In our fast, faster, and fastest industrialized and digitized world we’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of handicrafts. Our longing for these goods isn’t about nostalgia or folklore, it’s about recognizing and respecting the way these products are made with natural and raw materials and the time and process that it takes to make them. In these hand-made objects, we see and feel the hands of both the designer and the artisan--how each piece they’ve created is unique—even when those products are a part of a series, each one differs slightly in shape, form, and color. As consumers, we discover via the inspired collaboration between designers and craftspeople that the products they’ve created have a ‘soul’—one that we’ve come to love and respect.
Jan Tichelaar Royal Tichelaar Makkum
The 400 year-old ceramic factory Royal Tichelaar Makkum located in the Northern Province of the Netherlands has been in Jan Tichelaar’s family for thirteen generations. When production costs skyrocketed, sales of its traditional products--handmade tiles and pottery--fell. As a result of lackluster sales, Jan--a man with little affection for conventional marketing practices--took an unusual approach by following his intuition and focusing on the company’s two biggest assets: knowledge and craft. During the late 1990’s this traditional handmade decorative pottery and tile producer started to collaborate with leading contemporary designers. He sold his old stock and replaced it with craft-driven designer items.
By renewing the world of crafts, and instilling a new soul to the world of design and architecture, plus collaborating with designers and architects, Jan was responsible for initiating a new range of products that were made with traditional materials and methods at the factory. This new method proved to be successful. Among the designers who teamed with Jan was ceramicist Hella Jongerius, who takes conventional vases, cups and plates turns them into exciting contemporary products. Jongerius’oddly shaped and coloful ceramics are sold internationally in prestigious design shops like Murray Moss in New York. Architect Brad Cloepfil took the traditional blue and white tiles made in the factory and transformed then into highly developed handcrafted tiles, which he used for the façade of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
The Royal Tichelaar Makkum currently has 600 to700 shareholders, while Jan and his children only own a few shares. Jan’s passion for innovative design and production has put him in the lead in the field of crafted ceramics.
Dutch innovation has successfully made its mark in the world of design. Although consumers continue to purchase large-scale industrial goods, they also desire items that last, have staying power, and that can be customized and personalized.
Personalization and customization are two design trends on the rise. Today, you can design and create your own book with custom digital printing. However, the paper used is generic, and the templates and size of the books are standardized.
For publisher and book designers this is a call for action, paying attention to a book’s touch and feel with the concept to make it one-of-a-kind. With this notion in mind, contemporary book designer Irma Boom makes each book distinctive and special. Her book design for Sheila Hicks was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal for ‘The Most Beautiful Book in the World’ and has been reprinted often. Each copy appears to be unique by its handmade appearance, the rough edges of the paper; the white on white weaving motive, the custom-looking cover and the thick paper used for the flyleaves and pages complete a perfect tome.
Irma not only designs books, but also the packaging materials for Royal Tichelaar Makkum, and she was commissioned by Jan Tichelaar to design Represent—a wonderful example of the collaboration between these two innovators of design and craft. Irma also designed Hella Jongerius’ book: Misfits of a Leading Dutch Designer. The book can be customized by repositioning the special colored shapes that are attached to the cover, allowing for a personalized copy.
While Irma herself ‘hates’ handmade and craft books, her mission in designing a book is to make it unique and beautiful. As a result, Irma makes an industrial product with the look and feel of a one-of-a kind handicraft.
Hellas’ latest project was working with Jan Tichelaar and the craftspeople of Makkum to create The Colored Vases (series 3). Hella enjoys experimenting and marrying the old with the new, and the done with the not yet done. Innovation is a priority. Her last project, ‘Colored Vases,’ is all about color. In her early work, Hella glazed her porcelain vases with industrial car paint, but now she mixes old and new glaze recipes, and discovering exciting effects of color on porcelain. These new techniques bring porcelain glazing to a different level. They create new and thrilling colors that emerge from mixing old mineral glaze recipes, chemical glaze recipes, as well as industrial paint. The outcome of this technique are colors that are reminiscent of the colors of Old Dutch paintings.
For her ceramics, Hella starts with white and ends with white, but in between there are layers of color. An innovator with a passion for imperfection in her products, Hella finds the perfect product in an imperfect one. Through her endless search for the “perfect imperfection” Hella works through several concept designs and through old-fashioned trial and error. In the late 1990s, she developed the B-Set, a porcelain tableware set--cups and plates--where the clay recipe for each product slightly differed. Fired at too high a temperature resulted in plates and cups that varied in shape. For each of her finished pieces Hella signs them with imprint of her thumb, just as Jan Tichelaar did for Royal Tichelaar Makkum.
At Atelier NL, Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk, produced a series of plates and bowls that differ in color and structure at Jan Tichelaar’s factory. Atelier NL researched the history of Dutch ceramics and used clay from different parts of the Netherlands, reproducing the process of Dutch clay goods from hundreds of years ago. Each product is marked with a stamp with the location of where the clay was found, linking consumers directly to the source.
This process is a perfect example of consciously designed products in which Atelier NL surpasses the 20th century design aspects of function, esthetics, decoration, color and form. Instead we are taken along with Jan Tichelaar into the 21st century by using resources that are visible into the final stage of design.
The future of design will be about personalization; products will have the unique feel of a handmade good even if it isn’t handmade at all. These goods embody a soul; they’re made in an environment where quality surpasses quantity. The books of Irma Boom, the colored vases and the B-set of Hella Jongerius, the ceramics Jan Tichelaar produced in the Royal Tichelaar Makkum workshop, and the bowls and plates of Atelier NL are all splendid examples of an inspired and successful collaboration between design and craft.
To watch on Youtube: Hella Jongerius's Special Collectors Artwork: 300 Unique Vases http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPYmQDUpvoM Hella Jongerius and a perfect misfit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kOO0Wo_sCg&feature=related Hella Jongerius: Misfit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjWFBSCow80