At work with: Max Siedentopf, Ordinary

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Christmas isn’t Christmas without receiving socks from your grandmother or auntie. That ordinary Christmas gift could be a lot more surprising if it came with just the one sock wrapped up in a plastic bag and stapled to the cover of a magazine though, and that’s exactly what you get if you receive issue four of much-loved Ordinary in your stocking.

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The quarterly title takes a different cheap object for each edition and invites image-makers to create an artwork based around it. We’ve seen plastic cutlery, cotton ear-buds and a humble kitchen sponge so far, and this new release is the magazine’s first dabble into clothing. To start off the short-working week before the Christmas break, we catch up with Ordinary co-founder Max Siedentopf as he journeys from Amsterdam to his home in Namibia.

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How was your weekend?
It mostly consisted of travelling all the way from the Netherlands to Namibia. It’s good to be back home.

Tell us about your journey to work.
I usually wake up around 5.30-6am. Either I’ll go for a swim or I’ll make myself a huge coffee and sit in our bay window at home and start with whatever projects I’m busy with at the moment. Those two hours are probably my favourite of the day, the quiet before the storm.

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Then at 8 I head out to work, which consists of a nice 10 min bike ride. Before, I lived in Los Angeles and the commutes always took at least an hour, which makes me appreciate Amsterdam’s tiny distances. Arriving at work is always a bit special for me, because I work at my absolute dream publishers. KesselsKramer.

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One of the many perks of working at KesselsKramer is that it is located in an old church. From the outside you don’t see that it’s a church, but once you step inside it’s incredible. The whole place is one big playground with an endless amount of weird and strange things hiding in every corner.

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Describe the state of your desk.
Empty. I’m pretty restless and can’t sit at one spot for more than 30min before I have to change my environment, which means that I actually have multiple spaces and desks around the church where I like to work. In the summer months I usually work outside on our roof in the sun or in our dolphin pedalo.

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Which magazine do you first remember?
Growing up in Namibia, there weren’t that many magazines to choose from, but the one that I really loved was the weekly Micky Mouse from Germany. One of the best things about it was the extra toy that came with it, which is also the main inspiration for the extra you get with Ordinary.

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Which magazine matters to you the most today?
Perhaps it’s not quite a magazine, but right now I’m extremely obsessed with all the old Diesel catalogues from the 90s. They are some of the most fun, weird, smart and creative publications and I really wish there would be a lot more magazines in their style today.

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Another one would probably be Buffalo Zine, which I only found out about two weeks ago. What I appreciated about it is, that the first time I saw it, I thought it was just a really shitty looking Christmas shopping guide because the cover design and photography were so horribly tacky. When I took a second look at it I realised that I got fooled. I very much appreciated that I got pranked and now I’m a huge fan.

What interests you about the ordinary?
I work in advertising and I’m always confronted by ‘beautiful and perfect’ imagery. At the same time, I also worked for the past two years for the worst hotel in the world, Hans Brinker. Torn between these two very polarised worlds, the best and the worst, I think I subconsciously I started to find comfort in the middle.

What really interests me about the ordinary is that it is always something that we completely take for granted.

We use all these ordinary objects, like sponges or cotton buds, but we never give them a second thought. When we use them, it’s almost as if they are invisible and just an extension of ourselves to fulfil a daily task. I think this is quite sad because if you stop for a moment and take a closer look at these ‘ordinary’ objects, you slowly start to notice how incredible they actually are. That’s from a design point of view, a material point of view but also from a creative point of view when you start to imagine in how many other ways you could use an object. Then the ordinary isn’t that ordinary anymore.

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Which object has yielded the most unexpected result for you so far?
For me personally, definitely the sponge. I love the range of results it created; there are so many incredible layers. However I also talked to others and it seems like everyone has a different object that they prefer. For example, others loved the socks because it was interpreted in more of a fashion sense. I liked the sponge because it just got plain weird and uncomfortable at some points.

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How do you select the object for an issue?
The object selects us.

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Images from top: Nicolas Haeni, Imke Lighart, Thomas Rousset

How do you select the image-makers that you choose to collaborate with?
We try to find a range of different people from all around the globe, from established to new comers, from conceptual to fashion to still life to amateur, so that we can get a lot of angles and different interpretations. However, the most important objective is that they are nice people and I’m happy to say that out of all the 100 collaborators so far, each and every one of them has been so incredible to work with.

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Pick a spread from the new issue and tell us what it says about your magazine.
I’ll have to go with Jan Dirk van der Burg’s page, he collected images of porn scenes where the actors where wearing ordinary white socks.

There’s so much honesty in the photos and it shows how the ordinary is with us even in the most intimate of moments.

What are you finding most frustrating about your work this week?
People still being able to e-mail me, even though I’m 10,000km away on holiday.

What’s going to be the highlight of this week for you?
Christmas.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Go for a walk with my dogs. Go to the dunes for some sand boarding. Go to the beach for some boogie boarding. Lie in the sun and ponder about all the new 2017 projects.

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