Inspired by the wetland landscape of the Dutch Wadden Sea, studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters has created pieces that use production processes linked to the behavior of the tidal mud flats themselves.
Opening tonight at Kavan Ronsey gallery in Brussels, the exhibition Eb (low tide) showcases the duo’s new project Waddenzee (Wadden Sea) a series of porcelain plates and cups, plus delicate textiles.
2006 Graduates from the Design Academy Eindhoven, the designers’ studio is still based in the city. Their work revolves often around nature, history and the environment and their project Waterloop, a series of innovative textiles (also on show at Eb) won the two of them the Doen|Materiaalprijs 2011.
We asked the studio how the Wadden Sea had inspired them?
“The tidal behavior of the sea is comparable to the production of ceramics; it’s a flow of clay and water repeating its process every 12 hours. What we liked about it is that it seems it all happens in the single ebb and flood movement; after every high tide the landscape seems new again. We tried to capture that by having as little steps in the production process as possible. Because most pieces are glazed and finished before they have even placed in the oven for the first time, the biscuit stage (ceramics are mostly baked in two stages) becomes unnecessary. This makes it an eco-friendly production technique as well. But what we might like the most is that we are not the ones in control of what the plate or cup will look like in the end; it’s the water that decides.”
Can you tell us about the Waddenzee series?
“To portray the Wadden Sea, we thought that imitating it could help us find its character. The unique thing about this area is that the tide gives the landscape a complete different appearance. In six hours a complete sea seems to disappear. The landscape goes from water to mud. We tried to imitate this tidal behavior and turn it into a ceramic production technique. The Eb plates have a cobalt glaze in their mould. Every time the liquid porcelain is poured in, some of this glaze attaches to the plate. The first plate that is produced in the mould is darkly glazed, the second one will be a bit lighter, and so on.
“The Modder (mud) cups are inspired by our boots after visiting the Wadden Sea this summer. It’s such a muddy and raw area that it’s impossible to stay clean. This feeling of dirt gave us the idea for the Mud cups. The cups are decorated by coloured porcelain dust made with various oxides. Every time a new cup is made, some powder is added to the mould and some powder attaches to the porcelain with every pour.”
“Walking along the coast and through the mud we found the darker side of sea life: Drifting seaweeds and rotting fish and birds. It is sometimes shocking to see, but also intriguing, it shows the instability of life in the purest way. In the end it all will flow and disappear into the sea again. The aesthetics of instability is what we wanted to show in the Vloed (high tide) plates. The plates have different types of oxides and glazes, such as copper and cobalt. By preparing the glazes on top of the actual plate, the image has washed itself partly away.
“The Silt plates are made by pressing pieces of clay in a powder-decorated mold. By putting pressure on the powdered image in the mould, the image starts to transform and be absorbed by the clay, resulting in a fully-finished plate in one action.”
“We are often inspired by plants and used them as natural material in previous works. This time, for Waddenzee Herbaria, we were intrigued by seaweed that we found in the Wadden Sea. It is beautiful, drifting and flowing through the water. In a way we wanted to catch this moment and bring it home with us, which, of course, is impossible. By using polyester and special pigments we tried to capture the beauty of the weeds floating in the sea in an object.”
We asked Kavan Ronsey (Katrien Rondelez and Ivan-Vincent Massey) about working with the studio.
“We met Guus & Maarten and went in their studio. It was a real "encounter" and a great discovery of their "world". The poetry was there, the ideas, the simplicity and the fact that they work on one theme, push the limits and really explore the field of one idea, this was something we really liked.”
Eb featuring the Waddenzee series, Waterloop and the textile bird project Avifauna by studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters runs until February 10 2012 at Kavan Ronsey, 28 rue Lens, 1050 Brussels.
Images courtesy studio maarten kolk & guus kusters
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