‘In 2009, I read an article about plastic soup – where plastic waste ends up in the ocean trapped by currents. That was the first time I heard about the issue – it fascinated and also scared me a lot. So I started to look near the waters around Rotterdam, and found all kinds of plastic: toys, toothbrushes, Q-tips and lots of bottles. These days you’re more likely to find water bottles, but back then it was mainly bottles of cleaning products. I took those detergent bottles to my studio.’

The idea

‘I was studying product design at art school and doing a fine art minor. We could do whatever we wanted for a project. I started photographing the detergent bottles I’d collected and that’s when I realised they had some kind of aesthetic value that I could use to tell the story of plastic waste. It was interesting to me that people value different materials in different ways, even if they might be used in the exact same shape and colour. That’s the idea I wanted to play around with.’


‘I tried to replicate my source material as closely as possible. The technique I used, and still use today, is porcelain slip casting. I took the bottle, covered one side of it in clay and then poured plaster on top of it. Then I removed the clay and covered the other side with plaster so I could take both sides apart and remove the bottle. At that point I had an inverse of the bottle in solid plaster that I could use as a mould for my liquid porcelain. I added pigment directly to the liquid porcelain so the material was coloured all the way through – that way I could keep a lot of detail I might have lost if I’d coloured using a glaze. Because some of this plastic had been lying around for a long time – sometimes since the sixties and seventies – the colours had degraded to very pale pastels, which I tried to replicate exactly, too. I made about 50 of these bottles and that was my school project.’


‘I started my business a little by accident. I kept the vases I made in my front window and people would ring my doorbell to ask where they could buy them. As they sold, I figured I should make more – so I would take pre-orders and then make them in my school’s workshop. My first few production runs were funded through pre-orders.’

Finding a factory

‘I had visited Jingdezhen, China, for another project and knew materials were much cheaper there as it’s a hub for porcelain. So I decided to move over there and make my vases. I rented a table in a large studio from a friend that I had made during my previous trip there and that’s how the founders of Middle Kingdom, a Chinese porcelain brand with a modern workshop, found me. They were walking around the area, spotted me making my vases and told me they had a factory nearby that I should check out sometime. It turned out that they had a really amazing workshop with lots of light, very good working conditions and were manufacturing beautiful products.’


‘I had to teach the people at Middle Kingdom how to make the bottle vases because I’d developed my own technique. I think I went back to China four or five times before the product was ready to go on the market. They basically handled all the production and costs associated with that and then I just bought from them at a price per piece. Now we’ve been working with them for 12 years and have also added a production partner in Portugal, but we still produce with them.’


‘I’ve always priced my products basically the lowest I can get away with. I sometimes regret it because there’s no margin for an agent, for example, so that you don’t have to do all the sales yourself. But I feel that if more people can afford your product, you can tell your story much more often, which is a good thing.’


‘I did everything myself for a long time – distribution and shipping and making parcels every day. In a way, I think, it’s been good, but some things I should have outsourced much earlier. For example, having my stock in the warehouse instead of at home would have been good. Until two years ago, I was fulfilling all orders myself and then I switched to a fulfilment company.’


‘We have our own web shop, but it’s mostly visited by people that already have us in mind and can’t find the piece they want elsewhere. We prefer to sell to independent retailers and then they can sell it to the final customer. If you go to a bricks-and-mortar store and someone tells you the story behind the product, that gets us closer to our goal – webshops aren’t always as inspiring. We’re in a few stores in New Zealand and Australia, quite a few in the US, and in stores all over Europe.’ 

This article was first published in Courier issue 41, June/July 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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