Designer interview with
Idwert Petter

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Idwert Petter showcased her graduation project during Dutch Design Week 2022 as part of the graduation show at the Design Academy. Her style caught the attention of Arjan and Anieke. This born and raised Frisian designer has a love for simplicity, and you can see this reflected in her designs, including Foarme, which is now part of the Vij5 collection.

October 2023

Text: Daniëlle van de Haterd(Staaldraad Tekstschrijver)
Photography: Vij5

Idwert's educational journey began with a course in interior design, where she discovered that it didn't suit her to determine what others find beautiful. So, she quickly switched to studying product design at the Willem de Koning Academy. 'I wanted to go to the Design Academy, but I didn't dare to do that right away. Additionally, I also wanted to have some practical knowledge of machines and materials.'

The Design Academy

After completing her education in Rotterdam, Idwert felt a bit more confident. Therefore, she took the leap and applied to her dream school. When she was accepted at the Design Academy, she shaped her path by staying true to herself. 'During my time at the academy, there were quite a few changes in the way directions were being set. At some point, I felt like I was too focused on speculative design. That didn't satisfy me; I prefer to design something that actually gets produced. That's why I switched to applied product design.'

Applied product design

By immersing herself in applied product design, Idwert learned a lot about modern equipment and applications, such as 3d printing, for example. 'I was a little afraid of this kind of things at the beginning, but in the end, I gained a lot from it.'

"I prefer to design something that will actually be produced." 

Idwert Petter

Living and working

Idwert's studio is located in Joure, while she herself lives in Gouda. For now, this arrangement is a conscious choice, but it may not be future-proof. 'My grandfather had a farm. After he stopped farming, a large part of the farm remained empty, an ideal place for my studio. It truly has its charm to be there, but at the same time, I do feel a bit like a recluse in the remote Friesland. I graduated just a year ago, and to build my life as a designer, I find it nice to live a bit more centrally. This won't be the case forever; ultimately, I do have the desire to move to Friesland, but for now, it's just fine this way.'

Unsalvageable material

Already during her time at the academy, Idwert was struck by how much material became unusable. 'I saw how much was being disposed of in large containers. This was especially noticeable at the end of an academic year when the building had to be cleared out.'

Preventing waste through design

Idwert is aware that products that can only be disposed of are unavoidable in a learning environment like the Design Academy and that this also applies to some departments within the industry. However, the seed for the way she now handles raw materials and materials was planted here. 'At the academy, there must be room to explore how materials behave, which inevitably results in unusable leftovers. In my own designs, I try to prevent material wastage from two angles. On one hand, I consider in my design that there is as little waste as possible, and on the other hand, I strive to use the material in such a way that its qualities are maximally highlighted.'

"In my designs, I try to prevent material wastage from two angles."

Idwert Petter

Preventing distortion

A beautiful example of such an application is Foarme. The series consists of coffee cups and a tray. Double-walled, made of porcelain. 'Porcelain is truly beautiful, but it has the disadvantage that it deforms a lot because it's fired at a high temperature. Once baked, it can no longer be recycled. A misfire is therefore unusable. In large factories, you see huge piles of waste products, and I find that truly intense and don't want to be responsible for that on my conscience.'

"In essence, I often feel guilty about material usage. What I use today might not be available to someone else tomorrow."

Idwert Petter

Utilizing strengths, limiting drawbacks

In her design, Idwert took into account how the porcelain behaves. 'In essence, I often feel guilty about material usage. What I use today might not be available to someone else tomorrow. So, I really want to prevent anything from going to waste. The type of porcelain I use is of top quality and truly beautiful, and I absolutely don't want to waste it. In my design, I've leveraged its strengths and minimized the drawbacks, so the risk of failure is very small.'

Double-walled for two reasons

Characteristic of the Foarme series is that all products are double-walled. 'There are two reasons why I chose this. On the one hand it is because it reduces the risk of deformation due to heating, on the other hand I work with a very fine and therefore thin porcelain type which makes it easy to burn your hands on the coffee if there were no insulating intermediate layer.'

Collaboration with Vij5

Idwert is a newcomer in the design world but has chosen to enter into a collaboration right away. The main reason for this is the network that becomes available through it. However, just like with everything else, Idwert wants to stay true to herself. She explicitly chooses to remain personally involved in her products. 'Several companies approached me, but as soon as the conversation turned towards mass production, I dropped out. With Vij5, it was different. Together with Arjan and Anieke, I looked at my design and made small adjustments in terms of size and color. It's still my design, and it will remain so. Every item that goes out the door is handmade by me.'

Reformed became Foarme

Perhaps the most significant adjustment made in collaboration with Vij5 is the name by which Idwert's double-walled coffee service goes. 'Originally I had named it 'Reformed'. That word, for me, captures the essence of my design. But Reformed also has a religious connotation, so to remove that association, we eventually settled on 'Foarme'; which is Frisian for formed.' Idwert is happy with this new name because it not only reflects the design but also says something about her.

The black hole of freedom

When Idwert graduated from the Design Academy, she found it challenging to deal with the 'freedom' that came with it. She describes it as a sort of black hole. 'I thought, okay, now I'm done, and I can start real life, but how? The sky is the limit, and that gave me a kind of error.' In the meantime, things have fallen into place, and Idwert is happy with where she is. Her collaboration with Vij5 has certainly contributed to that.

The future

Logically, there isn't a concrete plan for the future on the menu yet. What Idwert does know is that she will eventually establish both her work and residence in Friesland. When exactly that will happen, time will tell!

Products by Idwert in the Vij5 collection