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"clay" Tag

My clay date

Friday, February 16, 2018

Clay furniture is a set of eight pieces of furniture presented at the Stedelijk museum : chairs, a bookshelf and a table by dutch designer Maarten Baas.  He describes his pieces as “part of a set design, a decor ” and how he “always go from a story that (he) wants to tell instead of starting with materials.

This aspect of the work, its appearance of a movie prop probably is why I was drawn to it.

The pieces are functional but they also have a pleasing aspect and unconventional colours, crafted in steel and clay – by hand, without using a mold. I enjoy the fact that they are not shy about showing how they were made.

While I went to the museum I had the lecture given by Fiona Candling in the context of the Stadium Generale at Rietveld about how people touch art in museums in mind.

When I stood before this piece I couldn’t resist the urge to feel it. I looked around if anyone was watching and touched the baby highchair. It felt great. If felt like the object wanted it and asked to be touched.




Touching it confirmed and completed the visual aspect of the piece, the human of it that I sometimes miss in design object. It reminded me of the sensual experience of working with clay, somewhere between the realms of childhood and adulthood and between spontaneous and control.

The different pieces were arranged on platforms, seemed to be floating and occupied a whole wall. Somehow, the objects themselves clashed with the the seriousness of their own arrangement. It’s always bizarre to look at furniture in the context of a museum where they’re dissociated from their primary function.

You look at the chair. The chair teases you. You wish you could sit on it. But you’re not allowed. It’s not a piece of furniture anymore, it’s the manifestation of your unmet desire to sit.

My friend Dasha coincidentally also chose to write on this clay furniture. We looked for a place where we could touch it with no shame, as long as we wanted. On Valentine’s day, we were on our way to the Mendini Restaurant in Groningen. Decorated in 2014 by Marteen Baas, containing some of his chairs, lamps & a mirror. But before our lunch date, we visit the Groningen museum attached to the restaurant.

Outside, the textures, colours & shapes of the building clashed. The whole building seems to have been built by artists who didn’t consult each other before merging all the (unmatching) pieces together.

It was in fact designed and completed in 1994 by three different architects, Philippe Starck, Alessandro Mendini, Coop Himmelb(l)au. American artist Frank Stella was also approached for this project but he wanted his structure completely out of Teflon, which was too expensive and he was replaced.

Inside, after the multicolored mosaic covered stairs is the entry to the main show. The bright couches and walls clash with the solemnity of the paintings from the “Romanticism in the North” exhibition.


54942_fullimage_groninger museum_foto erik und petra hesmerg museum


Dasha doesn’t like old paintings. I do. Romantic painters have a dramatic way of depicting the gravity of ultraviolent emotions that I strongly relate to.

I find my date bored, sitting on a bench and recognize Baas’s sketch-like, improvised signature look. The object is long and its legs merge with the visitor’s legs resembling a clay centipede. Remembering how the furniture pieces seemed out of context at the Stedelijk, I’m relieved to see the bench so comfortable and fitting in this mismatching room where, in all its playfulness, it truly belongs.



A little later, in another room we walk past the the Pleyel Smoke piano, one of the artist’s earlier works which is part of his series Smoke Furniture. The instrument was charcoaled with a blow torch, preserved in a clear epoxy resin, which makes it usable again. In contrary to the clay pieces, this one doesn’t fell like it’s inviting you to touch it, it has already been touched- by fire.

Visually, it’s very cinematographic and a little alarming, bringing you somewhere uncanny between the ruins of a abandoned manor and a piano playing a gloomy melody by itself. (for more info read Maud Paul’s research on his smoke furniture )



It’s 4 o’clock, the untranslatable french heure du goûter or time to sit in a room containing 165k worth of chairs made out of clay. I don’t know how often visitors travel specifically in order to touch the furniture of the restaurant but for me, putting all this effort into that built up a lot of suspense and anticipation.

Maybe I expected too much, but I somehow wanted the whole room to be out of clay.

Clay floors, clay walls, clay-clad waiters, clay-like cakes, clay everything.

More than seeing the pieces in flesh and touching them, what was very pleasurable was to sit on them. I had previously only seen them displayed in galleries, elevated to the status of the out of reach art/ design object. Now, returning to their true function the chairs were what they were. They seemed more approachable, straightforward and practical – maybe we could even be friends.

Fitting for the occasion, I ordered a romantic pastry. 



On the way back, on the top floor of a bus driving into the night, I kept thinking about all the chairs I’ve ever sat on without considering them. I don’t mean to break anyone’s hearts. I just didn’t know.

Maybe I should call back and apologize.


Meeting with a shape explorer

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

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.

