Last month I joined one of the OER Ceramics workshops hosted by Kirstie van Noort & Lotte de Raadt at NulZes, Eindhoven. It’s a workshop where you learn how to make and color your own porcelain tableware. As a digital creative I was looking for other ways to create instead from behind a screen. Wether it’s with my computer, laptop, phone or camera, there’s always a screen involved. Something that can be quite tiresome if it’s your day to day job. So I started to look for physical inspiring activities, and when I found out about the OER workshops I got super excited right away. I’ve always been interested in ceramics. I love the minimal designs of it, the pure materials and the craftwork that’s involved. So yes, I was really curious to find out how it’s made and the story behind it.
What’s it about
So the workshop is part of their OER project, where Kirstie & Lotte harvested iron ore from different wetlands across Europe. “The project started in 2016 in a small village called Vessem, The Netherlands. Vessem is one of the many groundwater protections areas under the control of Brabant Water. A vulnerable area where the region’s tap water is sourced. The water is extracted from sources of dozens of meters deep, and is about 50 to 200 years old. Most of the oxygen in the water is already disappeared, and metals like manganese and iron are dissolved. In order to make our water from the tap drinkable, it undergoes an extensive process of filtration. One of the residues of this filtration is oxidized iron, in Dutch called “Oer”. This is a solid residual and can be characterized by its deep red colour.”
The workshop is divided into two parts. First you start with a short introduction. Then you will learn how to use a plaster mould and pour your own porcelain cups, bowls and plates. The porcelain clay is pre-made and ready to use, coloured with OER pigments. These pigments forms the base to create 2 cups, 2 bowls and 2 plates. After pouring the clay in the moulds, they’re ready to get in the kiln.
The second part is all about glazing & colouring the other 2 cups, 2 bowls and 2 plates, made from white biscuit fired porcelain. During this part you can get as creative as you want. You’re free to choose your own colors Kirstie & Lotte already developed for you, and mix them up. They will explain some of their simple color techniques like dipping, spray painting or masking. You get time to make some sketches first, but for the real confidents ones you can start right away. Kirstie told me some people already made experimental collages or pinterest boards to use as their inspiration, so yes, just do whatever you like and what feels good!
After the workshop Kirstie & Lotte will carefully glaze and fire the items, ready for shipping or you can pick them up at the studio after a few days.
It was really inspiring to spend the day in their studio, and to hear all the stories behind the OER project from Kirstie (Lotte was abroad for a project of hers). I did not only learn some basic knowledge on how to make and color porcelain, but overall I realised there’s much more than only the product itself. The research part of each collection (Kirstie’s graduation project for her Cornwall collection took 5 years of research!), the way how Kirstie and Lotte collect their materials from the rarest corners in the world, how they manage to turn residual products into something new and beautiful, and how they master the techniques and even develop their own recipes. If you count all of this together, and realise how many hours it takes to create a collection… or even one piece. Wow! Never would’ve thought that. It’s an unique craftsmanship that deserves all of your respect. Next time I sip coffee from my handmade cup, it will remind me of all the hard work, love and passion that have been put in. It will never be an ordinary cup of coffee anymore. And that’s how it should be right. To be more conscious and aware of the products you are using day-to-day.
Find a visual recap I made down below to get an impression of the workshop, including the end results… Kirstie also showed me her workspace / studio upstairs, which is a place she shares with a few other creatives. So expect a short studio sneak peek at the end as well.
Got curious? I would definitely recommend everyone to participate, even if you’re not that skilled at all (like me haha). Just get out of your comfort zone, try something different and step in the world of ceramics. Or, you could gift this experience to someone else as a Christmas treat instead of the usual presents. Great idea right?
The next courses will be held in February and March and there are only a few places left. For more info and to participate visit here. Oh, and don’t forget to follow Kirstie on her adventures, the next one will be in Japan…