becoming reality is a magical moment.

Most days it feels like the studio is big playground where we can do whatever we like. Our job usually doesn’t feel like ‘work’. If we want to spent a day woodworking, we can. If we feel like playing Mario Kart for two hours after lunch, then why not? It’s great being in charge of your own time.

The business side of running a studio can be a challenge though. Handling clients, attending meetings and discussing money can be difficult at times. Especially for creatives that just want to create nice things. But you can be creative in this process as well and make it as fun it can be. It’s just as important as the creative work ,so we make sure to handle it well.

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That moment when the sketch you made is actually becoming reality is a magical moment.

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What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?)

We love our interns! We think internships are a great way to prepare yourself for ‘the real world’. As a studio we really enjoy teaching an intern the ropes, but also enjoy learning from them. We’re a small studio so when you are here, you are really one of the guys. We’ll expect you to join us in every part of the process. From finding great ideas, executing them in the workshop and assisting on set. The whole shebang!

We get a lot of requests and we like it when people put in some effort when applying for an internship. Make it special. Make it fun. This will make you stand out over others. At the moment we have a waiting list though. So for the next year all spots are taken. (Sorry guys!)

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

Studio Mals is just us, Silas & Martin. We’re very complementary to one another. Silas is very meticulous and really focused on the tiniest details. We call him the Mad Professor because he’s the technical guy in the studio. He usually comes up with the most crazy and wild ideas.

I don’t have the patience to spent hours on the small stuff, so I like to work faster and bigger. There this rule; if it’s smaller than an A4 size piece of paper, Silas will do it. If it’s bigger; I’m your man. I’m also the one that keeps an eye on marketing and budgets.

Of course, we don’t do everything ourselves. We’ve build a great team of freelancers around us that help us out when needed. The guys and girls from Setreset Films and Shop Around are a big part of our team in front and behind the scenes.

How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?

I really suck at drawing. That’s a problem when you study illustration. I didn’t want to become a typical editorial illustrator so I started building objects, photographing them and using that as my illustration. My background in spatial design made it easy for me to build instead of drawing. Silas got on board pretty quickly, since we both really like it.

At first it took us way more time and effort to make an illustration, but it was a great way to differ from our classmates that were mostly editorial illustrators. In the end it's still image making, we just use different media. After we graduated, it only made sense to continue this. From still-life photography, it very naturally grew into what we do now.

So, our advice would be to figure out a way to make it work for you. If you have a certain skillset, make sure to use and enjoy it!

Website: studiomals.com

Instagram: @studiomals

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