Cups made of local clay and cloth made of reed

Dutch designer Iris Veentjer aims to make people consider the ground and how to treat it right. In one project, she uses local clay to make cups that tell a story, and with another she aims to save Dutch peat soil with alternative agriculture, by using reed in the production of cloth.

With her project Bakkie Trots (a play on Dutch slang for a cup of coffee), Veentjer uses clay from different areas and cities in the Netherlands to create cups that tell a story about the place the clay comes from. The clay Veentjer uses is a waste stream of construction works. The pattern on the cups shows the ground layers of the location, which tell us something about the history, the climate, and our way of life in that spot.

The other project, Riet Goed, aims to turn reed (Typha), also called bulrush or cattail, into a useful product. The Netherlands consist for a large part of peatland. To make the soil suitable for agriculture, the water in the soil is removed. However, this leads to subsidence and releases a lot of CO2 which was stored in the peat.

To counter this, Veentjer proposes to use alternative agriculture. Rather than removing the water, the peatland areas could be filled with water so that fibrous crops that thrive in water can be cultivated. One such crop is reed. Veentjer uses this material to see if it can be turned into textile. In November, she presented a tea towel made of reed fibres as a proof-of-concept, a feat not achieved earlier. Reed turned out to be an excellent material for the purpose of a tea towel, as the fibres absorb a lot of water, actually becoming stronger when they do, and have similar qualities to cotton and linen.

The main challenge lies in harvesting the fibre. Veentjer used various methods, including a chemical process. Mechanically harvesting the fibres, however, gave a better result. After harvesting, the fibres were spun and then woven into a cloth. Veentjer aims to scale up next year so she can develop the concept towel into a commercial product. Currently, you can support her crowdfunding project (link in Dutch) to develop a machine to harvest the fibres more easily.

Both projects aim to tell a positive story with a product that is both good for people and good for nature.

Photos: Iris Veentjer