Tableware glazed with Rotterdam’s dirty air
Worried about the air quality in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Dutch designers Annemarie Piscaer and Iris de Kievith developed a method to turn air pollution into a glaze for tableware, which they call SerVies.
The state of air quality is a growing concern. The major contributors to bad air quality are intensive agriculture, coal plants and traffic. Around the world, millions of people die prematurely because of air pollution. In the Netherlands, people die on average 9 months earlier, while in Rotterdam, the second largest city of the Netherlands, it is estimated that people die 1.5 years too soon.
The word ‘SerVies’ is a play on the Dutch word for tableware (‘servies’) and the Dutch word for dirty (‘vies’). Both Piscaer and De Kievith live and work in Rotterdam, the air quality of which was their inspiration for the project.
The designers make the glaze by first collecting particulate matter. This is done using a cloth and soapy water, wiping surfaces in various areas in the city. The matter can also be collected dry, by scraping it off ridges. In some places, astounding amounts are collected. If collected wet, the particulate matter is dried until it forms a powder. This powder is mixed with transparent glaze, without adding any other (colouring) agents.
Particulate matter consists of various compounds. Of these, it’s mostly metals like copper and iron that give the glaze its colour. The particulate matter can also contain grains of sand, which melt in the oven, turning in a layer of glass. None of these ingredients are new in the making of glazing, but the curious mixture is.
The tableware collection consists of 6 types of pieces, varying from cups to bowls and plates. Each piece is available in 5 colours, based on the amount of air pollution one person breathes in in certain periods of time while living in Rotterdam. In ten years, this amounts to one gram of air pollution.
While one gram of pollution results in a fairly light piece of tableware, Piscaer and De Kievith also glazed cups and plates with the amount someone of air pollution someone breathes in in 25, 45, 65 and 85 years. The latter cup is nearly black.
The aim of the tableware is to challenge people to think about particulate matter in the air. The tableware is used for events that discuss the theme air quality. The designers are currently working on scaling up production, so you can use the air pollution tableware in your own home.
The glaze has been tested by the ceramic research institute TCKI and scientific research centre TNO for its safety, and no toxic compounds make their way through the glaze.
SerVies was nominated for the New Material Award 2018. It is currently on display at Hôtel Droog in Amsterdam, until 2 December.
Photos: Annemarie Piscaer and Iris de Kievith