“Did you see Helen DJ-ing on the dance floor last night?” Brigitte asks. “I have a video,” she grins.
She is driving, her face hidden behind giant sunglasses against the slanted Sunday evening sun. Clemens is fast asleep in the back seat after having driven the first stretch of the trip, his head nodding, totally exhausted.
We are gliding through a lush, hilly landscape of forests and green fields, with the odd bright yellow canola field speeding past.
“What I really loved about these past few days,” I say, “was how people I admire, people that seemed way out of reach just a few years ago when I was still a student, are so real now, so human.”
Brigitte agrees: “Putting people on a pedestal is no use because, in order to learn from them, you need to realize they were once like you. Besides, what makes people really special is their ability to absorb and pass on emotion.”
I couldn’t agree more. Much of what we do as contemporary jewellers has to do with emotions, with the stories we tell ourselves, the feelings we want the wearers of our work to experience.
I’m lost in thought. The green hills are a blur, there’s a medieval castle ruin on the horizon. There, in this unknown future, is a life waiting for me, a colourful career that might not only fulfil me, if I truly follow my heart, but allow me to pass this burning light that I can feel inside of me (on good days) on to others one day.
I’m catching a lift back to Berlin with these two happy souls after having spent a long weekend at the Zimmerhof Schmucksymposium held somewhere in Germany’s apple country for the 50th time (!). There, a hundred jewellery enthusiasts had gathered for four days to listen to artist talks, inspire others and be inspired, feed off each other’s energy, eat and drink and camp together and generally reinforce the foundations of the international contemporary jewellery community.
At the symposium, the introductory question to others wasn’t “So, what do you do…?” but rather “So what’s your relationship to jewellery?”, trying to establish whether someone was a jewellery maker, a publisher, a gallerist, a writer, a curator or an educator, or any combination of these. There were experienced artists in the middle of successful careers and there were youngsters, still studying or just having started out in the “real world”, like myself. In fact, blurring the boundaries between different artistic disciplines and professions seemed to be a prevalent theme for several reasons: While many of the people I met came to jewellery much later in life after a winding and multi-faceted path, others felt the need to express themselves in several disciplines simultaneously. There also seems to be a converging trend within the arts, narrowing the gulf between fine art and crafts, as well as merging different applied arts - something I personally encourage and celebrate.
The symposium’s programme was put together by Helen Britton and David Bielander, who obviously have a vast network of extraordinary artist acquaintances to draw upon, and delivered a most wonderful assemblage of speakers. But the magic went far beyond the artist talks – the real magic was in the sense of community that existed in this space, a sense of creative freedom and generous mutual support and room for experimentation and general acceptance.
Essential ingredients for this magic potion were camp fires, a dance floor, a well-stocked bar with very affordable beverages, delicious meals at long tables, large quantities of caffeine, very little sleep, splendid summer weather, and many, many stories from all kinds of people (I met attendants from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Japan, Mexico, the USA, Portugal, England, Korea, Ireland and Thailand).
What all participants had in common, no matter their backgrounds, was a burning enthusiasm, a passion that lit them from within. Out there in the everyday world it seems to be the norm to hate your job or at least to be caught in a life you are not happy with. Then, diving into this bubble of excitement in the middle of nowhere on a farm with barely any running water, meeting a community of people who have dedicated their lives to a field of enquiry that seems to grant them meaning in a most fundamental way, was absolutely intoxicating.
You can find more information about this symposium here.
Brigitte & Clemens are fictional characters, as are all the people in the illustration above (data protection laws etc.).