IMG_8795 IMG_8790

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

Baas boven Baas

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Maarten Baas

Geboren op 19 februari 1978 in Arentberg, Duitsland. Kort daarna verhuisde de familie Baas naar Nederland waar hij in Haamstede, Zeeland  opgroeide.  Het werk waar hij het meest bekend door werd en er ook in 2002 op afstudeerde aan de DAE was de ‘Smoke’ series. Deze serie stoelen, die met een brander werden verbrand en vervolgens met een epoxy behandeld, vloog meteen de wijde wereld in. De Smoke stoelen werden opgenomen in de collectie van Moooi, van Marcel Wanders.

Een ander werk van Baas dat al snel werd opgepikt was de ‘Clay’ series. Deze “kinderachtig” gekleide stoeltjes waren onder andere te zien in het programma Zomergasten maar natuurlijk ook op de grote designbeurzen overal in de wereld zoals de Salone del Mobile in Milaan. De combinatie van een stalen frame en industriele klei zorgen ervoor dat elke stoel, tafel, kast of ventilator een unieke vorm krijgen die geen twee keer voor komt. Dit speelse behoud Baas in zo’n beetje al zijn werken.

In 2009 stal Maarten Baas weer de show op de Salone del Mobile met zijn klokkenserie ‘Real Time’. Klokken gemaakt door middel van een video. Hij gaf de tijd weer door een 12-uur durende video die “real time” de tijd weergaf. Met acteurs heeft hij 12 uur lang de minuten die zij moesten vullen gewerkt om zo een correcte tijd te laten weergeven. Zijn bekendste is de ‘Grandfather Clock’. Dit is een klok met de afmetingen van ongeveer een volwassen persoon, waar ook een persoon in lijkt te staan die de tijd minuut na minuut op het melkglas tekent. De Grandfather clock komt pas echt tot zijn recht zodra je hem in het echt ziet. je krijgt meteen het gevoel dat er echt iemand in zit die de tijd bijhoud.

Andere zijn ‘Analog Digital Clock’ waar ook iemand achter staat die steeds de vlakken opvult en schoonmaakt alwaar een digitale klok ‘slaat’. Ook is er een variant, ‘Sweepers’, waar je van boven 2 mannen een berg zand en vuilnis in de vorm van wijzers rond ziet vegen. De vierde klok in zijn serie is ‘Counting Hours’ (in deze link zie je ook alle klokken in een overview). Hier zie je een man in een klein kantoortje zijn werk doen en tegelijkertijd twee pennen als wijzers rond laat gaan om zodoende de tijd weer te geven.

Ook werd hij in 2009 Designer of the year genoemd in Miami op de Design fair in Miami. Hier liet liet hij een one-of-a-kind werk zien, in opdracht voor de design fair in Miami, genaamd The Shell.

Maarten benadert het ontwerpen zonder voorkennis van, of interesse in vooraf opgelegde beperkingen en vindt zijn drijfveer in het aangaan van nieuwe experimenten. Deze benaderingsmethode werd verder uitgediept voor zijn presentatie tijdens de Salone del Mobile 2005, waar hij zijn ‘Treasure Furniture’, ‘Hey, chair, be a Bookshelf!’, en ‘Flatpack Furniture’ presenteerde, welke  vol verwachting en met luid gejuich werden ontvangen.
In 2009 ontwierp Baas, voor het eerst sinds zijn samenwerking met Moooi in 2003, ongelimiteerde producten voor andere labels. Voor het nieuwe, Italiaanse label Skitsch, ontwikkelde hij het cartoonesk vormgegeven, porseleinen servies ‘The Haphazard Harmony’. En voor het Britse Established & Sons de eetkamerstoel ‘Standard Unique’, een stoel die zodanig is geconstrueerd dat elk geproduceerd stuk een unieke stoel oplevert.

Wat is het geheim van Baas? Voor een groot deel ligt de aantrekkelijkheid van zijn objecten in het feit dat hij het kind in de volwassene weet aan te spreken. Lekker kneden en kleien, af fikken en smelten, frutselen en stapelen. Zijn werk is echter veel meer dan de puberale grap om een designicoon af te branden. Nu het hier allemaal bij elkaar staat, ondanks alle onderlinge verschillen in de series, valt er wel degelijk een lijn in te ontdekken. Het plezier in het maken en knutselen straalt ervan af, evenals de humor. De meubels met hun spichtige pootjes of juist bolle, ronde lichamen, hebben een hoog cartoongehalte. Zo lijkt de serie ‘Sculpt’ gemaakt voor de familie Flintstone en zijn de kasten voor ‘Established’ verwant aan robotjes, die als kleine huisdiertjes de woonkamer bevolken. Het is gek en grappig, maar ook sympathiek en interessant.

Kortom het werk van Maarten Baas bevat een speels gehalte wat ik over het algemeen kan waarderen. Door zijn kijk op de wereld worden interieuren weer wat kindvriendelijker en luchtiger in hun omgang.

Maarten woont en werkt tegenwoordig in de buurt van ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

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