Wijk aan Zee


Heavy metal(s) for breakfast

In the Netherlands Wijk aan Zee is (in)famous for news items on emissions from local steel industry that comes down like a ’graphite rain’ on the village and the concerned residents. It has been shown that in this black powder, that descends over gardens, window sills and clean laundry, contains heavy metals such as lead and manganese, making air quality in this area (IJmond region) the most worrying in the Netherlands.

Can Smogware contribute to a cleaner air? A first workshop was organised via Waag and BRAK ! *.  The workshop had a special formula this time: take the graphite rain from your windowsill and process it into a glaze for your own samples. In the intimate setting of BRAK! samples were painted, partly with the dust, gathered by participants from their windowsill and partly with dust that that Annemarie and in-house PhD researcher Laurens Kolks had collected in no-time under a viaduct nearby. Relaxed conversations easily arose. Among other things about the complex situation of the region, for which the steel factory is a large employer, for which generations are grateful. Therefore the factory is not the obvious culprit of the unhealthy air. Moreover, the industry is at the service of our own needs – who doesn’t buy canned tomatoes? Nevertheless, numerous initiatives have sprung up in the neighbourhood from concerns about air quality.  Brak! is part of the project ‘Hollandse Luchten’ (Dutch skies), in which the Province of North-Holland, RIVM, Environmental Services, Tata Steel (factory) and Waag collaborate to a citizen measurements network and  citizen sensing.

As for the result; as everyone suspected, the painted samples came out of the kiln dark brown. The glaze is also very matte, which wasn’t seen before in other cities. The samples were sent to the participants, and a special edition was made for the Pieter Vermeulen Museum*; a graphite rain coffee set. To be continued.

* Partners in the ‘Wijk aan Zee’ edition:  The project ‘Hollandse Luchten’ (Dutch skies), Waag , BRAK! (an initiative of the Municipality of Velsen and the Pieter Vermeulen Museum)