Roos Schneijderberg is one of the most courageous women you will ever meet. She abandoned her successful and lucrative career, took all her life’s savings and created a stunning collection of art and high-end furniture. Under the eyebrow-raising name Gallery of Decoration, or G-O-D, Roos is now ready to conquer the world from her Rotterdam showroom. “If you follow your heart, you have to accept that you will not know where you will be going.”
Roos Schneijderberg sitting on one of her I Don’t Give a Fuck, But I Do Have Style chairs.
One of our mutual friends suggested we meet. My first impression is that everything I see in your showroom is totally overwhelming. It almost feels like you just fell from the sky!
Believe it or not, but my original background is in economic psychology. That might sound odd, but it definitely helped me with what I’m doing now. Economic psychology is about processing information, interpreting signs and subliminal messaging. I built a career in branding strategy, but I also learnt a lot about furniture design through one of my exes. He painstakingly restores rare vintage items and sells them at his gallery. From time to time, I also worked at a high-end women’s fashion shop. I totally loved it. Women used to come from all over the country to be dressed by me. In fact, I’m still a personal shopper to some of them. It all has to do with seeing things that other people don’t.
You mean a sense for esthetics?
Yes, and being able to assess people. I also started to realize, however, that it didn’t necessarily fulfill me. I’m more of a thinker. So many people around me were focusing on their careers. I took the road less traveled and turned my gaze inwards to find out what was going on inside of me. I’d meditate for hours on end. From time to time, I’d encounter something that needed further exploration. That was the point where things would get interesting. My creative process is quite similar. It can be scary at times. Some designers and artists are happy just finishing something. But not me. I’m not easily satisfied. I go on and on until I come up with something that might be too bizarre to execute. I’m going to make a complete fool of myself, I think to myself. Nobody will get it! Either that, or I’m going to ruin everything because things just get too prohibitively expensive. That marble sculpture, the one with the legs, is a prime example. I told the craftsman who helped me make it several times that I wanted things to be thinner. And every time he’d warn me that I could break it. But I don’t mind taking a risk. It’s the same with my paintings. I kept simplifying them to the point where I was afraid people were going to think, what the hell is going on with her? The fear is immense, like a knife in the back. But I have to face it. Sometimes it takes an hour, other times it takes me a few days to get over it.
The Scars Will Be the Treasures marble table
That sounds pretty intense! What is the common thread that runs through your work?
What I want to achieve is an energy flow. I put in elements that create a positive and a negative. If it only has one of the two, nothing happens. You need both extremes for energy to flow. The name Gallery of Decoration – which, of course, GOD is an abbreviation of – came to me in the same way. I want to go beyond thinking in terms of either / or. Our minds constantly categorize things everything we see around us: this is good, that is bad. This is beautiful, that is ugly. If you strive for enlightenment and start seeing things holistically, you realize that they all go together.
Still, you have to admit that the name Gallery of Decoration is…pretty ‘out there’!
It came to my when I was lying in bed one night. Of course, I didn’t know at first whether I could get away with it. But when I told a friend about it the following day, she told me to just go ahead with it. I want my work to touch you, to reach a deeper layer within you. My original background is in branding and so, I knew how to create a brand and convey a philosophy. And I have to admit that I originally didn’t even want people to know the woman behind the brand. I’d rather just show my work. It had to be rebellious, sexy and raw – qualities you often see in art, but rarely in the world of high-end furniture. In that respect, I wanted to be the Saint Laurent of interior design. Just think of a 1,000-euro cashmere sweater with a hole in it and you know what I’m aiming for.
From left to right: Will They Ever Get Together Again (Yang), the I Won’t Bite, I Promise table and Turn Me On.
It’s a huge leap going from ‘I want to design’ to actually producing all this beautiful art and furniture I see here!
You won’t believe the amount of work involved. Everything got started after I had visited a photo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam with a friend. I was driving back home, letting it all sink in and then all of a sudden, I snapped my fingers and said to myself, I am going to do this. I’m going to create my own world and then I’ll finally be able to show everything that is inside of me. And even though I had done everything from branding to fashion to healings as a Reiki master, I had no actual experience designing or creating art myself. I did, however, have a good sense of aesthetics and ten years’ worth of savings. I decided early on that I didn’t want to make any concessions. I rented this empty space at the Van Nelle Fabriek and put in a huge effort into transforming this gallery and realizing all these pieces. It took so much time! That is why I put a sign on the door that said, it takes time to create extraordinary things. I worked non-stop for a year to put together this first collection. I must have driven all my suppliers crazy. Everything was a struggle. I wanted the opening of Gallery of Decoration to coincide with Art Rotterdam, the international exhibition that is held at the Van Nelle Fabriek every February. It was a race against the clock. So many things went wrong. On the night before the opening literally nothing was finished. I remember sitting here looking at a total mess and crying my eyes out. How could I have been so foolish? But I persisted. And here I am. When I look around me now, I know that this is exactly what I want to show the world. All I want, is to reach the bare essence. It can be such a struggle to keep things as simple as possible.
Then why do you want to keep things so simple?
I want purity, not just in my work and in the people around me, but in myself above all. I want to rub off all the dust on the mirror so that you can see clearly. If you reach the core of your being, it can be really powerful. You’re off like a cannon ball – boom! Like nuclear energy. That’s the reason I work so fast. I just do it.
