A circular tableware made from recycled porcelain
To counter the amount of waste porcelain, Dutch designer Lotte Douwes developed a circular tableware collection in which she reuses ground up porcelain.
One of the characteristics of porcelain is its white translucently. This effect is reached by using kaolin, a pure white clay that is mined in the mountains around Jingdezhen in China. This area has been famous for its fine porcelain for over 2000 years. To mine kaolin, you have to dig deep, through brown layers mixed with iron and layers of grey kaolin. However, in recent decades, the kaolin has become less pure and greyer. Nearly half of porcelain produced is unsellable because its imperfect.
The aim of Douwes’s ongoing research is to develop sustainable and innovative materials. “I want to create an alternative to pure (white) kaolin and use this as a starting point for new designs,” she comments. “Through my designs I want to tell the story about making ceramics and the origin of materials.”
Douwes was shocked to see the porcelain graveyards in Jingdezhen as well as warehouse filled with unsellable “b” and “c” choices. She started working with shards of super white porcelain, containing pure kaolin. The porcelain was ground into a very fine powder and mixed with grey porcelain clay. With 50 per cent super white porcelain powder, Douwes was able to achieve super white clay again, hardly distinguishable from the original super white clay. Additionally, due to the glaze from the shards, the clay received a beautiful shimmering layer. The material is not suitable for slibcasting, so Douwes turned to technologies like 3D printing and injection moulding.
In addition to super white porcelain, Douwes also ground up waste shards of white and grey porcelain, as well as coloured stoneware. She experimented with different grain sizes and various clay types to mix them with. The best recipe results in white tableware with little speckles caused by the waste material.
For her circular tableware collection, Douwes creates full coloured porcelain cups. The waste parts of this production, like funnels, were used to produce the speckled porcelain cups. The colours leave their mark on the white clay, created a while new image, colour and texture.
For the production, Douwes reuses all the waste, but not every clay particle can be used for the same production. Drips left behind on the table are rolled into a clay slab, which is then used to make not tableware, but jewellery. The material, which reminds of marble, contains all colours used that day. The result is always different and unique in colour and patterns.
Additionally, the waste after final firing is ground up to be used for printing.
The circular tableware collection consists of cups and plates in various shapes and sizes. It is possible to collaborate with restaurants and design custom made shapes and colours tableware collections based on this production technique.
Photos: Lotte Douwes