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Maarten Baas: Boss of your own time

Maarten Baas loves balancing. His work is a balancing act between craft, design, conceptual art, theater, film and performance. And that balancing is also in his definition of success. Following his solo exhibition in Voorlinden, we take a closer look at that act.
Maarten Boss

Things have gone fast for Maarten Baas since his graduation work Smoke, for which he worked on designer furniture with a gas burner. His work is included in the collections of prestigious museums such as the MoMA in New York and in the private collections of people such as Brad Pitt and Kanye West. You may know his Schiphol Clock, the clock in which he has been setting the time in real time at Schiphol Airport since 2016 with a paint roller and removing it with a cleaning cloth. He also made commissioned work for brands such as Louis Vuitton, Swarovski and Dior and recently made waves with a private jet made from recycled G-Star jeans during Milan Design Week 2023. And all this while he would like to have about twenty hours per week.

How do you manage your success?

“Success is about more than just work. For me it is important that you can do your work without this being at the expense of yourself, your happiness in life or that of the people around you. I think that is at least as important as being successful in your work. It's about a good balance. Graduating gave me a huge boost in my work success, after which I certainly took advantage of opportunities and momentum, but my overall success is largely due to my sister. She is a massage therapist and made me realize that the other things in life are just as valuable. As a result, I never allow myself to be completely consumed by the craziness that comes with that work success and I don't constantly run after that carrot. You can work yourself to pieces and end up in a burnout, but that is not the lifestyle I aspire to. I prefer to find balance and make time for family and friends.”

Maarten Baas, Real Time Grandfather Clock, Self Portrait, 2019, Courtesy of Carpenters Workshop Gallery

You now have your own workshop and employ ten people.

“Certainly, but I always have more potential assignments than is necessary to pay those ten people. I don't have targets or a business plan, but I consciously do not accept all assignments. Because that means I have to work with a much larger workshop. Then I also lose the flexibility and freedom to work the way I want. Not reaching my potential creates a feeling of security. Because if half of the order requests disappear, I will still have more work than is necessary to pay my people.”

Maarten Baas, Paddington Clock (video still), 2021

Was entrepreneurship taught to you or did you get it from home?

"Neither. All successful artist-designers are business-savvy. For me it is common sense. I believe that if I make something and it takes ten hours, I should not sell it for a hundred euros. At the same time, it is too easy to create completely unsellable art. Part of the balancing act in my job is whether I can sell it. Do I make this for my own circle or can everyone like this work? The larger the spectrum, the better the work of art. My Real Time clocks are a good example of this. That is 100 percent my autonomous work and at the same time it is for a very diverse audience. You don't have to have an art background to like them, but you can also give them a philosophical interpretation.”

MASTERS MAGAZINE #54

Want to read the entire article? The summer edition is a fresh cocktail of entrepreneurship and sport. In this edition, several entrepreneurs from the Champions League of business are reviewed. Including Freddy Heineken and hospitality tycoon Richard Caring, whose expanding empire has been called the 'restaurant equivalent of LVMH'. Doing business is top sport, but top sport is also doing business. Take Formula 1: the sport is increasingly developing into an octopus with arms that touch all aspects of our society. Jaap de Groot investigated how millions are converted into billions. Also interviews with gymnast Sanne Wevers, two-star chef Guido Braeken, hotelier Robert-Jan Woltering, designer Maarten Baas and Rico, together with his Naomy. The 'King of Kickboxing' also turns out to be an octopus (with very strong arms): as an entrepreneur he is active in various industries. “When I look back later, I don't want to think 'I wish I had this or that'. I just want to, boom, accelerate, do fun things, enjoy.” Boom, the new MASTERS: enjoy!

Order MASTERS Magazine #54 here