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Lotte Douwes uses waste materials to create translucent porcelain tableware

Designer Lotte Douwes used shards of porcelain that would otherwise have gone to waste to create this range of translucent tableware, which she is presenting at Dutch Design Week 2017.

Douwes, a Design Academy Eindhoven graduate based in Rotterdam, was concerned about the environmental impact of the fine-porcelain industry, so embarked on a research project to alternative explore ways of creating the delicate ceramic.

One of the key characteristics of porcelain is that it is translucent, thanks to the fine white clay powder – called kaolin – that is used to manufacture it.

This powder is exclusively mined in the mountains near Chinese city Jingdezhen. But the global demand for porcelain has had a major impact on this resource, according to Douwes. As a result, the powder has become less pure, and it has become harder to achieve translucency.

The designer travelled to Jingdezhen to explore ways of combatting this problem. She discovered that approximately 50 per cent of all porcelain produced goes to waste, due to imperfections, and decided to find a way of reusing this waste material.

"Transparency is one of the characteristics of porcelain that I want to retain, even if raw materials are becoming less white and translucent," she explained.

" I want to create an alternative to pure white kaolin and use this as a starting point for new designs. And my designs will provide insight into the process from raw material to finished product," she continued.

"I believe it is important to share this story at a time when the origin and impact of a product on our environment is becoming more and more unclear."

At Dutch Design Week, Douwes is showcasing a series of plates and cups, all made using porcelain waste shards. By grinding up these shards, she was able to create a new powder that could be used instead of pure kaolin.

Called Shadows of Light, the products comes in a range of muted shades, but they all boast the translucency of traditional porcelain.

Douwes claims the pieces could easily be developed for wider production.

Shadows of Light is on show as part of the Yksi Expo at Dutch Design Week, which runs from 21 to 29 October 2017. It is one of numerous sustainable projects on show as part of the event, with other examples including a recyclable pavilion and a plastic reuse workshop.

Also at Dutch Design Week, Dezeen has been hosting a series of talks looking at whether design can provide answers to the world's big problems, from terrorism to climate change. All of these talks are available to watch via our Good Design for a Bad World page.