Jewellery and network projects
About the importance of connecting different disciplines, the values and the understandability of jewellery we talked with Loukia Richards and Christoph Ziegler.
Both are multidisciplinary artists, based in Greek and Germany. They initiated a range of projects, network platforms and mediation formats about which we got some impressions in this episode. Furthermore got some thoughts about the current situation and the needs of jewellery.
LINKS to this episode
Loukia Richards on Instagram: @loukiarichards
Christoph Ziegler on Instagram: @rossozett
SMCK on instagram | @smck_magazine
Loukia Richards Website | http://www.loukiarichards.net
Music: Mine Pleasure Bouvar Wenzel | @minepleasurebouvar
This podcast is supported by the @hawkgmetallgestaltung of the HAWK, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hildesheim, Holzminden, Göttingen, by the AStA of HAWK and by the Studentenwerk Ostniedersachsen. Many thanks for this.
A.S.Ruth Schneider (A.S.R.S.): Loukia Richards and Christoph Ziegler are multidisciplinary artists and are based in Greek and Germany. They initiated a range of projects, network platforms and mediation formats. Among them FaveLab, an Athens based Artist Residency and Exhibition programme and they co-curated Wert/voll, a double jewellery art show at the Federal Environment Agency and the Grassi Museum Leipzig in 2019.
Furthermore they brought SMCK Magazine to life, a magazine about contemporary jewellery and art. In this year they initiated SMCK on Reel. It is an international video festival inspired by jewellery and wearable art, presenting video works in the context of rapidly changing social and aesthetic values. More than 60 international artists and designers, galleries and institutions speak in SMCK On Reel. SMCK on Reel was presented at the Schmuck in Munich and will be presented at the GrassiMesse in Leipzig from October 20th to 23rd.
Today we will talk with Loukia and Christoph about their positions as artists, the magazine project SMCK and the current situation of contemporary jewellery.
Nice to see you here in Zoom!
Christoph Ziegler (C.Z.): Thank you for the invitation to talk with you! We are curious about your questions.
Loukia Richards (L.R.): Before we go on with the questions. We liked very much the way you adopted our biography. We would like to mention that in the first part of Schmuck 2022 in march, this year Schmuck has been cut into two parts, we created the third part of Jewellery and the environment series in the Bayrische Kunstgewerbeverein under the title Metamorphosis hosting 20 international artists from Japan, Belgium etc. And it was more on the spiritual background of recycling. How recycling is not just a good habit, but also there are references in the world literature and mythology. And we have also some very recent news. We will also show SMCK on Reel in Bukarest in the frame of Romanian Jewellery Week. But we also, thanks to the initiative of Ukrainian artists, will show on 20th October, the opening of the GrassiMesse, the same time on 20th October a screening that will take place at the National Historic Museum of Ukraine in Kiev and on the same day in the biennale of Vilnius, METALLophonas, in Lithuania. And we are working on extending this chain of solidarity of making the very big network for these days, so that in various parts of the world, especially Europe, jewellery institutions, schools, venues, whatever make a screening. It is free, we don't ask for any money we just support this initiative as talking of solidarity to our colleagues in Ukraine. Because we think that it is very very brave to do something like that, to organize an event during the war. That's the news.
A.S.R.S.: Yes, thank you. And we would start with one question. What was the last thing you bought, you shared or you got for example as a present, from the jewellery sector?
C.Z.: Mentioning a ring by Karl Fritsch who made a special SMCK, in view of our magazines title, a SMCK-Ring which he brought to Munich. We weren't there unfortunately during our video festival, but he sent it to us. So that’s a ring we still kind of struggle, who is going to wear it. So we have to divide it into ... maybe we can convince Karl Fritsch in the future to send us one more so we have two rings and we don't have to fight about it. L.R.: Yes, indeed. Otherwise we have sold jewellery recently. But it is true, we have not got or exchanged, usually we exchange also among ourselves, but our birthdays are a longer time ago.
C.Z.: We are rather in getting rich of the jewellery pieces we produced. So that's mainly of cause the task or the challenge of a jewellery artist to also sell his or her works. I think we will talk about this issue: selling works, offering them, presenting them. Which is very difficult in these days, but we are convinced there are strategies you can independently also trade with your own works. And that's a key of our own, so to say, strategy of presenting jewellery in many different ways.
Cathleen Kämpfe (C.K.): You are right, it is one of our first questions. Where do you show or exhibit your jewellery? So how are your ways to do so?
L.R.: Yes. As we said, we exhibited our latest 2022 jewellery exclusively made for the Bayrische Kunstgewerbeverein exhibition. This was an exhibition that lasted from February to April and because of the war, of cause, it was a very big shock. However, we had requests by visitors so we sold some of this jewellery later, also jewellery that was presented in the SMCK on Reel videos. Maybe this happened also to other artists. So we saw that this medium works indeed. People wrote: We saw that video, we liked it, can we have more pictures? Can we see it one by model? How much does it cost? Ten days ago we sold two pieces, one by Christoph, one by me to collectors in the Netherlands. The other '22 show is for me at the biennale of Lithuania in Vilnius starting 10th of September and then we plan next spring a participation in a group show in Berlin Wagner Preziosen. It's a very special gallery because the gallerist is a former manager, a very, very experienced person in jewellery, the international market, who has worked for Cartier and Gucci?
