What is your current occupation?
I have my own design studio, Studio Nienke Hoogvliet, where I research new sustainable materials. Currently, I am focusing on a number of materials including seaweed. Seaweed is a fast-growing and sustainable resource that requires no watering and that even cleanses the sea as it grows. All in all, great material. I’m researching how to make textile fibres from seaweed, and also how to use seaweed to dye these same textiles: a circular process. I am also teaching for one day per week at the Materials Department of the Maastricht Academy of Fine Art and Design.
Photo by Hannah Braeken
What expertise did you gain at the WdKA?
The most important lesson I learned at the academy is how to discover and give shape to who you are: learning to formulate an opinion and being able to visualise a concept and form based upon that opinion. Sometimes the best lesson I learned was to not listen (too much) to my tutors, haha! Just follow your own heart.
SEA ME is a rug made of sea algae yarn, knotted by hand in an old fishing net. Capturing the contrast between the polluting plastic waste issues and the beautiful things the sea has to offer. Nienke Hoogvliet draws attention to this rather new material. A yarn made of sea algae could perhaps offer a solution for the sustainability issues in the textile industry. Sea algae grow much faster and need less nutrients than cotton for example.
To capture the duality, Nienke used an old fishing net as the base for the rug. The waste can be reused in this way and have an aesthetic and practical use.
You never leave your house without…? Besides your laptop or smartphone :).
A Thermos bottle with water. I do my best to purchase as little plastic as possible, which of course also means not buying any bottled water. An aluminium Thermos bottle for water is very practical and sustainable.
Tell us about your favourite recent project.
I’ve been working together with the water boards, the government agencies that are responsible for water management and purification. They look at wastewater with a very open attitude: what is it made of, and what does it contain that might be useful? Though the idea may seem disgusting to some people, there are in fact some very interesting materials that can be developed using wastewater (see for example my Waterschatten collection). I think it’s great when a big organisation approaches this issue from an angle like this and is really busy making a difference. An extremely valuable partnership for me.
WATERSCHAT (WATER TREASURES)
The Dutch Water Authorities recover valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater. One of those raw materials is the used toilet paper. Recently the Water Authorities Aa & Maas and Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier installed fine sieve installations, with which they can reclaim used toilet paper (cellulose). To celebrate this sustainable innovation, they invited Nienke to design products with this material. Every year 180.000 tons of toilet paper is flushed down the toilets of the Netherlands. This means 180.000 trees! Before the installation of the fine sieves, this material used to be burned. Re-using this cellulose not only means that we will cut down fewer trees, but it also makes the water-cleaning process require less energy as well. For more information visit www.efgf.nl.
Any words of advice to future students?
Have the courage to formulate and express your own opinion, even if that means sometimes doing something that isn’t quite ‘normal’ or socially acceptable. Seek out your own areas of interest, which in turn will help you define your USPs!
What does the future of your profession look like in your opinion?
Art and science will increasingly depend on each other, and increasingly go hand in hand. As designers, we can actually bring about a change in how humanity relates to our planet. We can be an example to others, by inspiring and encouraging them. Designers who have the courage to assume this responsibility will be indispensable in the future.
Visit Nienke's site to learn more about her products, publications and exhibitions.