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Salone del Mobile 08: Pyramids of Makkum

Royal Tichelaar Makkum asked four designers to re-interpret the 17th century Dutch flower vase. The results are on show for the first time at Salone 08.

By No author / 17-04-2008

Royal Tichelaar Makkum asked four designers to re-interpret the 17th century Dutch flower vase. The results are on show for the first time at Salone 08.

The idea started when Royal Tichelaar Makkum were asked to carry out a restoration project of 17th century flower pyramids for the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. Tichelaar’s craftsmen began by making an exact replica of one of the original pyramids, which subsequently served as starting point for a new interpretation by Hella Jongerius, Jurgen Bey, Studio Job and Alexander van Slobbe.


Royal Tichelaar Makkum is the only company in the world capable of restoring rare pieces of 17th and 18th century Delftware. Flower pyramids are especially considered to be the finest specimen of ceramic art of the period. Only a few of such ca 1.60m tall piled-up vases have survived. These complex, richly embellished pieces of art ooze ostentation. The designs, influenced by Western as well as Oriental art forms, were very fashionable at the time and such pyramids were used to show as great a diversity of flowers as conceivable.

Gallery and museum
The result is an impressive presentation of five artefacts: the traditional replica and the four interpretations, all made in the original Faience technique. Of each flower pyramid, only seven have been made and after the Milan exhibition they will be shown at the ICFF in Murray Moss’ New York gallery. The first series of five has already been acquired by the Zuiderzee Museum of Enkhuizen, the Netherlands.

The designers talk about their work:

Jurgen Bey: 'Buckets used to be made from wood, leather or metal: today plastic reigns. The flower tower is an ode to the collector, in whose hoard of curiosities the ceramic vase has evolved to become the plastic bucket's equivalent.'

Studio Job:
'It appealed to us that the old pyramids had all been shaped from different modules and were entirely hand painted with hectic, bizarre and sometimes seemingly clueless stories, as if in those days the rich were all on opium. The process was intuitive, we made lots of drawings of towers and piles and ended up with this composition, which seems to be anything but a vase. After Job's shaping, Nynke was in charge of the painting, covering the vase in as hectic and chaotic graphics as possible. We love these compositions: happy and horribly close together, just like life itself really'.

Hella Jongerius: In shape as well as decorations, the flower pyramid refers to a long tradition. The entire shape is, from the base to the top, affected by perforations in proliferating density. Despite the material's massive feel this creates an impression of virtual delicacy and even airness. Its ears and straps allow the vase to become a mobile object.'

Alexander van Slobbe: 'Only when I approached the flower pyramid as a body, with feet and a head, did I realise how I could, as a fashion designer, participate in this community. The idea of a body helped me to get it right: I wanted a clear structure, with a base and a top, and I wanted to use various elements from the world of fashion. My vase is in fact a pile of quotations and elements, which call up fantasies of femininity, although of course it can take the odd tulip as well. The first part is a little stool, a reference to Rietveld and Dutch modernism: the last part is a bow that, like a little crown, keeps all the elements together. In between we'll find a classic wash basin, a hand mirror and a mulberry box with a couture dress from Orson+Bordil hidden inside, a series of little perfume bottles, and an enlarged cream jar filled with Makkum clay. My vase is not primarily intended to carry that 17th century symbol of affluence, a tulip; rather it is the carrier of an idea; an outrageously luxurious wrapping of an idea called fashion'.

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