It seemed unlikely. A pottery in a church in Eindhoven. But here it was and it is indeed a divine space in which to sympathetically develop well-designed products from natural clay. But not just any clay – this is Dutch clay at Atelier NL.
Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck studied at Eindhoven’s Design Academy, working on projects together and travelling lots. After graduating in 2006 Nadine and Lonny founded Atelier NL. Atelier is French for workshop, and the partnership designs and produces pottery but they also offer masterclasses to educate, inspire and excite visitors. Their work combines geology, chemistry and artistry.
Nadine and Lonny are the potters who have turned a dream into a reality, and in a building that had more to do with heaven than earth. This is a perfectly proportioned space, with the original church’s stained windows giving a nod to its former incarnation. There is a mezzanine floor with steep and precarious stairs, but the visitor will be more interested in the impressive tile-wall.
The wall of tiles doesn’t, however, look like a corner of a contemporary bathroom showroom. These small tablets of clay are made from Dutch soil; they are in natural earth tones, and it looks like there are thousands of them. They are all stamped and hanging on nails to give an indication of the diversity of the soil here in the Netherlands.
Unique plot number
The tile-wall is a collection of clay samples from each farm in the Noordoostpolder region. Nadine and Lonny worked with these farmers for many months in order to make these tiles. Each one represents a particular field and carrying its unique plot number.
These women don’t go out and buy commercial potter’s clay for their tableware, etc – they make it themselves. They have sifted Dutch soil into a fine powder free from impurities. All these powders have different colours, as displayed in all those aforementioned tiles. The powder is mixed with water and kneaded to become clay which can be worked and pressed into moulds. Their pieces are functional, tactile and natural. Yes, they might be described as rustic but that rusticity has its own elegance.
Think for a moment about still-life oil paintings. Their subject matter was so often a display of vegetables on dishes that had just the same qualities as those made here at Atelier NL. They had earth hues and were beautiful in their simplicity. These modern dishes are not for a showcase but for the table – they should be used! One could imagine that chicory served on these dishes might have actually grown in the ground from which the plate was made.
Make paints from soil
And talking of Dutch Masters, Atelier NL has created a palette of almost 300 colours from earth found around the town of Neunen, where Van Gogh lived and worked. The Atelier offers a workshop where one can learn how to make paints directly from soil, using traditional methods which would have been familiar to Van Gogh, his contemporaries and to artists for centuries before.
Atelier NL also produces glassware, but with that same ethos of base ingredients from the land. Their ‘ZandGlas’ line features designer glass tumblers and decanters which are made from fused sand from the coast of Southern Netherlands. Zandmotor, or ‘Sand Engine’, is an artificial peninsula created in 2011 to reinforce that part of the Dutch coastline. It was designed to use sea currents and winds to spread sand along a length of coastline which was fast eroding. This project will also create wider beaches, which will be an asset to the local community and wider tourism.
ZandGlas (or sand-glass) has a pale sea-green hue, unfussy lines and good balance. The tumblers have perfect weight and hand-feel, making this a collection that would grace a formal dinner table but would equally work as vessels at a casual lunch. Once again Atelier NL tells a story.
5615 KG Eindhoven
Phone: 040 – 787 63 91
Art review by Chrissie Walker © 2018