B-Set: an ode to the imperfection of craft

21 November 2013

It all started with an experiment at the European Ceramic Work Centre (ECWC) in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, part of a quest for ‘a new language for porcelain’. Hella Jongerius wanted to show that there is more than perfection and mass production. The experiment resulted in the B-Set.

The B-Set is anything but ‘second rate’. This six-part service in subtle shades of colour and elementary forms is still a design product and did not go unnoticed by collectors. Its name refers to one of the important principles in Jongerius’ work: authenticity has priority over perfection. On the basis of this principle, she experiments with new materials and textures and makes connections between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. In her opinion a certain degree of imperfection is part and parcel of traditional methods. Small variations, differences in tactility and visible traces of the maker’s hand make products unique, authentic and enduring.

Emotional ties
By industrial quality standards, products that are not 100% perfect are mercilessly rejected or sold as seconds. According to Hella Jongerius, this perfection of identical products is one of the reasons why we now have hardly any emotional ties with the products we buy and use. Jongerius aims to bridge this gap.

Not an 80-part service of which every part is 100% flawless and identical, but a service whose variety is limited and which is made traditionally. This was Hella’s aim while she was working at the ECWC, as a counterweight to the identical industrial products that alienate us from our surroundings and products. ‘I wanted to make a service that did not owe its character solely to the creativity of the designer, but also to the laws of the production process.’ In the B-Set this wish was entirely fulfilled. Not a single piece is the same. By heating the kiln hotter than usual, the service acquired its characteristic slightly curved shape. Differences in tactility originate from each piece’s position in the kiln.

Creative collaboration
When the concept was complete, Hella Jongerius decided to take it a step further by investigating the extent to which it was still possible to actually put such a service into production in the Netherlands. While on this quest she made the acquaintance of Jan Tichelaar. After some hesitation about allowing his earthenware firm to venture into porcelain, Jan Tichelaar decided to take up the challenge. This signalled the start of an enduring creative collaboration; and of an extremely interesting encounter between the world of modern design and a centuries-old craft tradition. And the likeable B-Set was the proof that these two worlds were well matched.

For the complete B-Set collection, visit our webshop.