|ANTOKU 8E TRIËNNALE VOOR VORMGEVING IN VLAANDEREN 2016 DESIGN MUSEUM GENT|
Gent is van 19 november 2016 tot 5 maart 2017 helemaal Hands on Design
en dat is niet zomaar. Ambacht leek tot voor kort een oud, beladen
woord, maar is vandaag overal. Nieuwe machines en technologieën maken
handwerk opnieuw economisch rendabel. Door het creatief gebruik van
nieuwe mogelijkheden, krijgt handwerk nieuwe verschijningsvormen. Dat
zorgt er ook voor dat meerdere startende designstudio¹s hun eigen
ontwerp zelf uitvoeren. En die handmade slaat aan. Eén van de redenen
ongetwijfeld de virtuele wereld die mensen doet snakken naar echte,
tastbare producten. Objecten met een duidelijke maker en een duidelijk
Knife maker Antoine Van Loocke exudes passion as he talks about his ultimate dream of crafting a knife that is completely made from local garbage and yet kitchen-proof. A follower of the slow movement, he is many a star chef's dream creative partner. In the past he was approached by well-known chefs with a distinct terroir signature, chefs serving local dishes made with regional products. Following their same philosophy, he designed knives and sets for them that surpassed their wildest dreams. He is a self-taught man – something he likes to emphasise – who has always dared to think outside the box.
No less than fifteen years of material research and experiments precede his dream, which has culminated in the Antoku knife collection composed of seven unique all-round kitchen knives in Damast steel and two in recycled stainless steel. The handles are made of what he in Flemish calls "vurt ijt", a high-tech composite he himself developed from plexi (PMMA) and maple burl.
Professor Ignace Verpoest from Leuven taught him how to make strong everyday utensils from a composite whose fibres are impregnated with epoxy. Antoine Van Loocke wanted to do the same with wood. He knew very well that the wood had to be sufficiently porous to absorb the synthetic material. This proved possible only with rotting wood. Antoine invested at least ten years in developing his own process. After eight years of uncontrolled rotting, the wood had to dry for two more years. Then it was subjected to a high-tech stabilisation process, rendering it kitchen-proof. For this he turned to the German company puq Gmbh. A harmless monomer is pressed right through the rotten wood, saturating it, and then hardening into plexi. This results in a hybrid material that retains the wood's properties and imperfections while acquiring considerably better properties: it becomes hard, retains its shape, and does not absorb water. The end product has an extremely low amount of residual monomer and is, therefore, odourless.
Mark Cloet and Janna Huyghe from Artikel Nr. (Ghent) take care of distribution. Thanks to the know-how and connections of the Huyghe family, Flemish knife makers since 1924, Antoine's work gained the trust of Curt Mertens from Carl Mertens Gmbh in Solingen, Germany. This firm manufactures high-quality recycled Solinger blades using the old forging methods, in this case combining them with the newest technologies. This is a limited collection of about 300 pieces. Van Loocke finishes the knives and then marks them to certify that the blades have been forged. Antoine transforms natural but worthless discarded and recycled materials into high-tech products that still look natural because of their irregular structure and flaws. It is precisely the imperfections that provide the added value. And the more rotten the material, the more beautiful. The same is true for scratched or corroded handles. They are signatures from the past, what Antoine calls "accidental uniques".