Suzanne and I first met on a fieldtrip to the Van Tienhoven mill. In her van we drove out of busy Maastricht, right into the rolling hills. Past old churches, wayside crosses and grazed pastures.
Suzanne Bernhardt investigates the paths that a product or material takes. Wondering where it comes from and what the relationship is between the product, man and nature. How is this applied in daily life? By going on fieldtrips, researching and being in contact with the earth and everything it offers, Suzanne applies these things in her own projects. From cheese to bread and grain.
“I use trace as an act and an artifact to translate the moving, the inquiry, the path into the solid, the residue“
On a search for black oats for a project, Suzanne stumbled upon the Van Tienhoven mill. Interested in the building and what went on within its walls, she started training as a miller. Wondering how architecture and wind go together, how to mill with your ears and how man and machine are in relation to each other.
“Through the mill I’m learning about the ecology of grains, farming and baking”
To see what a mill can do with grain and the process of grinding grain into flour sparks ideas for incorporating grain into more products than just bread. Based on the flavors of the mill and the different stages of grain, 3 flavors of ice cream were created. To break a culture that uses a lot of dairy, the ice cream is made from oat milk inoculated with kefir grains. By serving the ice cream flavors directly on the hand, the cold and the melting of the ice cream, brings you closer to the product.
“An ode to the family of sweet grasses, as if you were falling into a green field with your mouth open.”
Due to poor hygiene and lack of hot water in the past, people used to “wash” and degrease their hands with cow or horse pee. Its high PH value makes it a good degreasing agent. With fermented spelt from the mill, bran and wheat germ oil, Suzanne made a soap. While you wash your hands you are connected to the product, where it comes from, what the process is and where it all begins. The wheat in the soap is broken down so that vitamins and other nutrients become food for the skin. The bran is added to give your skin an exfoliation and remove dead skin cells. The wheat germ oil keeps your skin from drying out and gives your hands a silky touch with a wonderful nutty scent.
Through the clay walls and tall grasses, Suzanne walks ahead of me, looking for some useful items for her studio. Along the way, she tells me all about the different types of grains and grasses. We stumble upon a meadow full of grain. The wind blowing through it lets us hear the fine, light sound of the grass rustling against each other. A unique place, squatting in the grain, looking at all the blades growing past each other, tangled together.
Our arms full of different kinds of wild grasses on the way to the studio. All kinds of grasses in different stages of their life. The color differences and dryness shows how grass and time go together.
June 2022, Suzanne Bernhardt, Maastricht