At 38, Boris Tellegen, better known as DELTA, is in his Amsterdam studio crafting monolithic art for his personal satisfaction and his clientâ€™s needs. Telegenâ€™s passion rests in yesterdayâ€™s future, â€œI choose my name in the â€˜80â€™s. I choose the name DELTA, because I thought it sounded cool and, at the time, Transformers were on television and rappers were called Captain Rock, Flash and the Ultramagnetic MCs,â€ he says, adding that his vinyl toy, Rader (the Rader toy is limited with 600 produced), is a tribute to yester-decadeâ€™s future.
Today, Telegen wakes up at 6 a.m. to the sound of his infant wanting to be fed. After daddy duty, Telegen becomes DELTA, a name he scribbled furiously on Amsterdam property, in his youth. â€œThe fact that Iâ€™m not 20 or 25, personally, I donâ€™t feel the urge to prove myself anymore as a writer,â€ he says, adding that letters continue to be the base of his creations.
â€œThe fact that Iâ€™m not 20 or 25, personally, I donâ€™t feel the urge to prove myself anymore as a writer.â€
Format: You have several creative attributes â€“ you sculpt, you write graffiti and you illustrate. Please explain how your creative process is different for each medium you tackle.
DELTA: The medium, of course, asks for a different approach, but, right now, I would rather say that I have a couple of themes that I can choose to work with. For example, one of the themes Iâ€™m working with, right now, is what I would call over growth or decay â€“ it is how everything rots away, eventually. Itâ€™s more of an abstract feeling. For instance, for that theme I would take pencil sketches, print them, cut them up and paste them on top of other sketches. By doing that, it adds a certain rawness and randomness that I would not be able to do by only using pencil and paper. Also, right now, Iâ€™m exploring what I call diversions, which is more about patterns and letters, rearranged in a way that is more leveled and trying to divert attention from the word or letters that in there. The other theme is robots that are more of play things, like drawing different robots based on my name or different words. It started off with a homage to the time when I choose my name in the â€˜80s. I choose the name DELTA, because I thought it sounded cool and, at the time, Transformers were on television and rappers were called Captain Rock, Flash and the Ultra Magnetic MCs. The Rader robot is a homage to that time. Next I want to do a Turbo and all those cool sounding words that are kind of cheesy, now.
Format: Your body of work appears to be visually branded and people can identify a Delta piece, regardless of its medium. Do you consciously brand your body of work through your creative process?
DELTA: No, I guess itâ€™s a limitation. But, I think my talent is not very broad, so the only way I can go is deeper. Thatâ€™s probably why itâ€™s recognizable. Itâ€™s not a conscious choice.
Format: As your career grows, your name, Boris Tellegen, becomes acknowledged by the public. How does public acknowledgement affect your ability to write graffiti?
DELTA: It does, but then on the other hand Iâ€™m 38 and the main goal of writing graffiti is gone. The fact that Iâ€™m not 20 or 25, personally, I donâ€™t feel the urge to prove myself anymore as a writer. I still like to do it, occasionally, but itâ€™s not as competitive as it was before. When I was younger, I donâ€™t think people could link my real name with my alias on the Internet. As soon as that was possible, I realize that, although Amsterdam is still a liberal city, one day they might get into it like they do now in New York.
Format: What creative attributes have you transferred from graffiti to your fine art?
DELTA: Itâ€™s very organic. Itâ€™s not like I consciously choose the attributes. Letters are still the base of the stuff Iâ€™m drawing, but theyâ€™re not always important. I have to make boundaries or there will be no control. The over growth and decay theme has a lot to do with graffiti. Graffiti can be seen as the same mold.
â€œNormally, guys want to dress up to impress the girls when they go out, but girls are not going to notice that guys are wearing these nice sneakers that are worth $2000â€¦â€
Format: Your moniker is DELTA, why did you select DELTA for your moniker?
