On creating unique ceramics out of sand collected from all over the world

Lonny van Ryswyck talks about using sand from the depleted Theewaterskloof Dam to make the Design Indaba 2018 speakers gift, her process and more.

Dutch designer Lonny van Ryswyck is concerned by the earth’s rapidly diminishing resources. The co-founder of the Netherlands’ Atelier NL design studio, alongside partner Nadine Sterk, the duo work with their surroundings to create tangible objects while drawing attention to the value that lies within local raw materials.

According to Van Ryswyck, nearly 50 million cubic feet of sand goes into construction every year. Though we may believe that seeing the granular material everywhere indicates an abundance, it is the way that the world is utilising the material that worries her. Used in the construction of nearly every product imaginable, she is adamant that, like every non-renewable resource, we need to start seriously re-thinking the way in which we use it, lest we run out.

Following her speaker talk at the 2018 Design Indaba Conference, we took Van Ryswyck to Theewaterskloof Dam near near Villiersdorp in the Western Cape. Near depleted due to drought, the now desert-like, sandy landscape is a jarring visual representation of the Western Cape’s dire water shortage, and presented an interesting backdrop for a conversation with a woman troubled by the earth’s dwindling natural wealth and admittedly obsessed with sand.

“I think playing with sand makes me very calm because I know that I am just a small part of this big world.”

“The world was always so big to me,” she continues, “it was always so complex to understand. It was even hard for me at school to grasp things like geology and history and chemistry and archeology - I didn’t understand it. Now, I’m actually doing it all because it’s all here in these grains of sand.”

A believer in the idea that every earthly element tells a different story, Van Ryswyck is deeply passionate about building a more ecologically mindful future. By encouraging society to take a closer look at the materials that make up their world, she hopes to galvanise a generation into both changing the way they live and seeing even the most mundane with new eyes.

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