2 October 2014

Interviewing Lot Bakker of Lot of Architecture and Design

Lot, short for Charlotte, working on a painting
This month I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Lot Bakker, Dutch Architect, Designer and Illustrator and owner of 'Lot of Architecture and Design'. Our Skype chat starts with a house tour of Lot’s apartment in Delft. Her quirky flat is arranged over two stories plus an attic. Every floor has a worktable where Lot keeps many different materials and tools to draw, sew, and make holes in things.
Her apartment is a bit like a work in progress showroom of her work and her life. In one corner a comfy chair where her mother used to feed her a milk bottle as a baby, in another her great-grandmother’s piano from 1912, and there are curtains made by Lot out of old sails. Lot even shows me the view from her window. A typical Dutch view. A bustling flee market by a canal, and ‘Oh, is that and Italian flag hanging from a stall?’!  Back inside even the toilet is rather interesting. Black tiles with messages and doodles written by friends make for what Lot calls her ‘guest book’. Then there is a drinks table made out of an old pram. So my question is how does an Architect end up becoming not just an Illustrator and a Designer, but also a maker of beautiful and intriguing things?
Lot's living room with curtains she has made out of old sails
an unusual 'guestbook'
You are a fully qualified Architect, as well as a Designer and Illustrator. When did you develop an interest in Design and Illustration?
As regards illustration, it’s all thanks to my mum, as many things are in life. When we were children it was an easy thing for her to do after school, make us sit at a table and draw with crayons. In kindergarten, when I was four, I remember five year olds asking me to draw a heart, because they could only draw a circle. So I suppose that was the first time I realized it was a skill I had!

In high school you could choose it as a main subject so I did. Then I went on to study Architecture in University and thought of drawing as a hobby. But I often noticed that compared to other students who were good at computer stuff, I had that extra skill. So I realized it was special to be able to draw. After I graduated the economic crisis came and I was really happy to have this other talent, which is now what I earn my money with. Which is great, because it’s something I love doing.

Part of an advertising campaign for parking solutions,
for Dutch Company 'Arcadis'
As for design, I learnt a lot from my brother, who is 9 years older than me. We often used to make stuff together. He would come up with an idea and I would take care that we finished it because he often lost the initial enthusiasm. Now sometimes, when I start feeling a bit down, I realize it’s been a long time since I created something with my hands. It’s sort of a basic need to make something. As you saw in my house, I have a lot of things I have made myself.  It’s easy to make anything into a lamp, so I do that a lot!

an interesting use of an old coffee machine
So you are mainly self taught in design and illustration.
In elementary school in Holland we have craft classes and drawing. And then also in high school and Architecture school. Since I was good at drawing, in 2007, during my Bachelors, I became a student assistant in ‘Hand drawing’. That’s the first time it got a bit professional, but at that stage I just did little assignments for the teachers.

Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations and designs? 
Well, the craft things I make myself are mostly inspired by things I see on the street. Or little comfort things. I always see room for improvement. Which sometimes drives people crazy. As you can see, there is a flee-market outside my house. I see objects and think that I can turn them into something else. Instead, when I work on illustrations inspiration is linked to the assignment itself.

'What shade did you have in mind Sir?' 
Any favourite Illustrators or Designers?
Well, there are people that make nice stuff, but does it inspire me? Not really.
There is one person that I do think inspired me though. The Dutch Illustrator Anton Pieck, who died in 1987. There was a drawing we had in the house when I was little. I used to look at it for ages and kept noticing new details. He is not really considered an artist, He’s too commercial. He’s not so 'cool'. But he did inspire me anyway. Funnily, the uncle of my grandfather happened to be his first teacher in 1906!
I also find an illustrator that sells on Etsy inspiring. He’s called ‘I love doodle’. 
One of Anton Pieck's illustrations
It sounds like your everyday life inspires you as well your childhood. Do you keep a sketchbook to keep a record of your ideas?
I have lots of sketches, but I don’t actually keep a sketchbook. I’m not so proud about that. During work I make a lot of sketches. Mostly on the very fine paper we use in Architecture because then you can layer it. Then for each assignment I end up with a pile of sketching paper.

