ONE WEEK ABOUT Designers from Eindhoven
Olivier van Herpt: Experimenting at the intersection of analogue and digital
The intersection of analogue and digital, between the creativity of the craft and the possibilities of the machine. That is the area that fascinates Olivier van Herpt immensely. He makes beautiful ceramic objects, especially vases, with a 3D printer that he has developed himself and is now commercially on the market. But serial production does not really interest him. ‘To think up and create new things, that’s what keeps me busy.’
The video is still online. Olivier van Herpt pours paint into an empty fire extinguisher and brings it back to pressure with the help of a bicycle pump. At the end of the hose we see a long aluminium tube with seven spray nozzles mounted on it, controlled by a panel with electronics. Van Herpt walks past a wall and the text ‘Light years ahead’ appears in large letters. Time Writer was the name of this large, programmable graffiti printer.
Printing with beeswax
‘I was doing vocational education in graphic design at SintLucas, but I felt it as a limitation that in that field you do everything on your computer today. Total digital. I also wanted to work with something tangible.’ During his follow-up study at the Design Academy Eindhoven, he continues to explore the combination of digital and analogue printing. He is experimenting a lot with a borrowed 3D printer: a drop method with wax and printing with beeswax. ‘This was also due to frustration and disappointment that you could only print with plastic in 3D – very restrictive,’ Van Herpt explains. ‘Actually it still is like that, although gradually there are some alternative options.’
In 2014 he graduates with a 3D printer for ceramics that he developed himself and objects that he had made with that. ‘It is and remains a tool, the interaction between man and machine makes every object unique, that keeps it exciting.’ There is no lack of interest. With his vases of ceramics and his printer, Van Herpt now travels around the world, and the daily newspaper Volkskrant called him the most talented designer of 2017.
In the course of 2017, he moves into a studio on the business park De Hurk. ‘A nice place in a good location, with a lot of space and with other companies around the corner. That is nice in Eindhoven: you can walk in everywhere with a question and in principle people are always open to cooperation. And there is a no-nonsense mentality. Work hard, do not bluff, but make sure you know what you are doing.’
Van Herpt has now optimized the ceramic printer to be produced and marketed in a small series. But just as the serial production of ceramics does not really appeal to him, his goal is not to completely throw himself into making and selling as many devices as possible. ‘So far I have been able to finance everything myself. I aim for organic growth. Thinking up and creating new things, developing myself, gaining knowledge and sharing with others, that’s what I find important.’ So he is already working on the next research: 3D silk printing. He does this together with his Italian girlfriend, who graduated as a designer in Milan with this fine textile.
In cooperation with: Eindhoven365
Text: Walter van Hulst
Portrait photos: Rob Stork