C.Z.: I'm not sure. He became independent after being manager for more then a decade. First in the United States then in Europe and then he started to open, he calls it "Boutiquie" for jewellery. It's upscale jewellery for people who have enough money to buy things that are six-digit numbers. Incidentally we met him some years ago and he liked our jewellery made of plastic or textile waste. And we made an exhibition together and out of that came something like a partnership which is renewed now by this exhibition that will take place during an important event in Berlin, which is the Gallery Weekend. This is more for the visual arts, for galleries who make their biggest deals during the year in this time.And he was brave enough to take place in this event. So this is something we like and we want to foster and we want to support the interdisciplinary approach and also marketing oppore as a piece of art or in the other context as a piece of communication. But we see art as an important tool of communication.
L.R.: And we also sell our jewellery, because we have participated in many fairs like the SIERAAD in the past since 2015, we visit every year the Jewellery Week of Munich, the Grassi Messe. The Grassi Messe still has this exhibition Jewellery+Image where they also show two of our works that they bought in 2016. So through these events we have a clientele, so we can talk more about this decision thatwe are independent artists, meaning we represent ourselves, we don't present our works through a gallery. In the past I have worked with many, many galleries and museum shops in Greece, in the United States, in England. For example the last gallery I cooperated with was RA in Amsterdam in 2017 I think. One of my series that's been remoted through the year. But various reasons, not because we do not appreciate the work of the galleries, for various reasons we are very selective. We prefer to work on a project maybe with a gallery like the Wagner Preziosen and other projects we promote our work on our own as well as we work with collectors we have already met through all this exhibitions. Investment. A lot of investments of time, energy and money in fairs in the old days. Because I think nowadays things are getting very complicated about what to expect from fairs.
C.Z.: The old days are before the pandemic (laughts) L.R.: Five years ago, not really old days, but before we went to a fair with the expectation that we are going to sell, at least something. And we see more and more in the recent years - even before the pandemic - that many people invested a lot of money and with beautiful work, it was not their work or the price that something was wrong. But the visitors, the prospective buyers were very reluctant buying /to buy?. We heard a lot stories of disappointment, but that has nothing to do with the fair organizers. It's a complicated situation and this gave us also ideas. We see always problems as a challenge, so this is why we developed also some of our latest projects.
C.Z.: And maybe that's a special thing: How we got known to each other. We met in a residency in northern Germany when we started working/to work? together in various projects. I myself come from the visual arts...
L.R.: Me too.
C.Z.: Yes, from sculpture and installation. So I've been working a lot with the issue of space, architecture, geometry and also the social issue of space and the creation of performative spaces. So this was my background when I met Loukia. And then we started to apply for art projects, founding and so on. We stared to create our/art? projects independently and then Loukia suggested to start also presenting jewellery.
L.R.: Yes, because I had the experience, I have worked with jewellery since the early 90's. I don't have a background in jewellery, I have studied in the same school like Christoph, the University of Applied Arts in Berlin. I studied in the department of visual communication and I studied more fine arts like printing, film... I had chosen this department, because it was very open. So I was in Berlin from 1988-95. It was very, very different from what it is now. And I worked also a lot with film editing, not with the visual cutting, but with the script. And I met various film makers, we had also one film maker at distinction, a European distinction, this was all in the 90's. And I worked also as a journalist, I have a degree in economics as well. And when I went back to art, because I have stopped working as a professional artist for maybe seven, eight years, then I got into textile and jewellery. Because jewellery I could sell, with jewellery I could earn a lot of money back in the early 21st century, with selling textile jewellery, ceramic jewellery. Already in the 90s, ceramic jewellery was something that was very simple and fun for me and it was a way to subsidize my other art projects like painting, stitching, embroidery, tapestries etc. And I had this experience. I have worked with a lot of museums like the Benaki museum in Greece, that has been my major costumer for five years. I designed jewellery inspired by its collection. I have also sold jewellery series in the textile museum in Washington, D.C., the Greek museum in New York, I worked a lot with England, UK. In the early 21st century everything was very open and flourishing. I knew jewellery is a medium that is very interesting. You have very interesting artists working with this medium and is also in terms of an art discipline that can good sustainly, financially as an artist to keep being busy in this domain, not have to wait tables in a restaurant. Which is ok, but it's not art. It’s something else. I have tried everything, also this combination. There are artists that say, I want to have a regular job and to my pleasure I do art. And it works for them. But for me, this doesn't work. I have to do 100% art. But huge experiences I had in management or communication than to work like an artist. And I convinces Christoph to try at least the design of our shows. So this is what he did.
