When you say Rotterdam, you say Venour. You can’t have a walk around the city without noticing their Sturno somewhere; it’s their signature that represents their high quality work. From fine arts to graphic design, from singing to acting and from DJing to VJing, going multi-disciplinary is top priority for these guys. We sat down at their studio with Noel and Uriah to talk about their ups and downs, what’s keeping them fueled and how to maintain a solid focus on their business. V for Venour!
Tell us something about yourself please. Like who are you and what do you do for a living?
I’m Noel, the sort of creative part of Venour. The designer, I basically do all the illustrations and paintings. I’ve finished art school and before that I’ve done graphic design on the Grafisch Lyceum, so the background on my part are mostly illustrations, graphic design and fine art. Those are the things that I combine with the other guys within the collective,so when it comes to designing or directing, that’s my part.
And the other ones, do you have a particular role?
Yeah, everybody at Venour has their own part within the collective. My part is mostly design-related, and from that part on I try to create more things that I like to do, like acting or hosting for television. Then there is Uriah, he has a somewhat more commercial background, so he’s always thinking about the finances, finding new partners or companies we like to work with. He is basically the face of Venour, so if someone wants to have a meeting with us, then Uriah is the guy that hosts the meeting.
So you’re kind of complementary?
For sure, we wouldn’t be Venour if it was just me or just him or just Steven. Steven is our third guy, he is starting up Venour in Amsterdam right now. He’s always busy programming websites and doing a little bit of designing on the side, but he has a more technical background. But our roles are always pretty different. Steven started off with all the technical stuff, but then he wanted to do some filming and editing, so we said ‘Just give it a try and we’ll see what happens!’.
How did you guys met each other?
Well, we know each other from way back, childhood actually. We were just friends; hanging out, drinking beers and going to parties and stuff. Because we already connected as youngsters, we already had an ambition to do something cool, so we thought that if we would combine our powers, it could turn out into something great. That’s the perfect three-way; we can build everything and sell everything, why not just do everything then?
You guys always seem to work on fresh and cool projects. Where do you catch your inspiration, and do you have any role models you look up to?
When I’m online I try to look at as many images as possible, it fuels my imagination. I also try to travel a lot, we all do. So when I’m in New York or something, I check out a lot of things that inspire me, then I restyle it in my head and add a little twist of Venour in it. And of course, within Venour we inspire each other. Most of the time I think about artist stuff, then Uriah comes up and simply says something like ‘Noel, nobody wants to buy that’. Simply because he has a better vision about what people want, I just want to make stuff that I would like to buy. When I’m working on some shirts or sweaters, I try to make a lot of different designs, so Uriah can choose some and say ‘Nah, maybe you should make it white or grey…’.
Who invented the name of Venour, and what’s the logo all about?
Venour is simply a combination of our names; ‘Steven’, ‘Noel’ and ‘Uriah’. Our logo, called Sturno, is also a mix of our three names combined. It’s not that original, but we wanted the name to sound chic, a bit French like ‘Toujours Venour’ or ‘Amour Venour’. So it’s just cool name that doesn’t has a deeper meaning or something. When we were designing our logo, we were playing around with the ying yang symbol for a while. We didn’t want to make just a copy of the old symbol, but we needed something strong and iconic. And still, nobody really knows what it is, just a nice character with big eyes. We’ve got a lot of positive reactions about our final design, because it’s timeless and not marked by any trend or something. Sturno is going steady for eight years already…
'When I’m online I try to look at as many images as possible, it fuels my imagination. I also try to travel a lot, we all do. So when I’m in New York or something, I check out a lot of things that inspire me, then I restyle it in my head and add a little twist of Venour in it.'
Do you think that your commercial work could affect your image as independent artists?
I always believe that the artists I personally like are commercial. All the big names, like Damien Hirst or Banksy, are all known for their work, but they’re still working independently. It’s good to know what you like and what you want to make, but you also need to find a way of selling your own stuff. I’ve had a lot of problems back in art school, because a lot of my paintings were sold during their production process, so I couldn’t exhibit them at school afterwards. It ignited the infamous discussion about ˜when are you a good artist?’… People basically split up into two groups; group A thinks you’re selling out so you’re going ‘commercial’, and group B just thinks it’s good to sell your own work. Personally, I don’t know what a good artist is or should be. Should it be the artist who works in a small basement and has an exhibition once a year where nobody shows up because nobody knows him, or should it be the artist who creates a lot of paintings and just sells them? What’s the best artist? In my opinion, the best artist is the one everybody knows about and that people love it; it doesn’t immediately make you a ‘bad’ or ‘commercial’ artist.
