Olivier van Herpt is young Dutch designer from Eindhoven, he graduated in 2014 form the Eindhoven design academy. We discovered his work at the “Dream Out Loud” exhibition in the Stedelijk. Both of us were strongly attracted by the 3D world and process in the show. Therefor van Herpt’s work seemed like the most instructing of all regarding his process but also due to the final objects themselves. The other aspect that catches our eye was the combination of brand new technology and crafts, (3D printing/ceramics, weaving). Van Herpt’s work consists in making ceramic shapes (vase looking shapes) with 3d printing machine that he engineered for it. We were therefor even more fascinated not only by the shapes but even more by how he got there. We had the opportunity of meeting him in his studio and ask him more about his work and work process.
The conversation immediately focused on his work process.
It all started when he was still a student at the academy, he was already interested in 3D printing and was taking ceramics as minor. He also mentioned that he had always been interested in the technical part. But was quickly limited by the technical possibilities of the machines at the academy, size wise, material wise and so on. This is when he started thinking about making his own. His approach was also mainly to combine different techniques. He therefor though about a machine that would combine man action and machine made. He wanted to have an interaction with the machine. That combination also takes place in the process of designing the object and making the object. Van Herpt had some help from student friends at the beginning but not from manufacturing industries. He started with a small machine and they got bigger with time. He designed and engineered the machines himself and learned the technical part while in the process of creating them. Also as a designer, unlike an engineer, he already had an idea about what the machine had to look like from the start. That give it a different approach but of course he had to adapt to technical issues and the machine had to adapt on what he wants to make. « It’s a parallel process between the object and the machine. »
After graduation he focused on experimenting with the machine with different techniques all about randomly approach « dripping » with different materials, such as wax, and bee wax. At the time he was experimenting with soft clay by softening it with water but had quickly explored all the possibilities with it so he then decided to focus on ceramics, dive deeper into it and use hard clay for which he had to build a new machine. Again we can see the close relation between the process of making the machine and the object, how one is to the other, and the constant need to develop a machine that is adapted to the material (hard clay).
The second machine he made for the hard clay is basically like a pomp, he described it as an ‘extruder’, the innovative aspect to it is its openness and the possibility to interact with the machine that works with any kind of hard materials : « the machine is really like a tool » that he uses to make objects with. He explained that there were two ways of working with the machine. You can decided to interact with it or not. The most basic shapes are hand made. Some of the shapes are design then put into the computer and then when a machine prints it then it is machine made, or you can shape it yourself on to the machine because the machine is not closed.
This is it’s way of renewing an very old craft (ceramics). It is a human versus machine collaboration. The shapes of the products are all unique you cannot make one twice. Because of the use of clay it is also fast to make and always reusable until you cook it. It is then possible to make a lot of different try-outs and and shaped it until you are satisfied with it. Meaning that there are endless combination of shapes possible to explore. He also sees it only as the beginning and very much as an on going process of experimentation.
«It is only the beginning » as he said « it can be really random but also really controlled » which gives a bigger range of possibilities, also with the use of different colored clay, creating very different kind of shapes. He also told us that he recently started to experiment with new materials such as porcelain.
He is in process of creating a new machine, even bigger, to have the possibly of making bigger shapes and objects. Having the possibility now of collaborating with different fields, which was his idea in combining techniques, he is enthusiast in working not only with designers but also with artists, architects, interior designers and even industries. for example industries ordered his machines for other purposes.
This research project by Daria Nakov and Raphaelle Hugues is based on the "Dreaming Out Load" design exhibition curated by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam