4 July 2014
Kirstie van Noort
Words: Xandra van der Eijk
Photography: Mie Brinkmann
Sectie C is a really nice former industrial area where creatives of all sorts have gathered to work. Huge spaces have been filled with cubicles built by the creatives themselves in order to have a private space in an otherwise largely community based environment.
It results in an eclectic mix of practical and aesthetic architectural structures, works in progress, equipment in all sizes and small showcases of finished projects. On the common table sits a coffeepot by Kirstie van Noort, a test not suitable for sale but a very handsome accessory for lunch and meetings.
Kirstie’s space is one of the cubicles on the ground floor, about 30 square meters big. On the left sits an industrial sink with shelves, on the right side different sorts of equipment. Kirstie explains the machine on the right was one of the first major expenses for her studies at the Design Academy, that she committed to straight after finishing her graduation project. ‘It was clear to me that it was an absolute must have if you are serious about ceramics’, she says. ‘It’s for applying the pigments. Would you like me to take you through the process of how my ceramics is made?
Kirstie walks over to her workbench, that splits the second half of the studio in two. She collects several different parts that combined with a special strap, form a casting mold. ‘I have to cast the porcelain into the mold, wait a bit and then pour it out again. The longer you leave the porcelain in, the thicker the final result will be. My ceramics are quite thin and even, so you can imagine it takes a lot of practice to get the proper result. Some products are made with one mold, some products consist of several pieces so I would need to repeat the process with different molds. And of course, get the same quality in all of them. Every single cup, saucer and coffeepot is handmade.’
‘After the porcelain is cast in and out of the mold, the shape needs to be baked in an oven thats fires up to an extremely high temperature. It’s taken out again when it’s halfway done, because the next step is to color and glaze the product. When that’s finished, the product needs to be put in the oven once more.’ It is time wise impossible to show the entire process of the porcelain shape she has just cast for us as an example, so Kirstie takes an already halfway finished cup to show us whats next. ‘This is where the machine comes in’, she smiles, ‘I put the natural pigments from Cornwall, that are ground and mixed with water, into this airbrush. The product is placed in the machine, on a wheel that I can turn myself. Then I paint.’ Testing the airbrush on the side of the machine, she turns the machine on and starts to very carefully divide an equal layer of pigments on the product. She makes it look so easy! ‘It is the hand hand of the designer that determines the outcome. I could do multiple layers, different colors, use tape, play with the glaze.. It all depends on my mood!’
After her little demonstration it is obvious there is a lot of time, dedication and material going in to producing just a single cup. It makes me wonder about her development. ‘Lots and lots of testing’, she nods, as she walks up to her storage cupboard. ‘I have developed these tiny bowls for testing, to use the minimal amount of material but to get an idea how it would work on a product straight away. That’s also how Collection Cornwall came to life. My initial research was on the industrial area and how I could derive pigments from the waste I found there. I needed basic shapes to test the effect of the pigments. I did not intent to design a matching set of tableware.’
But with the amount of attention Kirstie got for Collection Cornwall, major exhibitions, more than a few articles in important magazines, not to mention the attention over the internet, I am curious what Kirstie’s next step will be. ‘This year is my Collection Cornwall year. Last year I have started new research and of course I intend to develop more new ideas. But my prime focus will be developing the items of Collection Cornwall to an actual set of tableware. I want to go back to Cornwall, do more research, maybe add a new member to the Cornwall Collection family. I want all the lovely people who spoke kind words about my work to be able to enjoy the ceramics at home, in every day life. I feel that will complete the entire circle, put the actual waste to use again and who knows in what amounts. I might be able to change something. That thought motivates me intensely.’