To See the World in a Grain of Sand
Learn more about our collaborative project 'To see the World in a Grain of Sand' where we are a building a library of glass from wild sand.
Since 2015 we have created ten different ZandGlas editions, all made by fusing locally sourced sand collected from different regions in the Netherlands and Europe. We choose locations with a particular geological, historical, and social significance in order to create glass objects that also carry these narratives. The resulting colours and textures of the glass are distinct to the sand’s chemical composition and region of origin. By exploring the potentials of this raw material, we hope to re-establish a sense of place — to literally become grounded by encouraging new dialogues around sand, the environmental implications of its usage patterns, and the earth’s potential to yield incredible beauty from the simplest materials.
"A powerful, thoughtfully produced and beautifully executed project that celebrates imperfection, natural materials and local idiosyncrasies, whilst simultaneously salvaging quickly disappearing knowledge."
The first edition features sand from a special coastal feature in Southern Holland called Zandmotor, or 'Sand Engine,' a huge artificial peninsula created in 2011 to reinforce the Dutch coastline. The Zandmotor was strategically designed to harness sea currents and winds over time in order to evenly distribute a large mass of sand along a stretch of quickly eroding coast. More than just an earthworks feature, Zandmotor is a sand machine designed to create wider beaches and new coastal recreational areas over time. Atelier NL's natural glassware created from the Zandmotor honors the stunning narrative of the Dutch coastline over time and the origins of the Netherlands via the sea, currents, winds, rivers, and the creativity of humankind. For the second edition, in particular, Atelier NL focused on the rust-brown sands of Savelsbos, a geological monument that hails from prehistory. It highlights a particular state forest management property in South Limburg. Visitors to the forest can easily see the natural features above the ground, but the beauty of whatis underneath is not readily visible. The State Forestry service thus provided Atelier NL with several buckets of sand in order to commemorate Limburg’s 150 year anniversary; such a milestone deserves recognition.
There is a mysterious desert in the Netherlands in the province of Brabant where sand dunes roll, creating a magical and quiet landscape amid conifer trees. This third edition originates from the sand of Nationaal Park de Loonse en Drunense Duinen and is called ZandGlas—Brabantse Duinen. It was created especially for Dutch Design Week 2017 in collaboration with Natuurmonumenten. Our fourth ZandGlas edition was made from the sands of the Maasvlakte region in Rotterdam, a massive human-made coastal extension built by sand reclaimed from the floor North Sea. The series was developed in collaboration with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen to mark the ‘Change the System’ exhibition in January 2018. The delicate sandy-green colour of the glass reflects the unique characteristics of the prehistoric sands and tells the story of the longstanding relationship the Dutch share with land and sea. During Oerol Festival 2017, we took our glass laboratory to the island of Terschelling. Together with festival-goers and scientists from the Wadden Academy, they collected sand from all over the island from which we made the first ZandGlas-Waddenservies edition. The Wadden area is particularly special because it is where we began collecting our first stories of sand. It is a truly unique and special place where one can find themselves in a gust of wind or a breathtaking sunset, and we pay tribute to this sense of freedom with ZandGlas—Terschelling.
This special edition of ZandGlas was made for the renowned Belgian lifestyle magazine, SABATO. Collected from the beautiful beaches of Knokke, this edition is the first of the ZandGlas series to be made from Belgian sands, which display a textured sky blue glass - a sign of the unique characteristics and chemical compositions hidden in the local sand. In the summer of 2018, the studio brought their ZandGlas Factory to the festival 'Into the Great Wide Open' in Vlieland. Using a mobile kiln they set up their production on the beach and visitors could watch the mesmerizing process of glassblowing. They also collected sand to make this limited ZandGlas—Vlieland edition at the National Glass Museum.
The unique process of glassblowing from local sands could be compared to that of a dance, and is equally as captivating and beautiful. A rhythm is formed with the molten glass as the glassblower spins the substance on the end of the blowpipe, manipulating it until it is in the perfect shape to be placed into a mold and blown into, thereby creating the form of the final object. Once the mold is released, the glassblower continues to twirl the molded glass on the end of the blowpipe as it cools. The final seal is made with an Atelier NL stamp that indicates the sand’s origin. Once stamped, the glass objects are placed in a cooling kiln, which prevents them from breaking or cracking as the temperature of the material cools and hardens.