— Drawn from Clay - Noordoostpolder

Artists have long explored the significance of ‘place’ – as a site of history and identity; as a dynamic process in constant flux; and as a politically charged way to both challenge and contextualise the world. For Atelier NL, the Eindhoven-based design studio of Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk, the place in question was the Noordoostpolder region of central Netherlands.

At the invitation of Jurgen Bey and Rianne Makkink the designers took up residence in the area to better study the social and agricultural nuances of the region. As the Noordoostpolder had been integral to the Dutch land reclamation acts of the twentieth century, carried out in order to improve flood protection and create additional land for agriculture, the area is rich with both historical and geological disparity. Atelier NL’s Drawn From Clay series embodies all these local distinctions as each piece was made from a specific plod of soil taken from each of the different farms they accessed across the 460 square kilometre polder. As Sterk explains, ‘A bucket filled with earth is anonymous, but the stories of the farmer who works the earth lend it its identity.’

The overriding principal behind the series was to keep the symbiosis between object and origin as pure and integral as possible. ‘We wanted to make tableware so that the vegetables prepared for dinner could be served from vessels made from the same soil the vegetables came out of,’ explains Van Ryswyck. The designers simply refined then mixed each individual batch of soil with water to form malleable clays, before cast-moulding each piece at a consistent temperature in order to compare and contrast the resultant differences between colour and texture from the various soils. To further the correlation Atelier NL both devised a systematic ratio system for the size of each piece and stamped each vessel with a geo-code reference to match the plot from whence the soil came.

By rendering visible the close relationship between vegetation and clay and, hence, between origin and identity, the Drawn from Clay series emphasises Atelier NL’s sensitive, respectful and informed approach to design.