C.Z.: Exactly. It took me a while to be really convinced that I would start making jewellery. Before that we were struggling with the form of installations. Which I would see as a huge amount of material to be placed in one place. So to me, I mentioned it, I was into installations. Some of the installations were like houses you could enter and even live in there. So I had a very different approach and perspective on what art should be to involve people experiencing. Through the start of creating the exhibitions, not only for us, but also for other artists, mainly for other artists, we thought about the issue of how to present jewellery. Not only as aesthetic object, but also in the context of an idea, of a concept, as well as a visual concept behind it. So I was more into creating the stage for the jewellery pieces we promoted. And I think after three or four years, we did that regularly at least two exhibition a year, in Amsterdam, in Munich, we went to Berlin and Hamburg. We had also an exhibition in a small caravan. So we were driving around with jewellery outwards. I had an illumination how I would start making jewellery and I will talk later about it.
L.R.: Maybe it's a coincidence in this Hochschule, how I call the University of Applied Arts in Berlin, probably in the departments culture. In my department there was a lot of emphasis on the presentation of the exhibition. I didn't studied exhibition design to become a specialist in that, but my teacher put a lot of emphasis on how you present. If you present an object in a certain way, if you make the visitor to follow the steps you want him or her to follow, than this would change the whole reception of the exhibition. It i not just the exhibit as a work of art, but the how, how you light it, how you stand it, where you place it, how you move the body of the visitor through the space. So this is what we liked and still like. It is very conservative. There are two very conservative aspects in contemporary jewellery. The first is the photography, the way photos are made and the second is the installation of the exhibits. So I encouraged Christoph’s ideas and I think, some very nice exhibition shows, like when you built the labyrinth in the gallery in Munich. You have to go really through a labyrinth to see the jewellery. And the Test Drive in 2016 inside this van, that were brilliant ideas I think.
C.Z.: And to come back to your question in the beginning: How do you present the jewellery? We also thought of cause about the digital medium. Once you cannot visit an exhibition and also as a plus for participants of the exhibition we started to built websites. So this was and is also a platform where you can present and document the project and the works. Which is also a bit like a diary for the artists and for us. And this all together is so to say our stage where we dance. And if I say dance, this is maybe also an important aspect, that we always try to go around the object of art. And try to create an atmosphere around the presentation. So we have these different setups that were sometimes very challenging in view of their size and the amount of work connected to it. And then we considered also ourselves or the participants of the exhibition to be part of the exhibition. So we included also performance as an element of creating an atmosphere. We experimented with group performances or singular performances. We saw that once we started with that, that in the next year there would be more of these performative approaches in exhibitions. I think it's important every once in a while to see how you progress and proceed with the many possible media that are available, to include them in the work.
C.Z.: Maybe one more factor we didn't mention is on your question: How and where do you present your jewellery. Through the organization of exhibitions we also try to enable for ourselves to show our works in these group exhibitions we organize. So this is a form of self financing, of making it possible to share the cost for a participation in a fair. Loukia mentioned a fair in Amsterdam we took part sometimes.
L.R.: Three times.
C.Z.: And in the end we decided we can't go there anymore, because we would pay a lot of money and there will be no results in getting back the financial expanses.
L.R.: I should add, I do not think the fair did get more expensive, it's Amsterdam, it's the city. We've been selected in 2007 to participate, they had something like an art section of SIERAAD at that time. And Amsterdam was very very affordable 15 years ago. It changed, I've been in Amsterdam for various projects and it's not affordable. Even if the fair keeps the fees low, the surrounding costs, the hotels, the transport is so high. And this is an interesting point, the same applies to Munich, how or whether let's say peripheral fairs have the opportunity from countries that are cheaper or not that developed like Germany or the Netherlands and offer similar results, attracting international visitors and artists being able to fund this participation. Because I think it's very difficult in Western Europe.
C.Z.: Exactly. We will have to face it in the near future, we already face it in this year, but prospectively in the next years there will be the question of affordability. If you can afford to travel, if you can afford to stay in a hotel or wherever, if you can afford the costs for a gallery, because many places charge a lot of fees for the space where you exhibit. So these are very practical factors and these factors are important whether to decide which direction one can go.
L.R.: I may add, this is another factor in the back of our minds or in the participant minds of SMCK on Reel. It is relatively easy to create and you can afford with a minimal technology of your cellphone to create a nice video. And it is a good promotion for the money that the fee is. The fees are low, between 80 to 150€. And for people who participate in more then one section like the new stops in Vilnius or in Kiev or maybe in other countries as well because we are expecting more answers, these are for free. So this is like you invest in the promotion of your jewellery. You don't have to be there, it's up to you if you make it there. Sometimes we also give workshops, if they know nothing about video or the narrative how you built a story. It is relatively affordable and you can reach an audience. Of cause there is the question: Will the viewers come back to you? I think it's more illustrative than an add to place in a magazine. And we have a website, we see that people visit it a lot, we have many, many, many visitors. Especially the SMCK on Reel is like record numbers the last moths and our experience was that through SMCK on Reel we sold jewellery. I don't know what other participants sold, but I think it is a new medium like video. It can play an important role in reducing costs and increasing exposure. It can be something different. Somebody else can think of something else, this is what we thought.
