At first glance, these Porcelain Bottle Vases in pastel colored bisque seem playful and lighthearted, but in reality, they are part of a series of work by artist Foekje Fleur van Duin that touches on serious issues such as environmental pollution and animal rights.
Inspired by the “plastic soup” floating in the Pacific Ocean, the artist set about collecting plastic detergent bottles on the banks of the Dutch river Maas in her hometown of Rotterdam and commemorating them in durable porcelain—a material that shares plastic’s lack of degradability, making the issue at hand even more clear.
We spoke with Foekje Fleur van Duin to discover more about her process, her inspirations and her current projects.
You hold degrees in both Design and Fine Arts. Can you tell us the ways in which your design and art practices intersect?
In my studio I work more like an artist than a designer. I start with ideas or feelings that I try to express in sketches, materials and colors. This often leads to crazy, colorful, somewhat childish looking objects. On the other hand, I’m a pretty practical person; I want everything to have a use. I enjoy making sculpture, but prefer making a vase—a sculpture with a use. This way the object is more accessible, while it’s still telling the idea that I started with.
Describe the techniques you use when developing the Porcelain Bottle Vases. How do you create such realistic replicas?
The Bottle Vases are modeled after plastic trash found in the Maas, a river in Rotterdam. The vases are made using a very ancient technique that results in exact 3D copies of the plastic trash. The plastic bottle is used to make a 3 piece plaster mould, and then we open the mould and take the plastic bottle out. We put together the plaster mould and fill it with a liquid porcelain slip. Because plaster attracts water from the slip, a thick layer of clay will start to emerge. Then we pour off the other slip, leave it to dry for some time, and take it out of the mould to fire.
Explain the fundamental idea behind your most recent project, the ceramic, metal and wool cutlery.
This is an ongoing piece about women and their relationships to their bodies. As the body is the most crucial part of one’s existence, the fear of it not working or looking well might be quite intense. For this piece, I take all kinds of tools related to this object and remake them in friendly versions, taking away the serious and painful element.
Do you find that people often miss the meaning behind your work, and the plastic detergent bottles in particular? One might take them as simply beautiful vases, and from an aesthetic standpoint, they are, but the actual story behind them is a rather dark one.
Sometimes these vases might at first be thought of as some kind of clever joke, but this is actually good. I want my objects to be aesthetic and I’m not afraid of using color and recognizable shapes. Once someone becomes interested they seek out the story behind the object. I think the message is better delivered this way, especially to people who are not super concerned with the environment.
Any projects currently in development?
Currently I’m working on biodegradable objects. As I want them to be colorful, I’m getting really deep into making paint from natural and plant based materials. If anyone has knowledge about this and wants to share, please contact me!
Select pieces from the Porcelain Bottle series are available for purchase at poketo.com.
Interview by Chantal Chadwick