Rockstar designers share the objects that made them

Benjamin Van Oost

(Image credit: Irene Fernandez Arcas)

As a former member of Belgium-based Case Studyo, Benjamin van Oost sculpted and art directed many of the sculptures, 3D objects, spatial installations and art editions released over the years in collaboration with renowned international graphic artists. Today, he works in a multitude of media including sculpting, painting, illustration, clothing and fashion accessories, through his own StudioBamBam. Benjamin also teaches on the Pictoplasma Academy in Berlin, leading hands-on workshops covering the entire production process for limited edition designer toys, art sculptures and multiples.

(Image credit: Benjamin Van Oost)

Wish card and motivational words by Joseph Kosuth 

“Back in 2016 my ex was working in a hotel in Ghent, Belgium and one night she came home with this piece of paper and the following story: apparently the hotel staff were very intrigued about an old man in a wheelchair who was staying in the hotel. But nobody knew for sure who the man was. The hotel staff figured that he was somebody famous and wealthy because he was accompanied by a couple of assistants, and by seeing how people interacted with him they assumed that he was some kind of big shot. 

After discovering that the man was a famous artist, my ex took the opportunity to talk with this man, and told him that I was also an artist. And so it came that he wrote me these few words on a piece of paper:

‘To Benjamin With my best wishes for your work. Remember artists never retire because it’s not a job. Joseph Kosuth. Gent 26.8.2015’

"It’s one of the best presents I ever received, and one of the rare things that I have left from that period and that girl. But most of all, the quote seems to speak to me in a very personal way. I’ve never met this man, but still I have a weird sense that those few words haven’t reached me accidentally. The content of the message is something that I already knew, but having it on paper from J Kosuth almost seemed like a sign to me. The handwriting and the aesthetics of the card also make me think of my own graphic work and calligraphy. These few words are the best, and an everlasting motivational quote that help me in times of doubt."

(Image credit: Benjamin Van Oost)

Limited-edition Tintin rocket

“I bought this sculpture at the age of 12, with my first savings, and the money I received for my solemn communion. I remember I paid 21,500 Belgian Francs – the equivalent of 532 euros back then in 1992. That’s a lot of money for a 12 year old! I went to the shop with the cash, partially in notes, but also with a big bag of coins. It took the girl from the shop half an hour to count it. 

"My classmates and friends couldn’t understand why I had bought a wooden rocket that couldn’t do anything; they all bought their first stereo installations and mountain bikes and stuff like that. For them I must have seemed like a real idiot spending money on that thing. Now, 27 years later, I still have my rocket, and I’m sure none of them still have the stereos or bikes that they bought back then.

"Tintin is a Belgian icon and is one of the cartoons that helped shape my youth. I enjoy this object as much as I did 27 years ago. And if any of my old classmates are reading: the value of the sculpture has more than tripled over the years, and is still increasing steadily among Tintin collectors!”

(Image credit: Benjamin Van Oost)

Collection of matchboxes and sugar cubes 

“After the death of my grandmother a couple of years ago, we had to empty her house. I discovered a cardboard box that contained my dad and my uncle’s childhood collection of sugar cubes and matchboxes from all over the world. They were going to put it by the trash. Luckily, I noticed the box and saved it. It’s huge and wonderful, and has been in my office for some time. It’s a treasure and a gigantic source of inspiration for any graphic designer or artist/collector. I just love it and I often use its graphics, logos and faded colours for inspiration.”

(Image credit: Benjamin Van Oost)

Exhibition catalogues with notes from my grandad

“I was six years old when my grandad took me to visit James Ensor, and the year after he took me to the Expressionism exhibition. These are two moments I’ll never forget and these two visits were decisive for the rest of my life. 

After seeing the Expressionists I knew what I wanted to become in life: a painter. After visiting the exhibitions with him he always bought me the catalogue (the luxury versions that came in a box) and he wrote a few kind words on the first pages of all of them. When I was seven years old he wrote:

‘To Benjamin, the big draftsman and future artist from his grandad 29.01.1987’

He’s been gone for 20 years now, but my grandad was the person who showed me my path in life. I’m thankful for the moments that have shaped the course of my life.”  

This article was originally published in Computer Arts, the world's best-selling design magazine. Buy issue 294 or subscribe.

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Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words have appeared in Computer Arts magazine, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.