C.K.: Yes, thank you so much. You have so many different topics you answered with this one question. I was wondering, what does jewellery mean to you and are there themes which are currently present in the field for you?
C.Z.: Well, starting with my opinion about jewellery, it means communication and it has become, for my own practice, also a means of meditation. Through the exhibitions we organized to interdisciplinary projects we do, you mentioned the Wert/voll exhibition which took place in the federal agency of environment in 2019 and in Grassi Museum. It was a project financed by the Bundesumweltministerium.
L.R.: Ministry of the environment.
C.Z.: Exactly. Which was a project focussing on sustainability and ecological values. The concept behind it on one hand and, as a jewellery maker myself, not being trained in any technical skills regarding silversmithing, goldsmithing and so on, it's an experimentation with forms and materials that is a challenge for me, as I mentioned, as an artist who works with bigger spaces to move to a very small scale of presentation. And to be aware that the work has to be wearable somehow and it has to express something through the material, through the form or through the statement that you involve through an image or whatever that you wear andcarry around with you. LR: As Christoph said, the ecological issues we both are very interested in this topic and in the new social values. And this also has to do with an ongoing project we are going to have for the whole year 2023, the realization of FaveLAB, it's a residency program. People come to Athens and think about the materiality and immateriality of jewellery and what comes out of a very big crises, like a nuclear war. They are thinking the day after a big catastrophe or let's say it's not a big catastrophe, we go somewhere else. Just imagine about the jewellery, the values reflect on jewellery. Most participant spontaneously said, there are interested in research in the topic of older materials, recycling and looking at our era from a future perspective. So it's like a mixture, we shape all our projects with our participants. We set some ideas, some highlights in the concept and then in Zoom meeting came very interesting ideas that go also in other directions. We have various people in this project, not just jewellery artists. We also tell jewellery artists, that if in the end they come out with a video or with a sculpture or with a novel or with an article, that's also ok. These are all forms of art and communication.
And to go back to the meaning of jewellery for me. I am half-Greek, my mother is Greek, my father was British. And in Greece I grew up and was raised. In Greece, jewellery is a very old art form. And it is considered so, it is respected, it is worn. It is part of the daily routine. Women and men wear jewellery and the meaning of the jewellery sometimes is hidden, because it is talismanic, so you wear things that for you, your culture mean protection. Or metals like gold, that means mortality. Even without realizing, it is part of the culture. It is also part of this culture, that people are still buried with their personal jewellery, their identity jewellery. And this is also a very, very, very old idea. The other thing is, that this jewellery expresses for me milestones of my life or of the life of my ancestors. I wear two rings now. They are very classical, nothing contemporary or extravagant, but they have a meaning. The first one is the wedding ring of my grandfather, that was very dear to me. And the other one is the engagement ring of the mother of my grandmother, who had a very adventurous life in the early 20th century. And before she died, she gave it to my grandmothers older brother. She wore it her whole life, she was in the resistance in the 2nd Wold War, she faces incredible difficulties and challenges in this life. He gave it to me before he died. So for me it is remembering all the stories, its like a reminder, a memo, it's not just the beauty of something very classical, not very expensive, but I remember him wearing it. And he remembered his mother wearing it. So we already have a story. All these stories behind jewellery - it is a very strong medium of condensing narratives. This was in the back of our minds by drafting this video idea.
C.Z.: And the new project I would like to explain a little bit around it. Because you mentioned the FaveLAB, our residency platform in Athens, the background how we started this. So there are many different things that we've been exploring and we are coming back now. Especially to our residency platform which we had to lay down for more than two years now with the pandemic, that made it impossible for artists to travel. And for us to maintain a platform where we presented artists, visual artists, photographers, performance artists, jewellery artists and designer, so an interdisciplinary field. But we had to stop it. And this is when the SMCK magazin started to grow, but now we are considering that this physical experience of visiting a place and experiencing the history and the exclusivity of the space. Plus I have to mention that Loukia is an expert in Greek mythology and history which had also a lot of impact on the exhibition projects we made with jewellery as well as the other projects. This is always in the background, to connect personal stories and contemporary research with the idea of Greek history and mythology.
L.R.: And maybe we should add that in this two years of the pandemic we continued the residencies, but with digital residencies. So we had some projects also we followed our exhibitions we planned for the Jewellery Week of Munich 2020 and 2021. We had to use Zoom meetings and we also drafted an e-residency project for the Niarchos Foundation. We had six artists online for a week, so they had the residency not physical but we have guided them in the life of the queen of Sparta. The theme was "Helen's Dress". There were jewellery artists, textile artists, two choreographers, a writer trying to imagine Helen, the queen of Sparta, a very hated woman in Greek mythology because she aligimetly released a war but also other facets of her personality in other stories, also local stories in Sparta. So we had this interaction and we saw, it works. We even did a performance through Zoom. Then we had a small booklet created to show the results of the works. We saw that if we meet our residencers that come to Athens before we come and we have all the exchange and we ask them to ask us questions, what they wish to know about Athens, which era of Athens. Athens has a huge history, it is inhabited for 7000 years. So you might be interested in byzantine in Athens that is almost 4000 years ago. You might be interested in Bavarian art, that is less then 2000 years old here, the first king of Greece was a Bavarian prince. So there is the seal of the German Bavarian culture in the city, it is impossible to ignore it. So we saw that working online and working physically, next week we are going to work with the first resident this year coming from UK, a jewellery designer who wishes to work with a very beautiful hair dresses in the style from ceramic and textile statues and examine them. It is a helpful tool. Actually through the pandemic we came closer to technology, to the options technology may offer. And all these ideas were forced by the need to stay in touch with the community, with other artists, other curators. And this is, what Christoph started to say, this is also how the magazine started.
