Starting in Amsterdam in 1987 pols potten has grown into one of the most sought after Dutch interior brands and in 2017 the innovative, tongue-in-cheek company are celebrating their 30th anniversary. Jan Wolleswinkel took over from Erik Pol as co-director in 1997 and has since helped the brand become a worldwide player through key investments in many departments across the brand. We interview Jan to discuss 30 years of pols potten and how the brand has grown…
How did the pols potten brand start? What was Erik Pol’s vision?
It started in 1987 in Amsterdam where Eric was selling terracotta pots from Spain. The small shop in the heart of Amsterdam soon became too small therefore two greenhouses close to the flower auction in Aalsmeer were rented. From the beginning, pols potten mixed styles in a free and non-conformist way. Travel and exploration have always been instrumental to our creative approach.
How did the brand develop when you and Theo Grootendorst took over as directors in 1997?
We started positioning the brand as a world-wide player and invested accordingly improving logistics, sales, service and marketing at the Aalsmeer head office.
Were you able to reinvent the brand? What did you adapt and what did you choose to keep the same?
Erik always disliked pettiness, was constantly looking for the grand gesture and knew that creativity was a prerequisite for progress. Travel and exploration have always been instrumental to our creative approach. These activities embrace the following: innovation and product improvement, new efficient production methods, product durability, finding new markets and rationalising the organisation.
The brand is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, where do you find the inspiration for each new range? Have these sources stayed the same since pols potten’s inception?
Trained as an industrial designer the key thing is to be and stay curious. Therefore, the travelling to our sources is always very inspiring. Craftsmanship and traditional manufacturing processes are not only an integral part of the production, but also animate the spirit and style choices of the company. We have been working closely with some sources for a decade, moreover due to the change of products we have started partnerships with more and more professional suppliers.
What made you decide to mark the 30th anniversary with the Family of Things book?
We are always thinking ahead, about what to introduce and produce for the next season. The years are blending together at a high pace and at one point it is nice to stand still and reflect on all of the things we have done in the past. This was the perfect moment.
How was the book created and how did you decide what needed to be documented in it?
Our design team created the book together with the former editor in chief of a Dutch design magazine “eigen huis en interieur”. It was a complicated job in making a representative selection and even tougher to make a choice through an archive of 30 years of photos and other material. We can easily fill a second and third volume…
How do you and your team of designers help to maintain creativity to produce the beautiful collections you are renowned for?
Our fascination is fed by the creative manner in which items are produced. The more complicated the technique is to produce a product, the more thrilled we are by the outcome of it. Nowadays techniques in coating, finishes etc., together with and on existing materials gives us a lot of room to play and thus spirit to create.
Do you have a favourite Pols Potten product of all time?
One of the items I do like a lot is the Twiggy candlestand. It’s joyful, elegant, close to nature and has been a best seller for years.
Describe your perfect weekend?
An inspiring weekend with sports, friends, trips, visiting expositions and fun.
What is your vision for the future of the brand?
Keep on developing useful products and try to stay inspired!