After twenty-six attempts, Olivier van Herpt (1989) finally succeeded in creating an asymmetrical object more than a metre high, formally perfect and 3D-printed from pure porcelain. For three years, Van Herpt retreated to a new studio to gain full control of his material and technique. The result: porcelain crafted like never before. The Kunstmuseum Den Haag is now showing all of Van Herpt’s attempts – and of course the end result – for the first time.
Van Herpt graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2014 with a 3D printer that can print with ready-to-use pottery clay. After receiving a commission from the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in 2016, he developed this technique further to enable printing with porcelain. In the autumn of 2019, he discovered that he could print a porcelain form with a large overhang so thin and light that it did not collapse during the substantial shrinkage in the kiln. For Van Herpt, it was the evidence he needed that it should be possible to produce a large, organic, asymmetrical shape of more than a metre in height.
This is a first in the history of porcelain. Traditionally, most large porcelain objects have been made from clay with a less pure composition. To ensure solidity and because of the method of throwing on a potter’s wheel, ceramicists were restricted to symmetrical, radial forms. Van Herpt was convinced that his new technique would enable him to make a large organic form from pure porcelain, without cracks or deformations, and decided to test his discovery on a larger scale. After successfully creating an example of no less than 1.5 metres in height, things unfortunately went wrong: due to its asymmetrical shape, the object collapsed in the kiln. Instead of adjusting the design, which would have been the easy solution, Van Herpt decided to fine-tune the entire process.