Design︎Material Research

In Presence of Your Absence


ADI Design Museum, Milan (IT)
Looking through an increasingly powerful magnifying glass at the intricate grain of Things, a constellation of people and places in near and far times unravels beneath the surface. Science and instinct mingle with geological conformations, the calluses of maker's hands, and the growing mountains of waste at the borders of cities.

In Presence of Your Absence is an assemblage composed by a translucent porcelain diffuser and industrial elements that invites one to look through the core of the project: a ceramic glaze made by recycling treated asbestos.

The design of the alchemical composition, driven by the desire to make in a regenerative way, is the heart of the object. The design aims to promote circular modes of production and support the research to counter the issues related to asbestos. The asbestos-cement, composing the 70% of the glaze, becomes inert through a low-temperature treatment, which in turn recycles chemical waste. 
The project is the result of a collaboration between the social designer and the Dutch research center Asbetter Holding.

Porcelain, glaze made of treated asbestos, reclaimed steel beam, LED, upcycled perspex tube. 60x60x20 cm.
In Bones We Dwell and For Yours We Wait
Commission for Bruno Baietto
Ceramic Consultancy
Dordrecht’s Museum
Originating as a response to Knekelballet, a painting by Betsy Westendorp-Osieck that depicts puppets created by Henry Van Tussenbroek in 1932, this piece delves into the Dutch puppet master's use of bones and animal remains in his dolls and puppets. Tussenbroek originally intended these creations for children and they were performed by Dutch puppeteers.
    Furthermore, the archaeological department of the Dordrechts Museum houses an extensive collection of animal bones excavated from the surrounding areas of Dordrecht, spanning from the 1400s to the 1600s. The collection predominantly consists of bones from cows, horses, pigs, and deer.
    Drawing a parallel to the puppet master's work and our contemporary preoccupation with human vulnerability, "In Bones We Dwell and For Yours We Wait" presents a collection of porcelain pieces that revive the original recipe for bone china—a type of porcelain traditionally crafted using bone as a key ingredient. Historically associated with luxury and high prices due to its aristocratic properties, bone china has been prized since its creation in England in the mid-18th century for its white, thin, and highly flexible nature, with its components often being of significant value. It typically includes 50% cow bone ash in its composition, which adds strength and gives it the recognizable milky white color.
    In this project, the bone material from the Dordrechts Museum's archaeological archive has been incorporated into the traditional recipe. The archaeological findings are calcined and utilized as a component to produce the porcelain. The result challenges the qualities of the original recipe, questioning the luxury status of a material built on whiteness and stability, and delivers a new porcelain material with a sandy quality and unexpected behavior.
    By transforming forgotten and unused bones into a durable material, this project aims to initiate discussions on the enduring relevance of Tussenbroek's paintings and his exploration of death as a creative impulse. It underscores how, throughout the 20th century, our interaction with the deceased and their remains has remained concealed yet undeniably present, especially in a post-COVID era.
    The resulting pieces, including plates and vases, juxtapose the ambiance of the paintings with objects commonly found in the traditional interiors of bourgeois Europe. This reclamation emphasizes the inevitability of our human mortality, even when obscured by societal norms. The objects that surround us serve as witnesses to our inevitable decay.

Text by Bruno Baietto

Plates, vases and bones, Various sizes, bone china produced from archeological remains of the dordrecht museum, 2023.
Techfellowship -Residency
Rijksakademie (Amsterdam)
The project activates and adapts the ancient raw glazing technique, or “single-firing” process, that applies one firing instead of two or three, reducing the energetic impact of the production.
Raw glazing was a standard before Modernism. Bisque firing became the new standard due to the needs of mass production: easier to glaze and decorate for untrained workers, saving on skilled labour, and to transport within distant working facilities. 
Raw.obj challenges this tradional process by applying it on extremely thin 3D printed vessels. The aim is to manifest the applicability of the single-firing process and the importance of sharing the know-how to develop sustainable making approaches.
The single firing is particularly relevant for small scale design productions and unique artworks to reduce the energetic footprint of the manufacturing process, to perform in a more organic workflow, as well as to achieve diverse and unpredictable results.
Technical supervision: Marianne Peijnenburg
Supported by Rijksakademie of beeldende kunsten, the Gieskes-Strijbis Fund and Rabobank.