The Netherlands Eats Off Clay

22 October 2013

Fundamentals of Makkum is in the first place a superb series of crockery. Honest through and through, and agreeably robust. Handmade and of course with an authentic stamp. Apart from this, Fundamentals of Makkum tells a story. Of traditions and identity, tied up with the ground we live off and on which our grandparents left their footprint. Eat off clay. That’s what anyone will want to do once they have seen this crockery.

In this era of industrialisation, is it still possible, in the Netherlands, to develop and produce traditionally-made crockery that will attract the interest of a sizeable public who are keen on authentic earthenware and craftsmanship? By raising this question, Jan Tichelaar sparked off a real quest for origin and identity. A quest for which he and his family company from Makkum are also perfectly cut out.

Back to Makkum
Thanks to this enthralling quest, the art of essential Dutch crockery underwent a remarkable revival in 2009. Let’s call it ‘Back to Makkum’. Together with Atelier NL, Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum developed a unique series of bowls, plates and dishes, made by hand using clay from six different places in the Netherlands. The differences in colour and texture are striking and intriguing. In Fundamentals of Makkum, its makers present us with a map of the country.

With love and concentration
They do this with ‘basic products’. Fundamentals of Makkum is essentially a disarmingly ‘simple pottery table service’. Lonny van Ryswyck van Atelier NL: ‘In this design we did not aim for a new formal idiom; we wanted to give visible form to the way our lives in the Netherlands have over the centuries been linked to the raw material that feeds us: clay. The fact that someone like Jan Tichelaar has given us the opportunity to do this is quite unprecedented. When you see the people at Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum at work with so much love and concentration it is a dream come true. Making moulds, turning, glazing, it’s really terrific. Unique pieces emerge from the kiln, the products of a process that in this day and age can no longer actually survive, if you look at it logically. But it does exist. And that is more than enough reason to convert to Fundamentals of Makkum.’

Fundamentally Dutch crockery
Jan Tichelaar first heard about Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk of Atelier NL through their graduation project, Drawn out of the clay. The ideas this promising design duo had on design and production in relation to local raw materials, customs and skills set Jan Tichelaar on the path to Fundamentals of Makkum. The click was obvious. After all, Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum itself owes its international reputation directly to the clay from its own area. Since 1572, local clay and skills have remained the basic ingredients of the oldest family company in the Netherlands. The chemistry between Tichelaar and Atelier NL, which Lonny characterises as ‘the fusion of several mild forms of madness’, was quick to develop and yielded some fundamentally Dutch crockery.

Go on a quest of your own
To obtain the raw materials for Fundamentals of Makkum, the designers themselves picked up their spades and went out looking. They dug up clay in six places in the Netherlands, from Grijpskerk in the far north to Brunssum in the deep south, and transported it to Makkum. The differences between them are expressed distinctly in the dishes, plates and bowls. Clay with a high proportion of lime, for example, makes for lightly tinted earthenware, while the rich clay from the south gives a more earthy feel. The texture varies too, which gives each item even more character of its own. This means you can play endlessly when putting your table service together; in a search for your local identity or the deeper soul of the ground from which we in the Netherlands live. Take your time. Compile your own map of the region or country. Using Fundamentals of Makkum. See the Atelier NL collections in our webshop.

 

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