Research & design

In collaboration with Restaurant Noma (DK) & Esben Kaldahl (DK)

Copenhagen 2020

Photos: Peter Vinther

Natural Material Studio has in collaboration with world-renowned Michelin restaurant Noma researched and developed a new type of clay based on leftover Nordic seashells. The research is entitled Shellware.

On a crisp winter morning in 2020, a meeting took place at Restaurant Noma, in Copenhagen,

Denmark where Bonnie Hvillum, owner of the Natural Material Studio, first shared her idea to make use of the restaurant’s leftover shells from their seafood season.

From here followed a long experimental process of discovering the properties and qualities of the different shell residues. Bonnie discovered that the main part of some shell types, calcium carbonate, could be turned into calcium oxide, which is equivalent to bone ash.

Bone ash in use today typically stems from cattle and is one of the main ingredients in making Bone China, an exclusive, delicate yet extremely strong clay type. Bone china was first developed in the 18th century in Stoke-on-Trent, England. With its long history and cultural roots as an exclusive material, the studio was curious to explore, how they could continue the materials story from a more circular and conceptual standpoint.

Several types of clays and glazes began to emerge during the research phase. From a coral-like look, to clay that doubles as a glaze, many new and interesting expressions were discovered. This work using shells as a base in both clays and glazes holds so much potential – not only technically, but also aesthetically. To explore the materials further, the studio teamed up with Danish ceramist Esben Kaldahl to bring the material further into form and concept.

As part of the visual presentation of the different clay types and documentation of the research, the studio also developed a biodegradable seaweed textile serving as a complementary tablemat or cloth and in turn supporting the materiality of the work.

“The essence of the research work lies in my want to challenge our perception of what materials are and can be. With the concept of eating shellfish from a shellware plate it can help to highlight the importance of integrating sustainability and circular thinking even during something as simple as enjoying a meal.” She explains.

The studio and the ceramist, Esben Kaldahl, aims to continue the research and further develop the conceptual ceramic ware for other restaurant establishments and eventually the private customer market.