A.S.R.S.: You dropped the SMCK magazin. How did your collaboration project come about and what takes place in it and why?
C.Z.: Mainly we talked about the reason the pandemic forced us to lay down one project we were very busy with. And Loukia came up with her experience of working in press for many years, to consider changing the format. While we were not able to travel and to move, we're not able to organize exhibitions. And we felt that this will not only be for half a year, that this will take longer. We learned about the logic of the pandemic and finally it turned out that it even took longer then we all expected. So this was a phase of suffering from being restricted, being isolated. So it was a need for us to continue communicating with other artists from different fields with networking and with creating a space that is also legitimate in the sense that it creates an atmosphere where you can present works of art, works of jewellery and combine it with contents, with themes or topics that we find interesting, which are up to the time. Which need to be discussed. So you asked for the contents. They are changing with the experience we make during the time. We were very surprised in early '22 about the war in Ukraine, so we had to react somehow. And our last issue is called "War and peace" therefore we try at least to be involved in what you can do to reflect this topic. The other themes are also connected to the Schmuck Woche...
L.R.: ...or to the pandemic, like the first issue "The body". We also had to realize that we and artists from many disciplines that were excellent artists, they either do not know each other or the public do not know them. Because there is a very big gap. First we have the jewellery magazines, jewellery press or crafts magazines. Some of them are in a very high quality, I can think if the magazine of the Crafts Council in England, I can think of the Art Aurea magazines, they have a long tradition and a very good quality. And then you have also minor magazines or blogs and then you have the real press. You have the press that people read who have nothing to do with art and jewellery and the crafts and they have sometimes, like the Financial Times has, fantastic section on crafts, on art, on the market but also on trends. Frankfurter Allgemeine as well. And first we saw that jewellery is disconnected from other disciplines. Jewellery artists read only the specialized press about jewellery. This is very boring. Because if you see yourself as a contemporary artist, working with this medium, a medium that has great potential of, as Christoph said, as communication. You wear a piece of jewellery and you send a message, we may think also politicians. The late secretary of the United States, Madeleine Albright, sent messages through her brooches. The late queen of England also, the way she chose her garderobe or her hats of whatever. So you can sent messages, regardless if you like the person or not, it is somehow one tool.
We saw that there is no connection to other disciplines or to other social trends, for example we have an article on skateboarding as a new art discipline. We wanted to make sketches, not go very deep in analysis, but make a statement and sketches. And also create issues, that each issue, even if you don't read it now, this is the problem with the articles and with the internet. You have a lot of information, fast information, but you don't have a lot of food for thought. So we want to create sketches of our times and the trends that give you food for thought, but is also a reference to the library and five years later, we go back to the body issue and you'll see our thoughts or the thoughts other artists on Covid or the quarantine or the lockdown. This was one thing.
The other thing, and our indeed work is to try to create quality contents and to appeal to professionals in the market, is it the art market, the jewellery marked, is it fashion or fashion journalism. Last year I've been contacted by Sara Bailey, who is a special editor of Vogue and she works for Vogue International and Vogue Greece. She had an interview with me on SMCK magazine, she has spotted it. So it is like, we do not care that we are read not by a lot of people, we care that we are read by the right people, by the people who make decisions in various fields, in fashion, in design. We have this readership. In the meanwhile we see we have SMCK magazine in libraries, in museums and we are in contact with these people. It is maybe also a platform to ... and we think this is missing. It's a missing think from the talent that exists in the contemporary jewellery scene, many talented people, young designers emerging or established, but the bridge to something to a wider audience or to job opportunities is missing. And we are working in this direction. And SMCK magazine is also an experiment to see: How do you make people who are recruiters, people who make decisions, who influence the trends, state wages on art for example, how do you talk to them? How do you make them be interested in you? This is also an interactive project. It is not just news, like "this is the news" etc. And the last thing I would say is that we hosted; I think in the Rebel-issue, it's issue no.02, an interview by a former scholar. We've been scholars in two Foundations, in the Onassis Foundation and in the Fulbright Foundation, Dr. Ioannis Michaloudis, he is a very experimental sculptor, he is working with NASA material, he has worked worked with crystal and gem a lot and many years of design thinking I would say. And then one day, out of the blue, he got an invitation from Boucheron in Paris. He had nothing to do with jewellery. He got an invitation to create with the material he used for his sculptures, to create a series of jewellery. And he describes his experience. And I thought, well, this is one of our goals to make the Boucherons, Cartiers interested in what young people do now. They are looking for young talents and for me and Christoph it is a very big question mark, why they don't visit. What is wrong? Why don't they come to the places makers show? It is the search for answers that drives us.
