When Billie van Katwijk, a designer fascinated by nature both dead and alive, saw a cow stomach for the first time she did not even know what she was looking at. On a market in Italy this skin like material caught her eye with its manifold structures and textures. It reminded her of honeycombs and in it she saw flounces and shirrs here and there. The designer was fascinated with the mysterious aura of the material, which is an everyday by-product of the meat industry. After slaughter, the value of a cow stomach is nil. In the Netherlands, the best-case scenario for its use is in dog food. With Ventri, Van Katwijk uses the action of design to give the intestines of a cow a new and much higher value.
She studied the richness of textures and specific properties in each of the four parts of a cow’s stomach, and through a labour-intensive tanning process arrived at a collection of handbags with a unique aesthetic. The clear-cut styling of the handbags shows off the material to its best advantage. The bags’ round shapes are inspired by the shape of the stomachs. By giving something that is considered waste in many countries a luxurious afterlife, Van Katwijk’s project shows beauty in hidden and unexpected places. It inspires to take a different look at what is already there.