Marcii Goosen is something of a creative wonder. Over the years she has been the driving force behind (or involved with) an astounding array of creative endeavours; underpinned by an unquenchable desire for new experiences. “It doesn’t matter where you put me,” she says, “because within days I will be surrounded by people and we’ll be planning some dinner or exhibit or installation… it just happens like magic.” Her current full-time position is as the Creative Director for CLRS&Co, a multidisciplinary design studio which she herself founded in 2011. As such, she spends her days working with a handpicked team whose approach combines craftsmanship, conceptual thinking and most importantly, intuition.
We spoke to Marcii about her upbringing, colourful career journey, natural instinct, collecting things, the curiosities of human behaviour and, of course, what’s next.
Did you grow up in a creative environment, or one where creativity was actively encouraged?
I had the fortunate opportunity of spending most of my childhood years growing up on a farm in the Karoo. Mostly covered in mud, baking mud-cakes, catching tadpoles, walking the mountain paths, picking proteas with my grandmother or stirring cream into butter. I learnt to really feel and understand nature at an early age – nature was my creative environment, my canvas, and I was encouraged to play and explore as much as I wanted to. I was also exposed to trauma; the loss of my father at the age of 6 which I think played a huge role in my creative journey. I was forced to deal with all sorts of emotions at an early age and started to express my feelings through art and music.
Practically, how do you ﬁnd the time or capacity to be involved with so much?
To me it is a natural instinct, a natural reaction to life and part of the reason why I am on this planet. I don’t have control over it. It’s not a job at all, it’s more like a destiny. I always say that it doesn’t matter where you put me because within days I will be surrounded by people and we’ll be planning some creative endeavour or dinner or exhibit or installation… it just happens like magic. I think it must have something to do with my intuition; I naturally love the art of the creative and I am drawn to human behaviour. At CLRS&Co. I have an incredible team. Everyone is handpicked which adds a unique proﬁciency to our studio’s signiﬁcance. We believe in collaboration of creative minds and hard work, and there is always time for pushing boundaries, turning everything upside down, shaking it up and putting it back together again as a new whole.
How did you come to be where you are today? Tell us more about your many creative pursuits – both past and present.
I went to primary school in Cape Town. Then, suddenly we moved to Port Elizabeth, where I was in high school at the height of my experimental stage. I bunked school regularly, watched art ﬁlms and was ready to explode creatively. I then got in touch with the art school and started taking night classes in B&W photography. All of a sudden I was introduced to the art school and all of its departments. I remember crazy sculpture lecturers listening to blues as loud as possible at insane hours of the morning and I ﬁnally felt like I belonged somewhere. I was the youngest in the class but I don’t think it mattered. We did nudes, landscapes, still lifes…we got to develop and print our own photographs and then discuss the concepts and deeper meaning behind each composition. I wanted more.
The next year I enrolled and was naturally accepted, and I started my ﬁrst year at the art school – in the 8 years I spent there it was the Technichon of PE, and then became Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. After developing my eye for composition and light through photography, I was introduced to the moving image and suddenly the concept and narrative played a much bigger role. After that I entered the world of layout, design and branding and the challenge of combining it all in the form of advertising.
After I moved back to Cape Town I started freelancing at Bates 141 in Stellenbosch on probably one of the most amazing brands at one of the most exciting times ever. Lucky Strike! We were paid to come up with activations and craft customer experiences, and our focus was on doing motion graphics and design aspects for campaigns. Budgets were monstrous and nothing was impossible. International bands were brought out to play in the most unconventional venues imaginable and so the story goes. Then I moved from advertising to the fashion industry, where I was an art director for four different labels mostly working on interiors, store design, visual merchandising and rolling out national campaigns and fashion shows. It was exhausting – there was a lot of traveling and it wasn’t really worth the money – but I learned a lot here.
