For Carly Van Veldhuizen, the path to creating custom site-specific art installations for a living wasn’t linear.
“I’ve got three degrees, none of which have anything to do with that I do now,” she says.
Van Veldhuizen worked first as a wedding planner and then a photo stylist before realizing that design is where her heart is. Her company, Girl Friday, is now eight years old and has produced some of the most impressive event and retail installations in the state. Past clients include Target, the Mall of America and the Minnesota Vikings.
The name Girl Friday comes from a term coined in the 1940s that means both right-hand man and jack of all trades. Van Veldhuizen chose the name because she feels it embodies the company’s goal, which is to make clients feel like they were really heard and understood when they walk into the room.
“A lot of people ask where I get my inspiration from and if I ever feel ‘dry,’” Van Veldhuizen says. “I tell them that if I feel dry, I know that I wasn’t listening to my client and that I need to go back and ask more questions, listen harder and be present.”
After getting to know her clients and walking through more complex installation sites, Van Veldhuizen designs each custom project. She and her team then coordinate the production process from the ordering of materials to the creation and installation of the piece.
In addition to the client’s vision, budget and limitations of the space itself, Van Veldhuizen considers sustainability when selecting materials for an installation. She’s used pingpong balls, coffee filters, straws, forks and paper clips; her incredibly popular balloon designs are made with air rather than helium.
In the past year, Girl Friday has created nearly 200 installations. Van Veldhuizen says the company has had the opportunity to go national, a venture she’s slowly exploring. She believes that continued success ultimately hinges on building the best team possible.
“We are a family. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the team.”