Since our ambassadorship for Dutch Design Week in 2017 and the simultaneous launch of our collaborative project ‘To See A World in a Grain of Sand’, we have received over 600 bottles of sand collected from dunes, quarries, beaches and mines, contributed by people from all over the world. Travelling within each of these bottles are the microscopic minerals that are attached to the grains, each unique to its place of origin. These minerals are not only what determine the color of glass that can be produced but also represent the stories of their provenance.
In the clay & sand samples we have collected from the Netherlands, iron oxide Fe2o3 often proves to be a defining element. More iron means that both ceramics & glass will produce a darker colour once fired at high temperatures; pottery becomes a rich burnt red and glass a deep forest green. Recently Atelier NL presented a reconfiguration of their entire material archive by displaying their ceramic & glass objects from the least to the most ferriferous, creating a fascinating colour spectrum. This was made for the exhibition Soil | Sky | Skin, curated by Angelique Spaninks of MU for Ferrotopia at the Amsterdam NDSM Wharf between august and october 2018, and now will be shown during Dutch Design Week.The most important mineral found in Thailand is tin. We learned this when exploring over 2,000 miles of the country’s coastline, researching beaches, quarries, and mining areas in order to understand their natural resources and current glass production methods. You can find the sands we collected on this trip and the glass samples we made from them at Wall Street as part of their exhibition on Thailand.The sands from South Africa often contain gold and platinum, which come from the mines where these minerals are extracted from deep within the earth. Earlier this year we were invited to Cape Town (ZA) to present a lecture on ‘The Abundance & Scarcity of Sand’ at the Design Indaba Conference. Combined with that we were finally able to fulfill a long term wish by actually exploring some of the thousands of abandoned mines scattered throughout the country and were given a glimpse into the impacts of the mining industry on the ecological and social history of the country. For us, this made the question even more pressing of how we could use the sands from the abandoned mines to represent these significant histories and draw attention to the environmental problems that South Africa faces today. In cooperation with Ravi Naidoo, one of Dutch Design Week’s ambassadors this year, we are currently developing a project to investigate the overburden sands from South Africa’s mines to further determine the possibility of setting up local glass production in an effort to transform waste material into useful, everyday objects. During our trip to South Africa we were also reminded of the interconnected relationship between sand and water when we visited the nearly depleted Theewaterskloof Dam in the Western Cape.This is why we we are eager to host ‘The Embassy of Water’ in our studio for this year’s Dutch Design Week. Anouk van der Poll has curated ideas, products and systems that could help us solve some of the water related problems and challenges the world is currently facing.