What is Atelier NL up to now?

September 2 2016
Mike Roelofs
Mike Roelofs


In 2009 Atelier NL, comprising Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck, was nominated for the Young Designer Award for their project ‘Clay Service’. What has happened since? We catch up briefly with Lonny.

In 2009 you were nominated for the Young Designer Award with the project ‘Clay Service’. The jury said your products were “inviting to look at (transfixing)”. How did the project progress?   


In the two years prior to the nomination we researched farmers’ fields, a major project, to demonstrate the raw materials a field can produce. Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum was very interested and, as a result, we were able to develop the Dutch clay we had dug up into a useable dinner service. When we presented the project in 2009 it had just gone into production at Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum.

To be able to achieve this we explored whether or not it was feasible in the time available to manufacture a dinner service from pure clay from different regions. Ultimately, the Clay Service was carried by various shops and slowly but surely the project was sold around the world.  

Unfortunately, local manufacturing was not that developed in 2009. At the moment it started to blossom Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum had to change tack and stop the manufacture. This is when we took hold of the wheel and determined our own route. We came to the conclusion that we had enough knowledge to manufacture the ceramics ourselves. And so we did just that.

How has your design practice progressed since the nomination?

It is funny to see how Nadine and I have developed. In comparison to at first we now have very clear tasks. Nadine is heavily involved in the setting up of the workshop. I focus more on giving lessons, lectures and workshops. And of course we are both always busy with developing new concepts and ideas. We are not a design studio that shows work every year, but we have a design method with which we can infinitely distil new products from our very broad research. We believe in depth, instead of jumping quickly from one topic to another. Now our focus is on earth, but it is really about the earth’s raw materials. We are fascinated by processes. This is where the infinite possibilities lie for us.

Ruud Balk

You have just completed a successful crowdfunding campaign with the objective of purchasing the church that now accommodates your studio. Congratulations! What’s next?


We realised that we could not afford uncertainty about the location. It was difficult to get a mortgage because it is not about potential and possibilities but money. We have fought hard for this place, and in retrospect it has been worth it. We have made ourselves known.

How can you describe the value of the place without describing it in terms of money? Over the last eight years we have assembled an enormous clay library. What wealth is there in our local environment? What is within our grasp? We mobilised everyone around us to fire 3000 tiles. During Dutch Design Week 2015 we sold these tiles and realised an amount of €79,620. Clay was transformed into money. This allowed us to share and incorporate others in our story. It has been a long road but the church is now ours. The regional newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad published an article about this.(In Dutch)

What are your plans for the future, are you working on new projects?

We are currently setting up the Earth Alchemy Factory. It is a factory in which we link the transfer of knowledge to education, experience and perception. Our intention is to disseminate knowledge but, at the same time, earn money. In addition, following a period of intensive research and experimentation, we have managed to melt ‘wild’ sand from the Zandmotor, an area near The Hague, into unique glass objects. These are the very first glass products from the new series that Atelier NL has made from sand from dunes, beaches, sand flats, deserts, rivers, mountains and quarries. The minerals in the sand create various shades of green and brown.

What is your advice to emerging talent?

I would describe an emerging talent as someone that has discovered their particular talent and can use this in a company or independently and can feel free in this. A course is a tool to understand how you work. Talent dares to put itself and its strengths at the helm. So my advice would be to discover who you are and to be open, so that you can learn your strengths.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Patricia Rehe

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Wouter Kooken

During Dutch Design Week (22-30 October) Atelier NL will show their work at their studio (church) at Hallenweg. For more information, click here.