Nanning, Barbara

First name: 
Year of birth: 
The Hague
Country of birth: 
The Netherlands
Working period: 

Barbara Nanning is born on January 3, 1957 in The hague. Between 1974 and 1979 she visits the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. Her teachers are Harry op de Laak and Jan van der Vaart. Other students at that time are Irene Vonck and Geert Lap. In 1977 she does an internship period with Pierre Mestre in La Borne (Fr.). In 1978 she visits for one year the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In 1978-1979 she starts her own studio in the Chassee straat in Amsterdam-West. She shared this studio with Geert Lap (till 1981) and followed up by Irene Vonck till 1984. In 1982 Barbara makes together with Irene Vonck a trip to Mexico. After this trip Barbara uses brighter glazes and engobes. Her simple pots and plates now are decorated with colorful threads. In 1986 Barbara opens her new studio at the W.G. Plein (former hospital) in Amsterdam. In 1988 follows a trip to Cappadocië in Turkije. Now she makes a number of unglazed pots - series Draaiïngen - in natural colors. After this period shapes become more complex; a combination of movement and rest, a search for balance between erratic forms and regular structures, inspired by the nature. The colour now also plays an important role (1990 - series Galaxy). After her trip in 1991 to Japan she starts to work out her experiences. Bigger objets materialize, using erratic roots from Scandinavian keenwood in combination with more constructed, spacial shapes. We recognize the raked sand out of a Japanese Zen garden. Also the series who follow bridge the gap between the known and the unknown, between clay and other materials, between ratio and intuition. In this way she crosses the gap between ceramic in the classic meaning into the visual arts. 

Here follows her story by Liesbeth Crommelin for the Taipei County Yingko Ceramics Museum, Autumn 2001. Nature is my source: plants, leaves, roots, water and the wind. Natural phenomena have been an everlasting inspiration for me, be it the Milky Way or the rise and fall of waves in an eternal, natural movement. In clay, my thrown shapes have evolved into concentric spinning objects without a beginning or end. They represent eternal movement, the primeval source of life on earth. In order to make these forms seem even more weightless, intangible and floating, I gave them a rich, velvety surface and a light monochrome colour. Since 1990, colour has played an essential role in my work. I do not use traditional glazes, but bright-coloured pigments that belong to the domain of the painter. As a result, I have access to a palette of colours that is not normally a part of my field. Bright red, brilliant yellow, intense blue and deep purple give my work an unexpected dimension. My journeys abroad are also a source of inspiration for me. From my travels to Mexico, Turkey and Asia, I returned to my studio with a wealth of new ideas on colour, form and texture, ideas which have been instumental influences on the development of my work. While in Asia, I visited the Zen gardens and the Suiseka. I have tried to recreate the stillness of the small, stylised Zen gardens. I was intrigued by the meditative aspects of the Suiseki arrangements of naturally formed stones, selected for their shape, balance, simplicity and tranquillity. I work in series, making groups of works based on a common theme, including the  Galaxy, Terra, Hydras, Botanica and Coral Reef seies. 'Siren' is a red sculpture from the Botanica series. It is formed from different handthrown segments and hand-built leaves and is inspired by the Greek mythology. The Sirens were beautiful women with irresistible singing voices who lived in a treacherous rock formation in the middle of the sea. They had a fatal attraction on passing sailors. 'Siren' symbolises a freakish forbidden attraction.

Story 2 - Barbara Nanning about Barbara Nanning. Nanning (1957) is one of the preeminent ceramics and glass artists in the Netherlands today. Her work is the subject of great interest from overseas, as well as in the Netherlands, in part thanks to exhibitions in the Far East and America, and in Germany, Italy and France. Barbara Nanning’s work is currently represented in public and private collections both nationally and internationally.

It was Barbara Nanning’s work in ceramics that initially generated acclaim. Since finishing the ceramics programme at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam in 1979, she has consistently pursued her work remarkable success. Her ceramics work straddles the boundary between the applied and the fine arts, but it is always in search the ultimate potential of contemporary ceramics. Nanning is inspired by nature, in all forms of appearance and growth, and in recent years, colour has played an important role. She uses clear, brilliant colours, adding pure pigment.

Increasingly, Barbara Nanning also completes monumental commissioned works for both outdoor and indoor locations. For these works, she makes extensive use of computer techniques to visualize, design and construct the installations. Working together with industry, she continues to develop new techniques to achieve form and detail in what are often very ambitious projects. A recent example is a series of 14 sculptural flowers completed for the ceiling of the first class dining room of the M.S. Zuiderdam, a Holland-America Line cruise ship.

Since 1990, alongside her ceramics work, Barbara Nanning has also devoted herself to glass. Initially, she worked for several years for the Royal Leerdam Crystal Glass factory, where she produced Unica works in the form of large platters, flower or jellyfish shapes in pure lead crystal. Here, she took advantage of the clear line and optical effects of this brilliant material, as well as of the further potentials of sawing, grinding and sandblasting. Over the years, her work has become increasingly more intriguing and complex. Barbara Nanning has gradually continued to expand her working domain. Following her work at Royal Leerdam Crystal, she experimented with ‘Pâte de verre’ in Japan, at the Takakudo Studio, completing several cast glass works. In the Van Tetterode Glass Studio in Amsterdam and the Glass Centre in Leerdam, she experimented with coloured glass blown into metal moulds. Her most recent collections, both produced in the Czech Republic, clearly demonstrate her mastery of her material. In Ajeto, master glassblowers use the blowing pipe to build up large, whimsical, lobbed forms from several layers of coloured glass. These are subsequently worked to precision at the Astera studio, where traditional soapstone and other motifs are ground into the exterior surface. To some, a layer of liquid gold was applied to the interior. In the most recent series, entitled Geodes, congealed glass forms are adorned with brilliant diamonds cut from optical glass.

For further information and/or images, please contact Barbara Nanning at