Design in Boijmans Autumn 2010
November 2010

The vase as canvas: a new series of Coloured Vases (series 3)

One of the most recent works in the Hella Jongerius – Misfit exhibition is a group of three hundred vases, Coloured Vases (series 3), which is being shown in Rotterdam for the first time.

Hella Jongerius,Coloured Vases series 3, total, Gerrit Schreurs Fotografie
Hella Jongerius,Coloured Vases series 3, total, Gerrit Schreurs Fotografie

Standing on the gallery floor are three hundred vases, arranged in a variety of colour schemes: this is the new series of Coloured Vases (series 3). This and the two other series of Coloured Vases are the result of experiments in colour using an existing vase as a ‘canvas’. The first two series consisted of forty and forty-two different china vases, partially coated with paint from the industrial colour ranges RAL (2003) and NCS (2007). The third series was made last summer according to traditional methods in close cooperation with the glazing experts at Royal Tichelaar Makkum.

The first two series used industrial paints, but this time Jongerius opted for a combination of a hundred old mineral recipe and a hundred modern chemical glaze formulas. Jongerius calls these the ‘fast-food’ colours of today’s ceramics industry. The mineral formulas contain ingredients like cadmium (red), iron (brown), selenium (yellow), copper (green), cobalt (blue) and manganese (purple). The old and new colours are layered in various patterns so that they start to blend optically—a kind of Pointillism on china. The patterns and blends, coupled with experiments with the firing temperatures, create new colours. They do not look flat like the familiar industrial paints, but are irregular, layered and vibrant like colours in paintings.

Jongerius believes that industry has placed too much emphasis on quantity and standardization in recent decades. Thousands of shades have been created, and all these colours have to look exactly the same in all circumstances. We have lost the quality of colours that have irregularities and consequently generate a more profound experience—colours like those in this series of Coloured Vases (series 3).