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Drawn From Clay

The geography of the Noordoostpolder region of the Netherlands has been captured in the hand-made clay vessels designed by Atelier NL currently on show at Gallery Libby Sellers in London.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 16-03-2009

Gallery Libby Sellers in London presents the exhibition 'Drawn From Clay' from Dutch design studio Atelier NL, where hand-made clay vessels express the geography of the Noordoostpolder region of the Netherlands.

Libby Sellers explained that it was the research and process-led nature of the project that excited her when she first saw the work of Atelier NL. Sellers met the designers Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk during Dutch Design Week last October, when the duo’s head of department at Design Academy Eindhoven, Dick van Hoff took her to meet them at their studio.

Van Ryswyck and Sterk both graduated from the Design Academy in 2006. One of their graduation projects was ‘Drawn from Clay’, a series of cup and saucers made from clay found in different parts of the Netherlands, with each piece taking on a different colour and texture depending on the area it came from.

"When Jurgen Bey and Rianne Makkink saw the results of this research project, they invited us to come and stay at their farm in the Noordoostpolder region of central Netherlands to continue our project", Van Ryswyck says. "This polder was created only 67 years ago from land reclaimed from the sea. It was designed as a complete agricultural utopia. To create a very functional new agricultural area, the land was divided into systematic plots of in farmland, with each plot (field) being 24 acres in size".

The duo then stayed at the farm for a year gathering material and information and making an archive of the different types of clay/earth found on the fields of the farmers within the polder. "The search for clay/ earth and the digging of it is very time-consuming but gives a bond with the material and with the owner of the land. The farmers are an essential part in the project. They form a source of knowledge about the soil and its history. We visited and had photographed sixty farmers; the photo portraits are by Paul Scala".

"The soil-samples are made into tiles; each one represents a farm field in the area. Together they form a colour scheme of the Noordoostpolder. We discovered that the soil is strongly related to the crops/ vegetables that are grown. In a sandy area they grow mostly bulbs and where there is clay, it’s mostly potatoes and sugarbeet. We decided to make tableware so that the vegetables we eat for dinner are served in vessels made from the soil the vegetables grew in. This resulted in the polder ceramics that we are showing at Gallery Libby Sellers".

Atelier NL see the project evolving on an international scale. "We want to slowly travel and map the globe by exploring its soils and show this visually by baking all the differences in earth, structure and texture. We would love to work more closely with researchers, such as geologists, chemists and archaeologists. They all have a different story to tell because they all use soil in different ways. We want to make objects from different types of soil, not only to show the difference in colour, structure and texture, but also to tell the story of the personality of the landscape, the vegetation that’s growing, the animals living there, the characteristics of the buildings; cultural behavior of today and from the past".

Since June 2008 Atelier NL have been working with Royal Tichelaar Makkum to develop a production range made from different Dutch clay/ soil types. This collection will be launched at the Salone del Mobile in Milan this April.

This exhibition is supported by the Brompton Design District, London and The Mondriaan Foundation.

Drawn From Clay
March 5 to April 3 2009
Gallery Libby Sellers, 29 Thurloe Place, London SW7

Image credits: Paul Scala, Atelier NL


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