A.S.R.S.: Yes, I think that's really important. And I think at this point we can talk a little bit about your perspective on contemporary jewellery. Maybe Cathleen, you want to start?
C.K.: Yes. What role should art and craftsmanship have today, in this time of global crisis and what can objects and jewellery do besides being there for us?
C.Z.: Well, regarding the physical existence of materiality of crafted objects I think it is important, and this is also the difficulty for jewellery, to be presented digitally. This is something we have to face, because 70% of the perception takes place in the internet. It has on the other hand a quality that digital media won't be able to transport. A quality of duration, something that exists for a long while, something that can be charged with memories, with experiences, connected to a certain object. Especially jewellery, Loukia mentioned it, is something you give from generation to generation. So it's loaded, it's charged with history. Or you experience this history yourself once you are connected to this object. Maybe a sculpture, maybe a furniture piece or maybe a ring that can have the same quality of accompanying you through your life and gathering history, gathering experiences through a time that is very confusing and ephemeral at the same time. The digital media are extremely ephemeral. You consume them a lot through the images and texts, you have to go on and on to be informed. And this pure information does not have a quality of an object with duration. This is one of the important things. I think this is also important for us as artists, to be busy with the concrete material.
L.R.: On the other hand I find the material uses or jewellery, applied art in general, because I think applied arts more than fine arts, these daily objects, we decorate our environment or we wear... They speak of peace, we enjoy them when we have peace. And the immaterial use of jewellery in this year, in the past year, for me it's also in the direction of cultural diplomacy. Jewellery is something that everybody likes. Maybe you don't like this particular style. It's everybody understands and it exists as a cultural heritage in many traditions around the world. It has a meaning. Maybe in the Orient or in the Fari it is different than it is in Southern Europe or in Northern Europe. But people like it, they understand it emotionality. And this is why I think that it is important to use it as a tool of communication. It can spread a message to a broader public and this is also why we are so warm or enchanted by this project of SMCK on Reel that has this year as a honorary guest Ukraine and how it can add something in the way we understand or imagine the suffering of this people and the suffering also of our colleagues. I think it is horrible what is happening there and I think it is admirable that this tragedy they have courage to keep going, to keep working. So it is a message you spread, that has various levels of touching people of also reflecting on our own life, of learning or expressing solidarity.
C.Z.: And maybe one more factor is in the applied arts in general. There is maybe more the opportunity of an object to be traded. So if it has a practical purpose, a chair or a lamp or something you can use, you can speak more with common people then with the visual arts or fine arts that is traded in a certain field. And we should also talk about this difference between the fine arts market and the applied arts market.
C.K.: It's our next question. What are the differences between them? (laughts) The fine art market and the market for contemporary jewellery?
C.Z.: I think the big difference is the prices of art works and the prices of works of craft and applied art works. I don't know the number, 60million dollars? For a...
L.R.: For the big names.
C.Z.: No, for a piece of NFT, the digital art work. There was a ground breaking peak of price, but these prices are not so unusual. So these are uplifted prices, sometimes there are only investment prices that change from one hand to the other. It is not about the work itself, the use of the work. It's more about the market value and the potential power behind it. To invest it and reinvest in it and gain profit from. It is a market that has become very hot especially now in a period where money is devaluated.
L.R.: In fine arts.
C.Z.: In general, the financial market. Even the art market goes up more and more. So people run there and try to invest their money there.
C.Z.: Yes, on the other hand...If you wanna finish?
L.R.: No, please.
C.Z.: On the other hand, there are of cause design brands or design objects that are extremely expensive. But talking about the common design and arts crafts market it's always connected to the practicability of a piece of jewellery, a piece of furniture, that people can afford it. So there is an other target group connected to this production and trade of this objects. And this is something extremely fluid in this moment, where money is devaluated, where we have a high inflation, where we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. People become very careful about their money, especially when it's about luxury goods and applied art is luxury, jewellery is luxury. And I think we have to be aware of this rapid change of things at the moment.