Gallery of Decoration
1 – ARE YOU STILL BROKEN / LA DANAIDE LOVES #METOO
Are You Still Broken / La Danaide Loves #Metoo is inspired by La Danaide, a sculpture once made by Rodin. It tells the story of Hypermnestra, who according to Greek mythology was instructed along with her forty-nine sisters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. Her sisters followed through, except for Hypermnestra, because her husband had honored her wish to remain a virgin. The fact that he had respected her boundaries, saved his life. That is a powerful message in and of itself. The sculpture contains several contradictions. It is a combination of pain and beauty but also of weakness and strength, softness and sharpness. As my version La Danaide lies completely down the drain, she is still wearing a thong. I’ve also placed a mirror shard over her head, so that everyone who looks at it, sees his or her own face. Are You Still Broken / La Danaide Loves #Metoo is the first thing I see when I arrive at the gallery every morning. I look in its mirror as a reminder I’m still here.
2 – TURN ME (ON) / YOU TURNED ME (OFF)
Turn Me (On) is a pair of photos of the legs of a woman wearing these beat up stiletto shoes. The legs look refined, very much unlike the raw concrete floor the woman is lying on. I didn’t retouch anything. That way, you can see all of the cracks. You can turn the photos any way you like, which is one way of looking at them. But of course, there’s also a playful and erotic connotation. After all, you can turn your partner’s legs any way you want during sex. But then in You Turned Me (Off), I was totally done with all that sexual playfulness. I used this really drab-looking paint to underline my message. If you really want to know, I’ve been harassed by men ever since I was a girl. It’s not that I don’t like men, but they often look at me in only one way. And even though I’ve always allowed them to, I felt I was totally through being that cute woman who just plays along.
3 -THE SCARS WILL BE THE TREASURES
The slab of Calacatta Gold marble I have used for this table has a scar in it. Did you know that it is one the most exclusive marbles available? The shape of the tabletop is very irregular. To be honest, I didn’t set out to include a scar in the design. I just loved the pointed shape of this particular slab. It wasn’t until later that I noticed the scar. I asked a goldsmith to custom design a series of stitches to fill it. I must have driven her crazy. The stitches have a very tactile quality to them, which made it very challenging to use 24-carat gold exclusively. It would have been too soft. We decided to combine it with 18-carat gold, which is harder but also has a different color if you’re not careful. I had to think of every tiny detail. After all, everything is energy. I wanted the slab to look as if it floats in mid-air. To give it a heavenly lightness, I designed a base made out of a light blue epoxy resin. It took me ages to decide on just the right hue.
4 – THE BEAST INSIDE NEEDS ITS SPACE
It took me months to find someone who could produce a mirror of this size. Because of its irregular shape, we had to come up not only with a way to hang it on the wall but also to transport it safely. The first version we designed, actually broke during production. I didn’t give up, however. I wanted The Beast Inside Needs Its Space to look fragile without actually being so. When we first hung it, I realized it was too low and so, we had to start all over again. You won’t believe what a nerve-wrecking an experience it was to hang it higher. I’m happy that I did. I wanted it to look as menacing as I could. The Beast Inside Needs Its Space is all about having the courage to face your own imperfections. Accepting them will make you whole. The lines that run over the mirror’s surface were hand engraved. It truly is a one-of-a-kind piece, like every item in this collection. Limiting each piece to an edition of one allows me to create new pieces for my next collection.
5 – COME IN(SIDE) ME
Come In(side) Me has multiple meanings. On the one hand, it is a pink heaven that you can feel free in. I want it to carry you – almost like a womb. But if you remove the (side) me, it also has an orgasmic connotation. When I told a friend about it, he replied: “Oh, you mean an XL vagina?” I’ve kept the letters in the center small and decreased the space between them so that you spend more time looking at the painting and absorbing its color and size. Just surrender to it. I love the energy that exudes from it.
6 – YOU DO KNOW I’M LOOKING DOWN ON YOU, DON’T YOU?
This painting is one of the first things you see when you walk through the door at Gallery of Decoration. I’ve placed its title You Do Know I’m Looking Down on You, Don’t You? above the it to signify that there is an entity – a god, if you will – above all of us. The two black vertical bars on either side of the painting represent the pillars you often find at churches or temples. It’s all meant to make you feel tiny, but not necessarily in a bad way. When you’re young, it can be comforting to know that there is something bigger looking after all of us. But then again, I spoke a man a while ago told me that he thought it was all a little bit too feminist for him – as if women were looking down on him. If you interpret the painting that way, it lays bare your own insecurity. And if you look closely, you’ll see that the black bars don’t have the same width. It’s a deliberate imperfection. I originally wanted to mount the painting, but like it better the way it is now.
7 – WILL THEY EVER GET TOGETHER AGAIN
These two rugs were made from Icelandic sheep skin. As you can see, they fit together perfectly, like yin and yang. It should be interesting to see where they are going to end up. The two halves could stay together, but they could also end up in different spaces. Who knows?
Altogether, I call these items The Hurt Collection. It was my way to process everything I’ve been through. Right now, I feel ready to create new items. I’m not really sure what, because you know what? If you follow your heart, you have to accept that you will not know where you will be going. I’ll just have to wait and find out what is going to happen next. And I’m totally okay with that.