Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Jetske Visser made an impressive splash at this past Dutch Design Week with both her graduation project and also her inclusion in the Invertuals exhibition, “Untouchables”.
For her graduation project, Jetske Visser produced a pink tea set comprising 120 pieces.
Her seemingly unrelated inspiration was the perspective of American Indians viewing Columbus sailing towards shore in an impressive ship. “Imagine what they thought having never seen a ship before,” Visser says. “They had no reference to reflect on.”
That sense of complete unfamiliarity brought her to Alzheimer’s patients and an exploration of what it would feel like to have no accessible memory of every day common objects. “I took a few archetypical pieces,” Visser explains, “Objects that if you and I were to draw them at the same time our images would be more or less the same. A chair, for example.” Visser then took these shapes and transformed them. She cast a tea set from wax. “If you look really closely there are small wrinkles that resembles skin,” she says. She used a pigment to colour the wax a pale pink. When the tea pot is used in a traditional sense, it immediately begins to melt, lose its shape until nothing is left but water. “Like losing a memory, it slowly slips away,” Visser explains.
To better communicate the project as a metaphor, Visser made a short film about Alzheimer’s patients using the tea set as a prop.
Visser’s desire to work with what is usually put away and ignored next led her to soot, a material she explored for the “Untouchables” exhibition held by Invertuals during Dutch Design Week.
“Soot is considered dirty and unhealthy and I wanted to explore its possibilities,” she says.
The idea came to her in a book she was reading about how Chinese people used to make ink from soot. “Apparently they burned hundreds of oil lamps to make enough ink,” she explains. “The more I looked into it, the more I realized that this represented a really important development because they more ink they made, the more that could be written down and the more people could access information.”
And soot itself is fascinating. It is made from carbon (the basic unit of organic life) but considered filthy. 25% of local global warming is caused by soot pollution.
“I thought it was a such an unusual combination because we can’t live with it and we can't live without it,” Visser says.
To translate these ideas into products, Visser started with simple oil lamps. “The more they burn, the darker they get and eventually no light can even get through,” she says. “Again the lamp can't live without the soot, but it can't live with it either.”
Then she took the glass dome off the lamp and used it as a mixing bowl. She added water and immersed pieces of white silk. She left them there for two or three days to create varying intensities of colour. “Because this is a natural pigment, the colour is colourfast and connects easily to the silk,” she says.
The long strips of dyed silk were hung from the ceiling during the “Untouchables” exhibition. It wasn’t at all clear that the colours or patterns were produced from the very soot covered oil lamps perched below. Delicate and nuanced the strips almost looked hand-painted.
Next up for Visser is more experimentation with the same soot process, but using different materials. “Right now I am trying it on ceramics,” she says. “The possibilities are endless.”
See the article here.
Published by Gabrielle Kennedy / 01-12-2011/ www.design.nl
Images: Top main and top two at left Visser's Alzheimer'stea set project. Bottom two by Raw Colour are of her soot project.