Strategy & Design

Witte Leeuw

Our entry for Rijksstudio Award 2015


A treasure back to life

White Lion is a collection of porcelain plates based on fragments of the original ceramics recovered from the VOC Witte Leeuw ship. The Dutch ship sank in 1613 in a fight with a Portuguese one while trading goods from Asia.

The collection is inspired from the beauty of broken objects. The peculiar aesthetic that is born with every crack that shapes the original object into fragments. There's something fascinating about the way every piece is uniquely and randomly redefined in a moment. It's almost as if an artist created them like this intentionally. The utility of a broken object may be lost, but it gains a new meaning. It tells the story of a particular moment in time – the opening of trade routes from Asia to Europe. It's a story about bravery and exploration. A lot of effort went into bringing this ceramic from China and after a long time recovering it from the shipwreck.

    Scherven uit V.O.C. -schip de 'Witte Leeuw', anoniem, voor 1613


Scherven uit V.O.C.-schip de 'Witte Leeuw', anoniem, voor 1613

The objects found on the Witte Leeuw shipwreck are representative to the rise of delftware. The VOC shipped it in huge quantities and it became a commonplace item in Dutch interiors and later on all over Europe. White Lion collection brings back to life the broken porcelain treasure of the Witte Leeuw. There is a similar belief in Asian culture through the art of kintsugi which treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Fragile yet eternal, this beautiful treasure deserves to regain its lost utility.

Porcelain Plate Collection
Porcelain Plate Profile Detail
Porcelain Plate Bottom Detail

The broken plate stands as a timeless piece of history. It was able to withstand exposure to water and even endure centuries of submersion at the bottom of the sea. Each piece deserves to be shown as it was found, and not “healed” with Photoshop. The white rim is inspired by the growth rings of a tree. It works as a frame for the object by intentionally marking the original shape. This gives the viewer a meditation space. It invites the viewer to participate, to fill in the story. The plate profile is inspired by the shape of the ship’s hull. The box of the collection uses the image that inspired the concept.