Oliver van Herpt | 3D Printed Ceramics

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 of 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 studying graphic design at SintLucas, but to me it felt like a limitation that nowadays, graphic designers do almost everything on their computer. All digital. I also wanted to work with something tangible.’ During his follow-up study at the Design Academy Eindhoven, he continued to explore the combination of digital and analogue printing. He now experiments a lot with a borrowed 3D printer: a drop-method with candlewax 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. ‘It is still like that, although nowadays there are some alternative options.’

"To think up and create new things, that’s what keeps me busy.’"

Oliver van Herpt

No-nonsense mentality of Eindhoven

In 2014, Olivier graduated with a 3D printer for ceramics that he developed himself, and objects that he made with it. ‘It is and remains a tool, the interaction between man and machine makes every object unique, that's what keeps it exciting.’ Van Herpt now travels around the world with his ceramic vases and his printer. The Dutch daily newspaper Volkskrant named him the most talented designer of 2017.

In the course of 2017, he moved into a studio on business park De Hurk. ‘A nice place at a good location, tons of space and with other companies right around the corner. That is what is nice about Eindhoven: you can walk in anywhere with a question and people are always open to cooperation. And there is a no-nonsense mentality. Work hard, don't bluff but make sure you know what you're doing.’

Organic growth

Van Herpt has now optimized the ceramic printer to be produced and marketed in 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 it with others, that’s what I find important.’ 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.