Eat: Crockery Dishware
- I.D., November/December 2009

If you’re an ecoconscious consumer, the source of your food likely determines whether you’ll put it on your plate. But when’s the last time you considered the origin of your plate?

The Crockery series by Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk of Atelier NL for Royal Tichelaar Makkum makes its provenance plain. These bowls plates and cups are made of clay from six different parts of Holland, and their natural variations of brown, red, and gray reflect the unique soil composition of each region.

“We wanted to show that there are great differences in local identities,” Sterk says. “The plants that are growing, the trees, the animals that can live there – it’s all determined by the kind of soil.”

The project – originally called Drawn from Clay – began as a study in the Netherlands’ Northeast Polder region, at the invitation of van Ryswyck and Sterk’s former professor Jurgen Bey. Once submerged beneath Zuiderzee Sea, the area was drained in the 1940s as part of a national land-reclamation effort, then divided into two thousand 24-acre farms. Over two summers, van Ryswyck and Sterk collected soil samples from 80 farmers. They then ground each sample, added water, and worked the clay into simple, sturdy shapes, leaving them unpainted to show the material’s rustic roots. “If you have iron in the ground, then the clay becomes red when you bake it, and if you have calcium, it becomes yellow,” van Ryswyck explains.

Known for its traditional ceramics, RTM recently began collaborating with designers on a yearly contemporary collection and, true to its roots, was attracted to the local flavor of Drawn from Clay. Working with van Ryswyck and Sterk, RTM chose five new areas of the country to dig for clay. Each piece in the series – now simply called Crockery – is stamped with the name of the city or village that was the clay’s source, the percentage of the mineral that determines its color, and whether that mineral came to Holland by river, sea, ice, or wind. “The story of the clays is the most important part,” van Ryswyck says.