What’s the best and worst part of having your own business?
When you’re doing what you like most and you’re doing it well,it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ anymore. I Think that’s the best part of having you own business. It’s more like fun-time, which you’re getting paid for. It’s great! The bad part, if there even is a bad part; your work your top priority all the time.There isn’t a lot of spare time to think about something else than your work of your own company. Also, you can’t really go on big trips or spend a lot of time with your girlfriend or family. You’re basically working six to seven days a week, from sunrise till sunset. Not really a bad thing by the way, we love to do it.
You already collaborated with a lot of different artists and companies, do you have any brand or person in mind whom you really like to collaborate with?
I think you always have to collaborate with someone bigger than yourself, because then you can grab up to them. It could be nice to team up with Nike, Stussy, Vans, Apple etc that kind of big cool brands. We always aim for the biggest goals; we want to reach the moon so brands like Disney and Apple is the top. Our collaboration for Alfredo Gonzales with Pony was awesome, and we like to proceed these kind of collabos with Venour. We always want to go bigger and better.
When did you open your shop in Rotterdam and are you happy with it?
We’re situated here for about seven years or so.We’re planning on moving sometime soon, the studio is getting too small…
Are you guys staying here in Rotterdam?
Yeah, of course! We have a company right now in Amsterdam, that’s where Steven is right now. But we have to move out of this building here because it’s getting a little bit crowded and messy, we need more space for the all our stuff and the people we work with.
Would you like to export your company to another country?
Thatâ€™s actually one of our goals to get in. We would like to have a Venour shop in Brooklyn and go out of Holland. We need time to build up a decent network over there because it’s all about connections. If you don’t have enough solid connections, then it’s pretty big step to go overseas.You have to carefully think about every step you take, we’re always thinking about ‘Can we make this step?’ and ‘Can we afford to do this?’. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
What are some of your favorite spots in (and around) Rotterdam?
We go to cocktailbar Level a lot, because they have the best burgers in town. On Thursdays we head over to Blender or Rotown. Rotterdam just isn’t about one particular nice street or something. Witte de With is always cool, crowded and artistic, but we try to move around everywhere.There are a lot of different awesome streets with artist studios in it, that’s also a big part of Rotterdam. We also like to check out the smaller, creative shops that do cool stuff. Rotterdam is very creative and it should be visible a lot more! Everybody should start working together to go bigger. Collaborations are pretty important!
At school, were you studious or did you look through the window?
[Noel] I was a bad student, I wasn’t at school, ever. When I was in school, I was simultaneously working on my own stuff for Venour. When a paper was due, I delivered it, but I never really was present in class. I prefer internship over class, it’s all about learning by yourself, making your own mistakes… If you fail in school, that’s just a bad grade. If you fail in real life, you really fail.
What about you?
[Uriah] I wasn’t a very good student as well, because like Noel, I was also busy with Venour. We were building our own brand, next to going to school. School didn’t really sparked my interest, I was more into working in real life. School is an institution that gives you a solid basis for your social- and academic skills, but when you’re in your mid-twenties or something, you have to reach out to different goals in your life than school I guess.
Describe a perfect day in the life of Venour.
Everyday feels like the perfect day. We do what we want to do and work on what we like, otherwise we just don’t do it. Also, we almost have complete freedom in what we do. So if I really don’t feel like working, I’ll just go home. And on the opposite side, we can also work until midnight or something. You just have to respect the deadlines that are ahead of you, you’ll be fine if you have the necessary discipline.
Do you have some hidden talents no one knows about?
We probably don’t have any hidden talents; we show and exploit all our talent in our daily workwork. [Noel] I also play a little bit of guitar, but I’m not the best so I don’t think it’s talent (laughs), and sometimes people talk about Uriah’s great FIFA skills…
What project(s) do you see as your own masterpiece?
Usually, you should consider your most recent work as your best work. The show ‘Popoz‘ that’s airing on Comedy Central right now, and our new video for The Opposites are two examples of work we’re really really proud of.
Okay, last question. Imagine your house on fire, what are the few things you just can’t leave behind?