Objects of Love


Sebastiaan Straatsma redefines the contemporary decorative vase.

By Tamara Warren

Sebastiaan Straatsma was lovesick. The Dutch artist had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and he was suffering. So he decided to embark on a new series of works. “Instead of keeping it all inside of me, I started making a vase,” he says. “That is what I do.”

Straatsma has made dozens of decorative vases, which he calls Dustcollectors. Contemporary takes on classic pieces, they are inspired by the archetypal shape and symbolism of traditional Delft blue pottery and ancient Chinese vases. Using a syringe, he applies multiple layers of his own special epoxy resin formula onto the surface of the vase in varying thicknesses, devoting considerable time to perfecting color combinations before he begins. The process is arduous, precise, and time consuming. The results are vivid, playful pictorial representations. Straatsma at work © Stefanie Grätz

According to Straatsma, “A lot of people feel an immediate connection to the Dutch or Asian traditions when they see these pieces. These objects have a long history and importance to our cultures, and they refer to key moments and story lines.” In addition to these broader cultural references, Straatsma’s cylindrical layers and narratives sometimes also reflect his own deeply personal feelings and worldview, from commentary on nuclear war to personal relationships.

Straatsma attended the Design Academy in Eindhoven. He started out designing chairs and tables before making his first Dustcollector. His early works contained more classical references, but as his career advances, the designer has incorporated progressively more figurative and text-based imagery.

For me, there is a clear beginning and end. If you read it in a certain way, all the words make up a poem.

The Flash vase is the result of Straatsma’s unfortunate, yet apparently inspiring, heartbreak. The final piece in a collection of ten Dustcollectors known as the Love series, it is perhaps the most definitive and resolved of the set. “You pick and create what you need at that moment, from that piece,” the designer says. “There are different layers, techniques, words, and images. It communicates through poems and references.”

Color defines Flash’s mood. “Everything flows together in this piece; some of the earlier Love pieces were more chaotic in color. With Flash, there are three main color families—blues, greens,  and reds. You can turn it around, and on every side there’s a certain rest and balance.”

Straatsma is clear about his message, but he wants to leave room for interpretation.  “A lot of these words stand for something, and, for me, there is a clear beginning and end. In the Flash piece, it all starts with the words unique, instant, and pure emotion. If you read it in a certain way, all the words make up a poem.”

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    • Tamara Warren

      Tamara Warren

      Tamara has written for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Detroit Free Press, Forbes, Details and over 100 other newspapers, magazines and websites. She founded the car culture site Gotryke.com. The Detroit native lives and works in Brooklyn.