A Day at Atelier Orange

April 10, 2009

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Koen de Winter, a designer that I had come to know of through my school. I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but Koen has made continuing education a priority in his ceramic studio, Atelier Orange. He doesn’t have a website, (I should do something about that, eh?) but there is some good info on him at this site: DesignAddict.

In any case, this is why I was able to visit Koen de Winter’s very cool three story boutique/studio nestled along the river near Saint Andre Avellin. I had seen his earthenware on another great site, the Canadian Design Resource, and fallen in love with the contrast of colour and material, and the organic, geometric forms. Little did I know I had actually met the designer! And little still did I know that he and his lovely wife Lise would feed me and my colleague lunch. Lucky!¬† Sometimes as a design student you don’t realize what a small world it is.

I’ve wanted to learn slipcasting ever since I took my first pottery class and thought to myself “This isn’t what I wanted to do!” Also because Amy Adams from Perch! is my hero. [Side note – I met her at ICFF and was all starstruck, I’m such a dork.]

Works in Progress at Atelier Orange

While I was there, I took a few photos, but mostly I just absorbed. Koen used to teach at UQAM, and he does like to talk. : ) I think my favourite anecdote was when Koen pointed out that for the same reason there are no books on learning to ride a bike, there are no significant books on slip casting. Its something that, when described, is exceedingly simple, but to get the feel for and to excel at you have to try it, and learn it in your bones.

Taking a little off the top - Koen de Winter making a positive from plaster on the wheel to make a slip casting mold.

Taking a little off the top - Koen de Winter making a positive from plaster on the wheel to make a slip casting mold.

He also had some interesting insights on design education, having been on both ends of the experience. He suggested that all students would be better off if they did at least four courses in some subject of their choosing, thereby making them an expert in one thing, rather than, as designers seem to naturally become, jacks of all trades, masters of none. He suggested it would help with at least differentiating you and getting you that first job. It would have been interesting to do it in such a formal way, but I felt that most people manage to massage their projects into their own particular likes and interests anyway. I know I did!

The finished positive, waiting to get turned into a slip casting mold!

The finished positive, waiting to get turned into a slip casting mold!

So I don’t know how to slipcast yet, but I do want to go back for the rest of the lesson. Its immensely humbling to speak with someone who has been designing products since before you were born, but Koen is in no way pretentious. He was gracious and I felt very honoured to have been able to learn a little of his trade. He was very generous with his time, although his staff buzzing around indicated that he was pretty busy! If anyone is in the Ottawa area, I’d highly suggest at least a visit to the boutique, if not a day in the studio. I would try contacting him via the link I listed earlier. Spread the learning, people! Its glorious.

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