I also work for the ‘Jongens van de Tekeningen’ (the boys of the drawings), a visual recording Company. One thing we do is make notes of a meeting by drawing. First little drawings and then we put them together in what is called ‘the big draw’. Like a visual summary of a lecture, so people that visit the workshop or meeting get a visual record of the experience. 
A 'visual recording' by Lot
Where did you find inspirations for your jug-lamp?
While I was visiting my parents in the house they moved into about three years ago, I said ‘Mum it’s a bit dark in the hall’. She replied ‘Yes, I need a new lamp. Do you know where I can get a nice one?’. So I had a look around the house, found a jug and asked ‘Is it ok if I drill a hole in this?’. I turned the jug into a lamp and she was quite happy with it.

Lampet - Lamp 

I saw on Facebook that you made a tin shaped like a house into a lamp.
On Etsy there were only four of my lamps for sale and someone in Las Vegas asked me if I made custom lamps. I replied ‘Yes’. So they asked ‘Would you also make lamps with boxes we found here?’. So they sent four tins to my place. I made holes in them and had to make sure I ordered the right wires. Then I sent the stuff back.

These lamps are now in Vegas!

Do you find Etsy a good platform for selling your work?
It’s a good platform if you put the right effort into it. But for the past year I have had three big assignments in Illustration and realized I could make a living from it, so I have neglected that other side of my business. Now I am looking for a way to develop my business that makes the most of all my skills.

In what way are you going to develop your business?
Recently I have been thinking about what direction I want to move in. I have four disciplines I love: Illustrations, Design, Photography and of course Architecture. I have been unsure about how to develop my business. I thought during the Summer I’d find an answer by having chats on the beach with my friends, but somehow that didn’t happen. Then, not long ago I asked my mother for advice and she helped me see that I do Illustrations for big Companies, while Design and Architecture I do for private people so this requires two different strategies. So next week I am going to get started on my new website.

What will be different from your old website?
Most portfolio websites are a show of who you are and what you can do, but that’s not so important for businesses who want to know what you can mean for them. You need to make this little translation, so that the message in your website is more powerful.

Do you think reuse, recycling and sustainability are an important element in Design today?
I do come across a lot of people who put a lot of effort in that. But it just comes natural to me. I think it is where the future lies in general. On the scale that I make things it can’t have a big impact. But I have friends, such as Upstyle Industries, who make things in big numbers and that can make all the difference. And reduce waste. I think that in the future we won’t have any more waste. Even here in Holland non-recyclable waste is getting smaller and smaller. This is going to continue. I hear a lot about biodegradable plastic even from the people who work in the Universities. I think new plastics are going to make a big difference.

'Afternoon Tin'
Speaking of reuse, the Ipad slip you sell on Etsy is made with the fabric from an old sail.
Yes. I have made envelopes for mac-books, ipads and mini-pads.
I use old sails a lot. A while ago I was thinking of reupholstering the chair in my living room. I went to the man that gives me the sails and he gave five. When I unfolded one of them I saw a big ‘L’ with a crown on it. I saw it as a sign and decided to use it to make a curtain, this one here, next to my work space. To me it says ‘My home is my castle’.
Mac-book slip made with an old sail
a lamp made with an old sail

What is your biggest challenge?
Every day is a challenge. It’s a challenge to keep going. It’s easier when you are busy, but when you are not you need to keep a focus. And that can be difficult. You want to do everything but you need to find discipline and when you work from home and on your own you need to have initiative.

Best words of advice you’ve received?
About a year and a half ago I was having doubts about what to do in life so I spoke to my father and he said 'Do whatever you feel best at'. So then I really started to focus on drawing and crafting. Next to this I took a job in a hotel, but already after one year I was able to quit working there and now I only do things I love. With my own business I illustrate and design, and I also work as a mentor in Rotterdam and as a tour guide in Delft. I'm so glad I followed my dad's advice.

What advice would you give to a fellow Designer or Illustrator?
Go do what you enjoy. You'll be fine!

Find out more about ‘Lot of Architecture and Design’ on:




Lot's website will be up and running from November. Until then you can find information about her work and her contacts on her Facebook page, where you also find links to her Tumblr sketchbook.

All photos in this post are by Lot of Architecture and Design. All photos represent Lot Bakker's original work. If you would like to use any of the material in this post please ask, and quote the source and the author.The photo of the illustration of Anton Pieck is downloaded from Pinterest.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this. Very good questions that brought to life Lot's world. The tin lamps are lovely.