An Island of Sand

— Pilot Project on Terschelling

Our pilot project for 'To See a World in a Grain of Sand' took place at the 2017 Oerol festival this past June. This 10 day festival transforms the beautiful island of Terschelling, in Friesland, into a stage for theatre, art, design and music, calling itself "a fun but also serious living lab." We took this sentiment to heart as we embarked on a journey to map the island by turning its own local sand into glass! Through this collaborative process that involved both the local people and festival goers, we created a connection with the island that helped us understand the true meaning of the theme, Sense of Place. From the shore of the Wadden Sea to the shore of the North Sea, we collected sand from beaches, dunes, forest, polder and dikes that yielded a wonderful array of glass that we were able to make on site. 


For one incredible week we lived on the beach, using a converted shipping container as our studio. By transporting a portable kiln from our church in Eindhoven, we were able to conduct research and experimentation on site, as well as host workshops with the local people by transforming the island's clay into ceramic tiles and sand into glass! Every day we would receive submissions from so many people who warmed our hearts with their stories of sand and enthusiasm for our project. We thank all who came out and contributed! Without you, this project would not be possible. 

Over 4000 people visited us throughout the week, many of them sharing their own stories of sand!

Atelier NL on the Oerol map!

The busy studio container on the beach

Interested festival goers take a look inside the container look to see some of the materials brought in by other participants

A festival goer reminisces of his childhood while playing with sand on the beach

Making porcelain pots on the beach

Desirée demonstrates how to process clay dug from the island and turn it into a workable material that will then be made into ceramic tiles

Nadine getting her hands dirty!

Both locals and festival goers and were invited to collect sand from around the island and deliver it to the Atelier NL beach container. The sand was then fired in our kiln at 1500˚C and melted into glass pools in the bottom of handmade porcelain cups. Our goal was to map the island and visualize this particular place through the varying colours hidden in the sand. Terschelling served as a perfect place for the experimentation of this project as its land mass is almost entirely sand and created by both natural and human-made factors. By melting the sand into glass, we can see the different mineral and chemical components of each place, thereby giving us an understanding of the geological history that makes the island what it is today!

Just a few of the sand contributions from locals and festival goers

Cleaning and preparing sand before it goes into the kiln

With our portable kiln we were able to make glass on site!

The first batch of glass samples from the island

A close up image of the Terschelling glass

Each grain of sand is a world in itself. Coming from far away places and formed by various geological activity, it has been transported throughout the world by water, wind and ice over the course of the earth’s history. 

Nadine Sterk with our guest geologists from Waddenacademie, Ernst Lofvers and Mindert de Vries, who helped us in mapping and understanding Terschelling's geological history.

Heading off to dig!

A group of enthusiastic workshop participants observe our guest geologists breaking ground

Numbering and labelling every sample!

A happy group smile for a photo with their sand samples

See you next time, Oerol!