L.R.: This is true, on the other hand there is a market for fine jewellery, for vintage fine jewellery and this is doing very well from what we read in various reports or auction houses, of sales, of .... There was a report by Bloomberg last week on an American jewellery brand selling mainly for the mainstream like cheaper jewellery. And this brand manager has been interviewed by Bloomberg, I don't remember the name of the brand, there is a lot of stores in the United States and now we see the demand. Demand for jewellery under 500$ is decreasing and this means that the middle class or the lower middle class, the segment of society that buys jewellery that we make for them. This is affordable jewellery, it is not 10$ jewellery, but it is something you can afford like a ring with an artificial diamond, this is what they said. Now we focus more on artificial stones and diamonds, we make wedding rings, engagement rings, very classical designs, we see that over 5000$ there is no problem. But for the cheaper items, there is a problem because this class of people is disappearing. They have other things to pay or other needs they have to cover. Everything is getting very, very expensive. We talk about contemporary jewellery. What do we mean exactly? If we mean the jewellery we see in Schmuck in Munich, in the fair, beautiful works, works of art you can collect them with visual arts or wearable sculpture. I'm afraid that people simply don't know about. They don't know that it exists. Maybe they knew 30 years ago, maybe it was better, I belief that. 30, 40 years ago you had maybe two major galleries in London, that do not exist any more, the Lesly Grace and the Electrum, they closed, disappeared. We had the gallery RA, we had the Louise Smit in Amsterdam. These are galleries that are gone, they've been pioneers in letting the world know, what contemporary jewellery is and how mixed it is, the materials and ideas and concepts it uses. So we have something like an implosion, not an explosion, an implosion of the radius of contemporary jewellery. And for me it is important that we inform our community, what we do. But it doesn't help a lot. I sometimes have the impression when I go for example to Munich is, people who already know a lot, collect already for many years jewellery or other jewellery designers...it's a pleasure to meet them. But on the other hand designers have to make a living. So you have to bring also other people in, potential buyers. It's not that they don't want to or maybe even they have the money to buy it, but they don't know. And we've made this experience, because we also exhibit also in Munich in galleries, but they are for fine arts. And the galerist told us or the usual clientele of the galleries told us, when theycame to our opening: They had no idea, they've never seen something like that before. They have no idea that Schmuck ... they were Munich based people, architects, designers from the broader branch of art and design, they had no idea about Schmuck. And this is very said. It means that there is a problem with communication first of all.
A.S.R.S.: Yes. And I think we cans see that this field of contemporary jewellery is definitely in a crisis. And we are wondering, what does contemporary jewellery need and maybe for example at the level of the market, at the level of teaching, institutions, at the level of artists or at the level of global networking? Because maybe all of this is connected with each other?
C.Z.: We had two magazines of our SMCK which were around this topic of the fair in Munich and its difficulties through not being represented in, what Loukia said the real press, so in the common press for certain reasons. Because if you want to place an add in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in the regional and the national newspaper, you pay 60.000 or 100.000.
L.R.: And this is the cheap option.
C.Z.: So it's not that easy to advertise for such a festival. But it can be reached through certain actuality, through a certain topic and through gaining interest by people who work in these newspapers. So this is something that is important, that there is a network that circles around how to promote jewellery not only in the own community and to celebrate oneself to be part of the community, but to expand and to go out of this boarder and try to find new connections.
L.R.: If I may say so, my observation is, that they don't do it, because they don't know how to do it. They don't know how to work with the press. And the press is very cynical at some matters. What Christoph said is true, this is why we work with concepts, because concepts may interest the mainstream press. If you have something that is an actual thing like for example: newspaper may find interest in a jewellery art exhibition focussing on the war in Ukraine or Ukrainian arts. Because this is what is written in the news every day. So you find a link to adjust, but it's not automatically. It is a lot of work. Who are you going to address? Which newspaper? And which editor? And how are you going to write the request, that this thing should be examine? There are hierarchies, there are procedures that you don't learn at school. This is something that you learn when you work in the media environment. Christoph said that as an advertisement it is an relatively easy way to get to an article when you have serious news or topics. It is not that you place an advertisement and they are going to write about you. That is sometimes a give and take. So I am Mercedes Benz and I place an add. And maybe this newspaper during the next moths will also post an interview, I am the Manager of BMW, and they post an interview. So it is like getting a bonus out of the advertisement. Because there is no better advertisement then somebody reading about you in the press. There is nothing that is better then that: a good interview, a good presentation. It's worth more than 1000 advertisements. Because people know, readers know inconclusively this has been filtered by the editorial board. So this is something that really must be of importance for us to know.
The one thing is, that people don't know who to address. The second is they don't know that you have to make a deal sometimes. Many artists expect that the press will write about them, we hear that from colleagues that work for media, for newspapers. They get telephone calls: "Can you write about me? I send you this invitation, you come to my opening, you ask me some questions.". Because there is no interest! Because the press always has to write on issues that are important to a broader audience and this readership needs to know, why should I buy this newspaper. To read what? They receive a lot of press releases like that. Like: "I am a great artist, I am going to have a great show. Write about me!". And this does not work. Because what am I going to write? Why is it of importance? Why should somebody waste time to read it? And sometimes I answer that and they never reply. They are not ready to learn that they should give reasons to the press to publish about them. Another problem is that jewellery agents do not give the press the explanation, why this matters of any interest. Why should we care about jewellery? The third is that obviously there is no budget for advertisement. Either for good posters out in the street. It is expensive, we have made a research. It starts with 4000 or 5000€ I think.
C.Z.: Some posters around a gallery in the city.
L.R.: Around the city. It is very, very expensive. 60.000 is the minimum fee for placing a small add in Spiegel or Süddeutsche Zeitung. A lot of money. You can't do it on your own. It has to be a collective add.
