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Nairobi meets Leerdam

Kenyan artists experiment alongside Dutch designers in the workshop Blown to Life currently happening at the National Glass Museum in Leerdam. Here's an update on how it's going.

By Jeanne Tan / 24-03-2010

Beginning 14 March 2010, Kenyan artists and glassblowers arrived in Leerdam to participate in a three week-long glass workshop called Blown to Life.

Dutch designers and glassblowers and also Czech glassblowers were invited to experiment alongside the Kenyans in the Hot Glass Studio of the National Glass Museum. The goal is to create a series of 'Bushglass' prototypes that can be produced on a larger scale back in Kenya with the resultant products aimed for an international audience.

Each day during the three weeks, the Kenyan artists are teamed up with an alternating Dutch designer or artist. With the workshop half way completed, designers including Piet Hein Eek, Dick van Hoff, Pieke Bergmans, Chris Kabel and Richard Hutten already produced curious works. Visitors are welcome to watch the workshops which are complemented by African food, drinks and music. See here for the schedule of designers.

"Only more than a week has passed and we have already a sea of trials, tests, opportunities and of course breakages. As fluid as the material is that they work with, the blowing teams wrestle with the designers' demands," says Arnout Visser who initiated the workshop in collaboration with the National Glass Museum. "A stern mistress, the glass often teaches the participants more than they expect. We are of course open to everything and put nothing down to the impossible, however glass is somewhat less flexible and maintains its rules with an iron fist." Among other techniques, some of the experiments included blowing glass into wet clay moulds and metal frames, pouring glass into a sand-syrup mixture and blowing up glass bottles.

The results will be on display in June as part of one of the seven opening exhibitions of the newly renovated National Glass Museum. Nairobi will also host an exhibition. Blown to Life is initiated by the National Glass Museum and Arnout Visser who has worked with the Kenyan glass studio Kitengela Hot Glass for several years. This project is supported by Arts Collaboratory, Hivos and the DOEN Foundation together with the Mondriaan Foundation.

Kenyan artists: Jimnah Kimani, Elijah Ogira, Gakunju Kaigwa
Kenyan glassblowers: Charles Kyalo, Anselm Croze, John Kaloki
Dutch and Czech glassblowers: Henk Verweij, Marinke van Zandwijk, Marek Effmert, Emil Kovazc.
Dutch Designers/artists: Alphons ter Avest, Simone van Bakel, Simon Barteling, Jurgen Bey & Rianne Makkink, Jan Broekstra, Eibert Draisma, Piet Hein Eek, Bernard Heesen, Dick van Hoff, Richard Hutten, Chris Kabel, Joris Laarman, Pieke Bergmans, Maria Roosen, Josja Schepman, Floris Schoonderbeek, Wieki Somers, Arjanne van der Spek, Berend Strik and Arnout Visser (also guest curator).

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