Then came an opportunity to open my own advertising agency with a colleague which lasted four years. By that time I felt stuck in advertising. It made me sick and I realised that I am an artist at heart and that there are many other ways to apply what I know, believe in and am good at to make money. So I did a few non proﬁtable love projects like the you&me&everyoneweknow market + papergirl CAPE TOWN and papergirl BERLIN and some other smaller projects to get my soul back and I was good to go. In other words I had to ﬁnd my balance. I also freelanced, travelled and just tried to ﬁll myself up with inspiration, culture and positive inputs.
CLRS&Co. started its life in 2011 as the result of a pre-existing relationship I had with the The Design Company (TDC&Co.). We now have our own studio space and gallery. Our creative team consists of me as creative director then four art directors, illustrators and interior designers and freelance copywriters, industrial designers and other product designers in various fields. Our team works in harmony to create, challenge and evolve conceptual, visual and spatial identities.
We are a dynamic team of creative minds and unconventional thinkers. We’re conceptual, graphic and spatial specialists. Integrity, respect and intuition moves through our studio on a daily basis. And whilst each individual’s distinct attributes are utilised, we believe that only through collaboration can true creativity flourish. With an approach that combines hands-on craftsmanship, open minds and hard work – we are dedicated in rooting our creative process in highly refined research. The type that requires patience and humility. We want to be at the ultimate core of collaboration when we deliver to clients, therefore we push each other to get the best results.
As someone who comes up with a lot of ideas, do you ever have difficulty deciding which to pursue further?
No, I believe in feeling it with my gut, intuitively. And I usually have an immediate feeling towards a project. I work on projects that speak to me and with people that I feel a connection with. That said, with my CLRS&Co team, we have such an incredible organic and research approach to our projects that it is almost impossible not to like a project. We take it apart, understand the fundamentals, sometimes give meaning to parts that never had meaning, and build from there. Everything must have a heartbeat, a golden thread. There have been times where I’ve said no to clients because it just didn’t feel right and I was glad. Also, I won’t ever do pure advertising again and I am determined not to work on a tobacco or liquor brand again.
It’s to be expected that your days must vary considerably. What moments do you cherish each day?
I love good coffee. A fountain pen and remarkable stationery. Smelling good, body oil and perfume. Waking up to my husband making breakfast. Then having breakfast and a conversation with him before rushing off to work. This is priceless.
I love to go on journeys accompanied by music – this can be in my car or in a chair next to a ﬁre. I dream a lot. Sometimes I’ll wake up with a clear, mapped-out plan in my head. It’s almost like I feed my brain with music, data, visual information and experiences and in my dream/subconscious state everything aligns to produce a map of codes that then becomes an solid idea and I make a project out of it.
Reading, making time to read. That also means making headspace for another narrative, to truly enjoy another journey to the fullest. Breathing and visualisation exercises. Drinking lots of water is always good. Taking a nap with my two cat kids Thomas and Kika. Having dinner at a fine restaurant. Spending time with my parents. Listening to my grandmother telling stories about when they were young.
What are you inﬂuenced and inspired by?
1. I’ve always been hugely inspired by human behaviour, in the sense of almost looking at it from an animal’s point of view. The song ‘Human Behavior’ by Bjork is a nice summary of this feeling. The lyrics go:
“If you ever get close to a human and human behaviour be ready to get confused
there’s deﬁnitely no logic to human behaviour but yet so irresistible
there is no map to human behaviour
they’re terribly moody then all of a sudden turn happy but, oh, to get involved in the exchange of human emotions is ever so satisfying
there’s no map and a compass wouldn’t help at all.”
I’ve always been fascinated in bringing the audience as close as possible into an artwork or installation. The journey and reaction of the viewer must be as close to the actual creative journey as possible – an intimate exchange of the closeness we left behind or what we experienced when we were out there in the wild. This was illustrated in CLRS&Co. in situ #1, where a great focus was placed on the process and research of the project and not just the ﬁnal piece.
2. Africa. This beautiful country we live in and its natural resources and energy is something I will never get enough of and am only starting to personally explore by road. My brother and I recently did a trip to Okavango Delta in Botswana and being surrounded by wild animals in their natural habitat, where you are nothing and they rule their land, was a real spiritual awakening. I was so inspired by the vast, raw and unharmed land the gentle culture I experience there, and I came back with an unknown feeling of contentedness.
