The Making Of
Everyday Growing by Juliette Warmenhoven

Juliette Warmenhoven grew up in Holland’s so-called bulb district, near Haarlem, in a small village called Hillegom. Her father is a flower farmer. If it all sounds very quaint, it might have been 20 years ago — but then tulip production went the way of the meat industry thanks to globalization, and farming became a race to create the maximum amount of homogenous bulbs in the shortest amount of time. “My father feels farming is like working in a factory now,” says the Arnhem-based designer. Just as shrink-wrapped steak has been divorced from the killing of the cow, plants are more about the perfection of the end product than the actual growing process. “I believe that when you explain that process to people, they get more feeling out of it,” she says. For Everyday Growing, her graduation project at Arnhem’s ArtEZ school this January, she built a series of small monuments to plants’ humble — and often imperfect — origins.

As a kid, Warmenhoven remembers lovingly gathering and making art out of branches, leaves, and whatever other materials she could find in her backyard. But with Everyday Growing, and an earlier group of ceramic vases chemically coated to look like iridescent insects, she uses conspicuously artificial materials in her explorations of the natural world. There’s a low-tech bonsai incubator molded in liquid plastic and fiberglass, and a working music box that’s cut out of paper, dipped in plastic, and loaded with a tiny sprouting potato that spins as the music plays. “The first idea was to give all the attention to the plant,” she says of her fanciful creations. “But then I wanted to show that culture and nature are equally important.” On the other hand, there’s also a wry reference in there to the plastic foliage which has grown in popularity in Europe in recent years, and which she thoroughly loathes.

Warmenhoven managed to make every part of every object in the Everyday Growing series herself, except for the music box movement, a handmade version of which she’s working on now. When a piece required special knowledge — like how to naturally irrigate the soil in the incubator using water tanks, or how to mold fiberglass — she worked out her own approach just by experimenting. When we initially spotted the project at DMY in Berlin, it was accompanied by a beautiful book of photographs documenting that process; a selection of those images are reprinted here, along with a closer look at how each object aims to change our perceptions of plant life.

JVIncubator

Warmhoven's Incubator "connects the idea of a children's ICU to plants, where the thing inside is so important you’ll do anything to keep it alive." That said, it acknowledges people's laziness with a passive water irrigation system and a glass dome that keeps the air inside pleasantly humid. "Water it once a month and it works by itself," she says.

JVMy Lab

"With my Everyday Growing project, I want to show people how beautiful it is to watch things grow," she explains. "I want them to understand how it works, from the beginning to the end." Accomplishing that required long hours of experimentation in the studio, where she created each object from scratch.

Juliette Warmenhoven 4

She did look for inspiration in found plastic items she picked up off the beach and in the street, such as the ones shown here.

JVMy Lab 2

But everything else she developed on her own. To make the water tanks and other elements of the incubator, for instance, she taught herself how to create silicone molds for liquid plastic and fiberglass. "A lot of products are made this way," she says. "Fiberglass is a high-tech industrial material, but I showed off the beauty of its texture instead."

my lab 3

"I've always been a materials freak," she continues. "Even when I was young, when I saw a material I'd want to touch it or take it home, to use it or to make it into something else."

Juliette Warmenhoven 6

"Now I sometimes make drawings of my ideas, but most of the time I'm working out the shapes or the colors or the forms by hand."

JVDay to Day

After Warmenhoven made the incubator, whose bonsai plant addresses our urge to control nature, she circled back to highlight the very first part of the growing process: germination. On the left is a holding tank where plant cuttings develop roots; the vessel on the right helps seedlings sprout. It uses a water absorption process similar to the incubator, which the designer tested on two cans of water.

JVPotatomusicboxeswarm

Perhaps the most poetic piece in the series is the music box, which plays classical music while twirling a potato around on a pedestal. “It highlights the hidden beauty of the potato, something people never consider," she says. "When it sprouts they’re thinking, ‘Oh it’s rotten, we have to throw it away.’ But I saw so many different amazing forms.”

Potato 1

One such form...

JVPotato

...and another.

Juliette Warmenhoven 3

The music box was also the most challenging object to construct. “The other products someone else could easily produce for me,” she says. “But for the music box it takes awhile even just to make the material itself. At first it’s just paper, and I dip it many times in liquid plastic, adding it layer by layer.”

Juliette Warmenhoven 7

“It’s not a common technique; I had to find out by myself how it works. But by combining paper with plastic it becomes an incredibly strong material.”

Juliette Warmenhoven 5

Natural inspirations from Warmenhoven's lab.

JVPearl cord

The Pearl Cord is a string of brass-wire globes that act like a trellis for climbing ivy. "It’s the same as the Incubator in that it shows how people control nature — you can say where the plant has to grow and how long, and in what shape.”

JVMy story

“This is an inspiration object I made for myself,” says Warmenhoven. “It’s like a poetic installation of elements I have at home. The small bird inside is a Christmas ornament. I made it early on in the project.”

chemicalinsectsgroup

Her Chemical Insect vases — also designed while she was attending the ArtEZ school in Arnhem — were a precursor to Everyday Growing. Made in collaboration with Utrecht's Mobach Ceramic, they feature custom glazes that mimic the coatings of insects in nature.