Atelier NL – what a discovery

At the start of my MA, I had two distinct ideas for my long-term project work. One related to the interaction and bonds between dogs and humans and the other related to geology and the human impact on the earth in our relatively short time on it.

When I learnt about the sand crisis only a few months ago, and how it is worsening, I new instantly that it would be the basis for my ongoing research. It was my MA lightbulb moment.

It is my most recent research that has led me to learn about Atelier NL, a design duo based in the Netherlands, and their amazing To See a World in a Grain of Sand project (among others).

This project has been seven years in the making and involves sand samples Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck asked people to send to them from around the globe – there is even some sand from my home village included.

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The dream behind the project was to map the world in sand; to tell tales and share the origins of both the place the sand has come from and the people who live there. And to create a closer connection to the earth in the process.

The pair have gone on to melt the sand into glass so that they can showcase the differing textures and colours unique to the original environment.

They are revealing the results at the Symposium ‘The Abundance and Scarcity of Sand‘ as part of Dutch Design Week, of which they are ambassadors this year – I so wish I had come across this sooner as I would love to be there.

Their press briefing is available at:

Persbericht (EN)-Atelier NL, 12 oktober 2017

They were inspired by the late Michael Welland, geologist and sand expert, and were fortunate to have his support. He described their work as: “…powerful evocations of our often forgotten but intimate relationships with the primary materials of our planet and our lives. The deceptively simple act of transforming sand into glass reveals stories of the grains themselves and their dazzling diversity, stories of deep time and endless change. We rarely think of sand as a resource and its countless contributions to our lives, but this innovative project takes us on a journey that provokes contemplation of our connections not only with sand, the apparently most humble of materials but with the Earth as a whole.”

His book Sand: A Journey Through Science and the Imagination still sits on my bedside table as his words have inspired my own passion for this substance I come into contact with daily, not just at my coastal home but in a multitude of other ways.

I truly hope I am able to achieve similar reactions to the work I go on to create. The wording on their website resonates very deeply with the intentions I have for my project; I feel they have eloquently said many of the words I hold in my head about Harena Now.

I have sent them an email, explaining my project, with the hope that I could potentially meet them to discuss their work, and mine, face-to-face.

I also plan to apply for a grant through the Alice McCosh Trust, which supports projects relating to natural history or the environment, with a view to use this to enable me to conduct further research either in collaboration with people affected by the sand mining industry, or with those such as Atelier NL.

My commitment to create a visual response to the global sand crisis that is both beautiful and frightening deepens each day and with every new discovery I make about those sharing its story.



Atelier NL. Available at: [accessed October 24, 2017]

A World of Sand. Avaialble at: [accessed October 24, 2017]




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