3. Autobiographies – an account of a person’s life written by that person. This one is my favourite, it is something so personal that they dare to share with the world. I have read almost all of Susan Sontag’s books, she is so hard on herself sometimes. I think I can relate to that.
4. Biographies – an account of someone’s life written by someone else.
5. Music, and especially movie soundtracks. I love downloading these and traveling with the music, sometimes way before the movie is out. It is so visceral and moving and deﬁnitely helps me with the translation of ideas.
6. The movement of the ocean, the tides and the moon.
7. Iceland, Viking folklore and the ruins. I am a Viking.
To what extent does the space in which you work inﬂuence the ﬁnal outcome?
I love having natural elements around me – bone, stone, botanical, wood, and skin – things that are alive or that once were alive. I am nostalgic and a collector of things…whether they are ideas written in books, travel journals, hair in a jar or specimens from a ﬁeld trip, something will come of it someday. So yes I am hugely inﬂuenced by my environment. I am also driven by energy and a dynamic team, I love brainstorms and research. When we share ideas and bring thoughts together around a table I feel most alive. There is nothing like the dynamic of equal sharing, forgetting your box and just letting go or like we say: turn everything upside down, shake it up and put it back together again as a new whole. I also like going places I’ve never been before. I am not scared of exploring and opening myself to new experiences and places. I constantly surround myself with new people, new mediums, new environments and new spaces.
Would you say that you’re more spontaneous in nature, or do you prefer to plan ahead?
A balance of both. It’s important to have a solid structure in certain areas that may be logistical or ﬁnancial. But with the creative I always try and leave it open ended, so that in the moment there is enough space for the natural, spontaneous and magic to come forward. You can never give it all away, that is what we are all living for.
What characteristics does it take to do what you do?
1. Always follow your gut.
2. Be honest, truthful and humble.
3. Develop at least 10% of yourself as ego. Not 90%. You have to be able to sell.
4. Over promise ONLY if you plan to over deliver.
5. Be a good parent. A strong one who can love and discipline in equal measure.
6. Be a sponge for as much culture (both high and low) as you can ﬁll you mind with. Then forget about it. It will remind you when it’s needed.
7. Create space for people to mess up. Through exploration and experimentation we can create wonderful things.
8. Be able to turn everything upside down, shake it up and put it back together again.
9. Be happy for people not to love you – well at least not all the time. As long as they understand you.
10. Have the ability to listen, think, adapt and propose – at an exceptional pace.
11. Defend the creative. Make sure the brief is what the brief should be – not necessarily what the client tells you it is.
12. Have an opinion. A real one. One that doesn’t rely on nonsense marketing speak. Know your stuﬀ and people will naturally listen.
13. Be responsible for the entire team under you. If you get bad work, it’s because you are doing a bad job.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learnt throughout your career so far?
Life is all about balance. You have to pay the bills but you also have to feed your soul. For me as a creative and for my team it is super super important to make sure that we have a very healthy balance between commercial paying projects and creative “high art” projects where we can push boundaries and expose ourselves to nature and consequence. This in return ﬁlls our souls and rejuvenate our resources to be creative. So it’s a win-win recipe.
If there were absolutely no constraints, where would you go and what would you do?
Pack my Landrover Defender and travel Africa in the form of In Situ projects – without a doubt. That would be my dream.
Who are the creative women who inspire you?
My Mother, Elmarie Goosen, who has always been a huge inspiration in my life.
Bjork inspires me and I also have a huge love for and connection to Iceland, where she’s from.
