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Love affair with Porcelain

Porcelain alchemist Djim Berger continually tests the boundaries of his experimental material - porcelain fired with polystyrene pearls - by gradually adding new pieces to his 'Lightweight Porcelain' collection.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 10-06-2010

“I have the feeling that although a lot has been accomplished in terms of materials so far, porcelain has been a bit left out; maybe because it is considered too complex or perhaps too precious. The goal of my work is to open the spectrum of porcelain. I experience it, make it take risks, I combine it to find new forms, colours or techniques. I want to help it reveal its true potential; bring porcelain where it has never been before.” Djim Berger

For the newly opened Galerie BSL in Paris, Djim Berger has developed a porcelain bench and new versions of the current stool for his 'Lightweight Porcelain' collection. By continually testing the capacities of the material - porcelain fired with polystyrene pearls - Berger is able to slowly add new pieces to the collection.

During his studies, the Design Academy graduate began by experimenting with - among other things - mixing porcelain together with porcelain pearls: the ratio of 1/3 porcelain to 2/3 polystyrene pearls achieved the perfect balance. After the moulded piece is fired, the pearls disintegrate, revealing an intriguing honeycomb-like structure. "I discovered that it was possible to reduce the weight to volume ratio of porcelain with 60% and thus, create a lightweight variation on porcelain that is stronger and lighter because of the spherical cavities that are left behind by the polystyrene pearls that are burnt away in the firing process," Berger explains. "In this way it becomes possible to construct shapes with a more voluptuous and bigger body, which adds to the visual appearance. After this break through, I decided to create a piece of furniture that could carry the weight of a human body...a stool."

Berger want to develop the project by pushing the material one step further. "Of course this first design is not showing the full capabilities of the material. The next design was already on the shelf before the first was finished. In collaboration with Galerie BSL I decided to make a bench shape. By doing this, the size of the object doubled and in this way the difficulties quadrupled, which is a feature to take into account, when working with this material (shaping, drying, transport, firing). Luckily the prototypes came out fine and needed only a bit of fine-tuning to be ready to make the final pieces." The stool and bench are exclusively produced for Galerie BSL in an edition of ten and eight respectively (with two A.P.) in four different colours.

The Eindhoven-based designer - who was one of the founding members of Atelierdorp - explains his fascination with the material. "I like to develop methods for taking materials in unexpected and inspired directions. When I started working with porcelain in the Design Academy, I discovered a fascinating thing about porcelain; that it had much more possibilities than I thought. It is an ancient material and earns a lot of respect with its history and ways of surviving for centuries without losing the original appearance; the smallest details, the translucency, the colour, the sound, the magic of the process. It is a fantastic material to be able to work with."

And where does 'Lightweight Porcelain' go from here? "What the future design will be? I cannot tell you yet, but it will show one step further in the discovery of the characteristics that define the material."

The opening exhibition at Galerie BSL, which also features work from Nacho Carbonell, runs from 7 May until 24 July 2010.

Main image: Galerie BSL, photography Eric Laignel
Images 1&2: photography Ulysse FreĢchelin
Image 3: photography Jose Fiore
Images 9&10: photography Evert van Moort
All other images courtesy of Djim Berger

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