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Milan Design Week 2009 Recap: Makkum

by Brian Fichtner
on 29 April 2009

Every year during the Salone del Mobile, the Netherlands' oldest company, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, mounts a quiet exhibition of its latest projects in a humble, sun-drenched space off of Via dell'Orso in the city center. The space is noteworthy because it speaks to Makkum's intent with these unusual projects. Guided by tradition and fueled with an intellectual regard for the ceramic crafts, Makkum's exhibitions are for those willing to slow the frenetic pace of design week and marvel at the continued innovations of mankind's oldest industry.


In a departure from last year's exuberant Pyramids of Makkum, this year saw the company showcasing two rather modest projects that focused on the material quality of ceramics. Atelier NL's project, the Fundamentals of Makkum (top image), is a beautiful investigation into regional specificity in product design. Using clay sourced from several different locations in the Netherlands, the designers worked with Makkum to create a dinner service of plates and bowls. Though each clay would be used for the same molds, each location yielded a unique color and post-firing size due to the mineral content of the clay.

Dick van Hoff, who worked with Makkum on the Work desktop collection several years ago, this year translated his concrete wood burning stove into an elegant, and artful, expression using ceramic tiles (right). Produced in two sizes, I found the green glaze most breathtaking of the four colorways of wood burning stoves shown.

Naturally, as Jan Tichelaar explained, these projects aren't for everyone (when was the last time you saw a wood burning stove in the United States?), but he quickly reasserted his position that his company must engage in these experimental enterprises. With four hundred years of history behind him, one can imagine why.

Check out the slideshow above for installation views.

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