I was recently quite taken by a woman called Vivian Maier and her story. In short, she was an American street photographer who worked for approximately forty years as a nanny in Chicago. During those years she took more than 150,000 photographs – primarily of people and architecture of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. What is remarkable is that many of her rolls of film remained undeveloped and so her photographs remained unknown until after her death, when her boxes of possessions were auctioned off and bought by a historian and collector, John Maloof. He examined her images and began to post them on the web in 2009, and they have since received much interest and praise. She never saw her own pictures, and now we are enjoying her mastery and she is sleeping. AND HER WORK IS GOOD! It’s not just nanny standard, it is right up there with the masters like Cartier Bresson and Winogrand. She never had a solo exhibition or a book published, and probably never had the chance of developing or printing her own images. This is sad on another level, yet so intimate. She was so patient and she left undeveloped masterpieces behind to be discovered by a stranger and to only see the light of day after her death…wow.
Susan Sontag, who is no stranger – at least not to me. When I ﬁrst read her book ‘On photography’ everything changed for me. That happened in my first year of art school.
Diane Arbus, a photographer of the odd and obscure. There was a photograph by her in my history of photography handbook and ever since then I’ve been intrigued by her work. She only photographed dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers or people whose normality seemed ugly or surreal.
Marianne Brandt, a women who became known for her work at the BAUHAUS. She did brilliant metal work, self-photography, collage and photomontage.
Jane Goodall, a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, she’s best known for her 45-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel
“Is there no way out of the mind?” – Sylvia Plath
What have you been working on recently, and what’s next?
We have just moved into our new studio space, the CLRS&Co House in Paarden Eiland, and we’ll be having our opening soon. We have our own gallery, graphic studio and workshop. This is very exciting for us.
In Situ #2 happened this past weekend in the Cederberg mountains which involved setting up a 10m high inflatable object and documenting this over the course of 4 days and 4 nights.
Club Collage #3 is coming up soon. We are getting together twice a month to simply sit down and make collage artworks. I start with an introduction/inspiration talk for 15 minutes about collage and the history of collage etc. Then we serve drinks and snacks and people make art. Then you stamp, sign and ﬁll in your details, and put what you’ve made in an envelope for archive purposes. Once we have enough artworks we’ll be using these for an exhibition, and we also hope to do a print publication sometime in the future.
Photographs of Marcii and her studio taken by Mareli Esterhuizen.
Selected work and projects:
CLRS&Co In Situ Volume 1: Kalkoennes:
Butcher Boys CI by CLRS&Co:
Butcher Boys, a traditional South African butchery located in the heart of the Highveld, comprising of twin brothers who have perfected the skills of their profession. The resulting corporate identity was designed to compliment an ethos of simple perfection. A wide spectrum of stickers were created to aid product specifications and offerings while the logo was inspired by an American Schwinn bicycle on display in a store that is truly a space of pride for meat lovers.
Marcii and her husband’s wedding stationery designed and illustrated by CLRS&Co influenced by Marcii’s viking and runic spirit of inquiry:
When the time came for our Creative Director Marcii Goosen to tie the knot, we designed her a wedding invite that was as much a reflection of her personality as it was a representation of the spirit of the marriage ceremony. With the wedding date falling on the spring equinox, solar and lunar cycles where used along with intricate fold lines to indicate the days timeline. A map created with hand-made stamps aided the guests in navigating the various locations of ceremonies around the beautiful farm of Kersefontein, located just outside the town of Hopefield in the Western Cape.
To create an accurately place-specific identity for this local deli, we did extensive research in the National Library on the rich history of the Tamboerskloof area. We found stories of cafés at the end of the old tramway where scholars of the underground people’s language, Afrikaans, convened. Their cultural significance perfectly complimented the traditional South African tuisnyverheid. Much of the kitchen fare served at Tamboers Winkel takes inspiration from old tuisnyverheid recipes and so we created an entire dialect based on the pedantic, yet all but specialised, personality type that famously managed these beacons of culinary culture. We used a series of illustrated carving instructions for the store’s rotisserie chickens, a hand-generated typography and an entire corporate identity of stamps, bringing Afrikaans hospitality back into the heart of Cape Town.
Concept and Styling for Browser & Grazer:
Concept, Creative Direction & Styling by Marcii Goosen, photography by Francois Visser: