by , 04/24/07

Bee vase, vase made by bees, beeswax vase, dutch design, dutch design vase, studio libertiny, thomas gabzdil libertiny

I’m a self-proclaimed Droog addict, and have touted the “je ne sais quoi” of the always-engaging and wryly humorous Dutch design ad nauseam. And this bee-made vessel by Tomas Gabzdil Libertiny of Studio Libertiny is no exception. Making its debut at Droog’s booth in Milan, the vase was made by 40,000 bees over the course of one week. Studio Libertiny constructed a vase-shaped hive that the bees then colonized, building a hexagonal comb to encompass the existing form. And in the usual dry yet oh-so-clever Dutch manner, Studio Libertiny calls this process “slow prototyping,” a more time-consuming, yet much more poetic alternative to CNC rapid prototyping.

Beautiful in its ephemeral nature, Libertiny’s “collaboration” with honey bees pushes the boundaries of so-called conventional design by defying mass production and enabling nature to create what would typically be considered a man-made product. In my opinion, one of the tenets of good design is that it should tell a story. Studio Libertiny’s bee vase, like so much other Dutch design, not only tells the story, but does so in an ecologically-derived, natural way that concedes the human manufacturing process to something simpler and more beautiful. The more I look at it, the more I am in complete and utter awe.

We found this quote from Tomas Gabzdil Libertiny via Dezeen:

I have been interested in contradicting the current consumer society (which is interested in slick design) by choosing to work with a seemingly very vulnerable and ephemeral material – beeswax. To give a form to this natural product it has occurred more than logical to choose a form of a vase as a cultural artifact. Beeswax comes from flowers and in the form of a vase ends up serving flowers on their last journey.

At this point I asked myself a question: “Can I make this product already at the place where the material originates?” My ambition to push things further led me to alienate the process by which bees make their almost mathematically precise honeycomb structures and direct it to create a fragile and valuable object – like a pearl. This takes time and time creates value.

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  1. David Lopez February 24, 2015 at 12:55 am

    So is it really as easy as making a metal structure with a particular shape and leaving it on the wild?…
    It would be more informative if you actually said how was this done. Or at least say the artist prefers to remain silent as to how he did it

  2. xC0000005 February 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Looks like he made the form from wax foundation then let the bees draw it out. Very creative.

  3. Peter Coyle May 24, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    These pictures bring to life the absolute wonder of nature and show us a first hand example of the wonder of creation only possible through an INTELIGENT CREATOR..

  4. charles faris May 24, 2007 at 9:21 am

    actually this is quite beautiful because there is no difference between the making of the vase and the typical way that bees are raised in this country, ie. there is nothing natural about it! the honeycomb frame that the typical professional beekeepers use is larger than the honeycomb that bees would naturally make by themselves, or that most (if not all) of the organic beekeepers will use, and as a result the bees in commercial hives grow to be 50% larger than their wild and organic cousins. they are fed sugarwater and antiobotics, and their hives are sprayed with pesticides to kill varroa mites. on top of that these bees get trucked all over kingdom come to serve as pollinating agents.

    and then we are left with this beautiful empty hive. so it’s great that design can bma. and it’s great that design can tell a story. and what story is it going to tell? the story of a system that amnipulates and controls the natural world for its own desires regardless of how it rends the web of life? it would be great if design could actually support and sustain a meaningful life.

  5. Just call me Honey! May 7, 2007 at 12:40 am

    I am a bee who worked on the project. Don’t you have busier things to do?

    I agree with the designer of the project

    Bzzzz! BZzz.

  6. Libertiny May 1, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Dear ALL,

    I am the author of this project.

    First, I would like to thank all of you for your comments (positive and negative). I feel that i need to say few words. First, to some pesimistic and oversensitive reactions. No bees died other then by natural causes (they live only 42 days) and that they have not been slaved or exploited. They happend to participate on building a structure that they do know the best and they do all the time. After removal of a vase a new honeycomb frame has been inserted in the beehive to compensate for the effort. The colony has not been displaced or anything like that. We colaborated with beekeepers who love their bees and would object to any mistreating.

    Second, this is an art piece and a limited edition. This project is part of a bigger concept that our studio develops as a design haute couture collection. We develop experimental but visionary projects that comment design and our material culture. This made by bees project is still being developed. Even more exciting stuff will follow …

    If you have further questions please feel free to contact us.


    Thanks to Kim Flottum

  7. smachdesign May 1, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    So what is next? Silk worms in a shirt shaped cage? Maybe this is a kick-off to Micro-organisms creating cast production parts with elaborate inner structures. Okay, the plight of bumblebee has struck some heartstrings regardless this does no more damage to the bees than your average beekeeper or your aver-age bear… eh Booboo? Don’t put the cart in front of the horse right now its just concept meant to stir ideas…enjoy it. Think of ways to make it better, (for the bees or the concept). Be constructive and pro-active that breed progress. Defer judgement.

  8. eduard April 29, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    honey comb home

  9. Jac April 28, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I really hope this is a one-off thing, if his statement holds true. And that bee colony have their prize for this huge effort, a pesticide-free orchard.

  10. Darci April 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I agree that I hope that the artists of this piece are donating at least a % of their sales to the preservation of bees and the fight for stringent organic standards etc. Here are some resources for any of you who would like to help the plight of the bees – i know i want to. Thanks to Kim at Bee Culture for helping me find these.

    Xerces Society works to protect bees:
    Status Of Pollinators In The U.S. –
    American Beekeeping Federation –
    Eastern Apicultural Society –
    Among others….
    Almost every county and state has a beekeeping association that works to protect bees and beekeeping, and train beekeepers in the correct way to keep bees and inform the public about the positive aspects of pollination and honey bees…you can find these on our web site below at the Who’s Who link.

    Kim Flottum
    Editor, BeeCulture

  11. racheblue April 26, 2007 at 12:49 am

    As a one-off piece of art that speaks to us about conceptions of design and invites discussion about our perceived role in nature (do we see ourselves as part of nature or apart from it?) and what is more valuable nature’s fragile art that we predominately take for granted or man-made art that we often rever with little thought for the implications of it’s design on the planet – I like this vase.
    As a possible manufacturing process I find it distasteful but I don’t think (hope) this was the artist’s intent.

  12. Arlington Acid April 25, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Re: bee die-off. The culprit is likely to be genetically modified foodstuffs that have pesticides and/or herbicides built-in. The bees are our “canary in a coal mine” and should give pause to those who are so cavalier about the production of these monstrosities. Splicing insecticides into a plant’s DNA has no similarity to natural selection or artificial breeding techniques, despite what well paid chemical company representatives might tell you. Eating pesticides is generally not a healthy routine, for man or bee.

  13. David April 25, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    The cellphone comment has been discredited (the study was on the effect of electromagnetic fields in general), although pesticides are undoubtedly damaging bee populations (if they can kill hardier things, why not bees). The honeycomb vase is a typical product of contemporary design culture — it is incredibly clever, and required minimal effort on the part of the designer. I hope the bees have a massively tricked-out hive somewhere in a thriving orchard now.

  14. E April 25, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    would LOVE to purchase one….gimme details please?
    Thank you

  15. Sarah April 25, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Unfortunately, Richie, abstaining from eating honey isn’t going to solve the problem. It’s not because we eat honey that they’re dying — most research/theories suggest it’s a combination of several potential factors including radiation from our cell phones (who here is going to give up their cell phone to save the bees?), industrial agricultural pesticides, genetic modification of crops, monoculture, and some kind of parasite/virus. But it’s true that whatever the cause, the result could be a massive disruption to our food supply. This is one of those things that people overlook and underestimate because they think “it’s just bees.” But it’s not just about bees, it’s about food security and the continued functioning of our agricultural system.

  16. Never teh Bride April 25, 2007 at 10:46 am

    It’s bumming me out that Richie’s right, but he’s right. I can’t say that I don’t think that a comb vase is a lovely thing. In this case, the bees were just doing what bees do best, but I do wonder what happened to those bees once the vase was formed. Displaced bees are likely unhappy bees.

  17. Rosy MacQueen April 25, 2007 at 9:55 am

    It’s amazing, I just love it but… What happened to the poor bees?????

  18. Richie April 25, 2007 at 9:30 am

    How ‘Green’ is it to find an additional way to misuse Bees ? Isn’t it bad enough that the standard practice in commercial beekeeping is to steal their honey and replace it with sugar water, or corn syrup made from GM corn, laced with antibiotics ??? The recent crisis of honey Bees not returning to their hives, and then dying off shortly thereafter, strongly suggests that we should leave bees alone for a while… and certainly not ‘play’ with them or their processes. I don’t see the useful, or ‘Green’, purpose of this ‘ Vase’… do you ?

    Is it okay to just displace a Bee colony just ‘for fun’, or for ‘Art’s sake’ ? And if that is so, then where does this attitude stop ? Maybe the muti-mile drift nets that scrape the sea bottoms… killing everything they gather, only to use 25% of what is caught, should be reclassified as ‘Art’ then as well ? Maybe that’s where ‘Droog’ is headed next… for their next project. Stay tuned.

    Apparently, Honey Bees pollinate up to 80% of our food, and right now they’re dying off in record numbers. Einstein said that mankind only had 4 years to live after Bees died off or disappeared. So ‘I am in complete and utter awe’ at how callous, insensitive and totally disconnected this Bee Hive Vase project is. Where are the the Bees that made this Hive… which we are calling a Vase ? Are they dead now ? Are they too unable to find their way back to their ‘Hive’ ?

    How is this project any less cruel than the systematic beating of Elephants in Circuses in order to ‘train them’ to ‘perform’ ?

    Maybe it’s time to switch to unheated (raw) agave syrup for a while… so that Bee colonies can get healthy eating their own honey for a while ? Maybe permanently ?

  19. Bill April 25, 2007 at 2:48 am


  20. LogicalDash April 25, 2007 at 1:49 am

    Can it hold water and flowers?

  21. Sarah April 24, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Interesting that this design emerges now, as loads of news is coming out right now regarding a massive environmental crisis-in-progress around the collapse of bee populations, which has far-reaching consequences in terms of agriculture, biodiversity, etc.

    I wonder how this impacts or shifts bee hives and behaviors……seems like Droog put some thought into the bee’s role in terms of the speed of creation, but I wonder how the rest plays out in that design/environment relationship…Maybe they should have designed a hive that could continue to be functional (probably not possible at all!).

  22. kostas koutsoukos April 24, 2007 at 10:19 am


  23. royalestel April 24, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Wow. This is cool. I don’t think you could make a line of vases with this method, so maybe this is more a curiosity than anything, but this is still nifty.

    Now if only we could get elephants to make our houses . . .

  24. hanounou April 24, 2007 at 8:06 am

    i think it’s an intelligent way to prove the ability of honey comb structure to shape any morph:
    like molo chairs, flexiblelove, honey-pop chair
    i love bee’s design

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