This week we are travelling to BERLIN to learn more about Johanna Gauder and her beautiful jewellery. She takes us behind the scenes of her label and her life as a designer.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND...
I grew up in Darmstadt, a city close to Frankfurt am Main. Neither my parents are in the creative industry professionally, but they have always been interested in arts and culture and exposed us to local exhibitions and local theatre. Our house is full of art and my parents encouraged my creativity from the beginning. As long as I can remember I have been very passionate about drawing. I always tried to copy the pictures of my elder sister, who is five years older and a very talented illustrator. We went to a Waldorf school and I guess this had a great impact on me and on my interest in doing practical work.
HOW DID YOU GET TO JEWELLERY DESIGN?
My first encounter with metalwork was a silversmith class in the 9th grade. After I graduated from high school I knew that I would like to work in a creative field and I decided to do an apprenticeship as a goldsmith. While doing the training, I became more interested in the design process, rather than just producing things. I was curious about thinking in greater dimensions and not only in regards to jewellery. As a result, after three and a half years of jewellery making, I took up studies in industrial design.
WHAT HAS PROMPTED YOU TO START YOUR OWN LABEL? WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO OVERCOME?
Over the course of a few years, I took a break from jewellery and focused on completing my studies. Discussing the ideas for my diploma project got me back to my roots and I thought it could be very interesting to start the whole subject all over - from a new perspective and with a completely different approach. I started the diploma with a theoretical discussion about jewellery and ended up with a kinetic room installation. It was a very conceptual work and the idea to create my own jewellery was still on the agenda. The idea of building my own label and establishing a brand grew in my mind and seemed to be very challenging and exciting at the same time. I’m still interested and energised by the versatility of building my own brand. At the same time it isn’t always easy and sometimes I wish to be able to split up the work amongst a team of people. Luckily I‘m surrounded by very talented and supportive friends who help me with branding, web development, photography and so on.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I take a lot of inspiration from the materials themselves and their unique characteristics. When I start experimenting, having a rough idea in my mind, it happens quite often that I discover something completely unexpected and that leads to a whole new concept. Besides the inspiration that I find while working I enjoy being in nature and travelling around. It’s the best way for me to free my mind and to realign my priorities.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR CURRENT COLLECTION AND YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE…
The current collection is inspired by various technical parts such as laboratory glass or technical springs. Due to the material that I use and its particular shape, I had to outsource some parts of the production. This latest collection was the first time that I had to work with other manufacturers which meant that I had to adjust to the speed of work and communication styles of all the different collaborators. Right now I‘m collecting ideas for new pieces to start experimenting again.
HOW DO YOU SELECT THE MATERIALS YOU WORK WITH, WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MATERIAL AND WHY?
Due to my background I focus on metals such as silver and gold. They are the essential elements for most of my jewellery. I want to create pieces that have a long-term relevance instead of producing fast fashion trends. On the other hand, I‘m intrigued by a lot of atypical materials for jewellery. Working with a wider range of materials opens up entirely new possibilities in a visual and technical sense. I was working quite a lot with natural materials like wood, stone, horn or even mammoth ivory when I was doing my apprenticeship. Now, I‘m also working with glass and stones or synthetic materials such as resin or corian.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?
At the first glance, my jewellery has a very minimalistic element and that is one characteristic of it. However, my intention is not to be minimalistic when I make a new piece. It’s rather a natural progression based on my personal way of thinking and designing. I start with a shape, a movement or a function and I try to make this idea as clear as possible.
WHAT PART OF THE PRODUCTION DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Developing a vague idea into a new piece of jewellery can be a journey with many ups and downs. However, I really enjoy the experience of making something when I have a vision in my mind and the result meets all my expectations.
JUST WONDERING, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO PRODUCE A PIECE OF YOUR JEWELLERY?
That depends very much on the piece and on the conditions. I can be pretty fast, especially if I’ve got a routine in building a particular piece. No need to say that this isn’t always the case and sometimes I spend more time than I’d expected. But to answer your question briefly, somewhere between one and four hours is the usual time spent on one piece.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO, WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?
I enjoy the freedom of developing my own ideas and focusing on my values. It‘s tough from time to time and my work requires patience and strong belief. Despite this, I‘ve learned so much - about business, marketing, finances and about myself and my working style. Yet, I am still at the very beginning, and there is so much more for me to discover and learn.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT (EXCEPT FOR JEWELLERY DESIGN)?
I have a big interest in performing arts. I used to work in a theatre as a side job during my studies and was able to see many pieces - from dance to opera to drama. I have no ambitions to express myself in this way but I love to watch it and it can be a great source of inspiration for me.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT DESIGNERS IN BERLIN?
I know many designers doing very different things and having completely different styles and motivations for their work. I guess you can find a slight taste of Bauhaus everywhere, but it’s probably hard to generalise.
IS THERE ANYONE OR ANYTHING THAT INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?
There are several people and places who impressed me and influenced me in one way or another. I was in Japan, studying and travelling around. I visited Naoshima, a small art island. There is a museum called Chichu Art Museum which was built by Tadao Ando and it displays artworks by James Turrell, Claude Monet and Walter de Maria. I have never seen a museum that was more impressive and wonderful than this place. Another striking experience was watching dance pieces by Hofesh Shechter Company. They were so powerful and created pictures of movement, colour and sound that really touched me. Looking at design in a narrower sense, I have a lot of names in my mind: Martino Gamper with projects like Total Trattoria or 100 Chairs in 100 Days. Formafantasma - they had a nice show at Fuorisalone in Milan this year. I also love Henrik Vibskov’s runway installations, Anton Alvarez and Studio Swine, to name a few.
WHAT PLACES WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO DESIGN LOVERS IN BERLIN?
I would suggest to just walk around and get to know the city and its exceptional history. Each district has its own vibe and there is always something to explore. Of course, there is also an endless number of galleries and museums which are worth visiting. To name a few: Bauhaus Archiv, Hamburger Bahnhof, Sammlung Boros, KW Berlin, König Galerie, Museum der Dinge, Architecture Tour at Airport Tempelhof, Technikmuseum.
WHAT DOES MINIMALISM MEAN TO YOU?
I believe in diversity in design and I don‘t like dogmatism in general. Minimalism can have many faces, depending on the product, its intention and its maker. I believe in minimalism if it‘s about focusing on the essential aspects of a product. "Minimalism is not subtraction for the sake of subtraction. Minimalism is a subtraction for the sake of focus.“