DELTA: I had a couple other names before, but I wanted to choose a new name. I was looking at the Greek alphabet and DELTA is the D in the Greek alphabet. I thought it was fitting to choose a letter of the alphabet for a name in something that has to do with letters.
Format: The Capsule and Rader toys look robotic and alphabet-like â€“ artistic and functional. How do you balance the ambiguity of art with the function of a toy when making vinyl pieces?
DELTA: That has a lot to do with the definition of what is art. I donâ€™t see much of a difference and Iâ€™m not really conscious when Iâ€™m designing or creating. The toy is a product and there are 600 pieces, in total and some other work that I make can be a one of a kind type of thing. I had a big robot made by a carpenter, itâ€™s three feet high and itâ€™s a one of a kind. Itâ€™s just a matter of how you look at it.
Format: Vinyl toy culture has a large following, however, the reason why vinyl toy collectors have an appreciation for vinyl toys remains uncharacterized. In your opinion, what characteristics motivate a vinyl toy collector?
DELTA: Mostly men are doing this, because a lot of men are nerds and have too much money to spend. Itâ€™s a really nerdy thing to do. Maybe itâ€™s nostalgic.
Format: You make custom arcade games that incorporate graffiti and your toy figures, how did you create the concept for your custom arcade game project?
DELTA: Itâ€™s another nostalgic thing. I used to spend a lot of time in arcades, when I was younger, and I wanted to do something with them and, at one point, I was asked to do something for an exhibition and I decided to make a series of arcade games. It was a multiplayer game with five arcade machines and levels with work that I did with an architect. It was a lot of work, but I did the arcade machines with a carpenter and we spent three weeks working on them.
â€œMost of the time Iâ€™m being asked to do something thatâ€™s in line of my personal work. I consider myself really lucky.â€
Format: Youâ€™ve made record sleeves for musicians, most notability for DJ Vadim. If you could choose any client to make their record sleeve, what musician(s) would you choose and, roughly, what kind of illustration would you produce for their record sleeve?
DELTA: Iâ€™m really happy with the sleeves that Iâ€™m doing now. I did a series of sleeves for a small label in Amsterdam and my theory is the smaller the label, the nicer the job, because they give you more freedom to do what you want to do. I was able to do more experimentation that I could use with other pieces of work, later.
Format: You have several clients that demand various results for their business needs, how do you balance your impulse to create with what a client needs for their bottom line?
DELTA: Thatâ€™s, indeed, a balance and trying to figure out whether the brands are sincere with what they want or if they just want it for promotional stuff. Sometimes, of course, if it pays your rent you do it. Most of the time Iâ€™m being asked to do something thatâ€™s in line of my personal work. I consider myself really lucky.
Format: In a recent Format feature, Married To The MOBâ€™s Leah, says that men in the streetwear community are â€œvery feminine,â€ because they troll blogs, take photos of their clothing and lineup outside stores waiting for clothing to be released. What is your opinion on the feminine characteristics that males in the streetwear community have adopted?
DELTA: Iâ€™m not sure those are feminine characteristics. I donâ€™t think a lot of girls â€“ well, I guess girls do take photos of their clothing. Itâ€™s nerd behavior, again. Itâ€™s not about robots or toys, but streetwear and sneakers are very nerdish, actually. Collecting records is the same way. I think a lot of the streetwear interest is not focused to impress girls, but to impress other guys. Normally, guys want to dress up to impress the girls when they go out, but girls are not going to notice that guys are wearing these nice sneakers that are worth $2000 or whatever, but a lot of guys will â€“ itâ€™s clothing to impress other guys, basically.
Format: Do you feel a responsibility for what your creativity produces?
DELTA: Yes, I do. Itâ€™s, actually, something Iâ€™m thinking of a lot. A responsibility in whether I have to make people conscious of what is going in the world, but I find it really hard in my work, because it is abstract. I cannot really put any political messages in my work, although I would love to. But it is something Iâ€™m aware of.