C.Z.: I saw yesterday an article in Spiegel online magazine which I was really surprised of, about the bloody gold of the mines in Kongo. So it was revolving around the conflict and the paramilitary troupes that finance their fights through gold which they sell to Europe, which is used for jewellery. This is a common issue that we know fair traded gold, fair mined gold which has become an issue, also for the consumers. To be aware that gold is not gold. It's connected to the way it's produced also. And it makes it even more valuable if it's produced in a fair way. If you're aware of it. So this is maybe a door where you could enter with contemporary jewellery and say: "Look Spiegel, it's not only about the gold. It's also about artists who consciously work for this topic, taking gold from smartphones which are also produced in mines we don't know about.". And you have a door which you open. So you have to be informed as an artist.
L.R.: Not only that. I would think it wouldn't work with Spiegel if an artist writes to Spiegel. It works for a press officer. So you have a big organization like, let's say now Spiegel in Germany, like a fair presenting jewellery or from applied arts. As a press officer this is the opportunity to make contact with this person. It takes time, a lot of energy to have results. But it is not impossible. For the press officer of the fair, of the organization to make contact and you argue that there is an answer to your article and propose things, suggestt things. Like, we can have a fight or make known that jewellery is the first art discipline that engaged in environmental issues and practices. 20, 25 years ago they were the first ones to talk about fair trade, about pollution, about chemical pollution to apply the six seas. That the sea is like chemistry, no chemistry, no civil war, no diamonds from civil war areas, no gold from conflict areas, no child labour. These are like rules, I read them 20, 25 years ago and this is one of the things that fascinated me about jewellery, how updated it was, how pioneer it was. There was also a congress in London 16 years ago I attended, organized by the Association of Contemporary Jewellery on this topic. 16 years ago they already talked about it. So you have this potential but maybe you also need other specialities in organizing the fairs. Or other consulting, or other media.
C.K.: The most of our questions we had, you already answered. This is really fantastic for us. It's great because you are so aware of all the different topics and areas around jewellery.
C.Z.: Yes, I can imagine that some of the audience might be confused by these many different topics. Sometimes we are confused ourselves. but we have these many projects and we think it's a quality. We sometimes have the struggle not to loose the right way. We need some time for personal work. This is essential. And then of cause for every project you need time to organize it, if you want to do it properly. So this is the time management and this is very hard to consider, especially for young artists or people who try to enter this field, how much time you spent in the organization and the planning of things. And the communication, writing and answering e-mails. That's a lot of work. But to come back to the quality of these different platforms. We have started to explore and we sometimes hopp from one to the other, then we come back to it, like we come back to our residency platform. And we want to foster more projects for people who are willing and who want to explore this experience of going to Athens, of learning about the rich tradition of jewellery. But also of combining it with their new ideas and experiences. That's the one thing and the other thing is to progress with the need of the time and with things that don't work any more in a certain political, social context. We are in a steady movement to change and to put more focus on one or the other project. And in the end, maybe through the incidence, but also through the attention to the project now SMCK on Reel, our video project has come, let's say out of nothing. We started in our first project with 60 participants, now we have many different venues at the same time. So we put more focus on this project, because it is something we see there is a positive resonance and people want to support it. This helps us a lot to go this way.
C.K.: Yes. How could the potential of contemporary jewellery actually be transported, communicated and developed without ending up in precariousness? You already teasered some ideas of this. Maybe you can just wrap it up for us and the listeners?
C.Z.: I think we have discussed some aspects of the self-funding or to avoid precarity. To avoid being in a situation where you either don't have money or time. This is something, probably the first rule is to be tough enough to maintain with your practice. Despite of many factors that are maybe not so comfortable and easy to handle with. So you have to be aware, you have to set a goal that's for a long term distance. And then think about the strategies, how you can support yourself. Sometimes it's more important to get feedback and to have invitations or to have a vision and perspective then having money for trading your works. On the other hand it's very important, this feedback by people who support you with financial support, who buy something from you and they give you support to some very practical needs. So you can continue buying materials, buying tools but also buying time to continue working on. And this is a long process, sometimes you maybe start and you suddenly have success. But the success is limited, it doesn't necessary continue for a long while. So you have to think of the next steps to go on.
L.R.: Can I say my opinion? My advice to younger people is: This is a very tough profession to be an artist. Very, very tough. And the chances you succeed are very limited. First of all you have to want it very, very much and also know what success means to you. It might be financial success, maybe you're a great artist like Amedeo Modigliani and you never make money out of your art. So it is of cause always a reflecting on yourself and your goals and your wishes. Knowing to be realistic, knowing that the chances are very tough and knowing yourself what is written in the Oracle of Delphi: Know yourself. It is very important. And don't ask yourself how far can you go or what you wish to achieve. Because what you wish to achieve, if it's very unique, if you go your own way, you may be confronted by a whole community of people who not like what you do, who not understand what you do. And you have to be very persistent, you need to have a vision. And in my opinion practically you have to let aside sometimes your egoism or taking things personally. There might be disappointments, there are many let-downs, maybe people will not like your work, will reject you. And this is the thing of an extra issue, rejected. They will reject you and know when you should hit back. And this is when they who reject you are idiots or when you should learn from their rejection. Anyway, you always from rejection. But be tough! I receive mails and I hear it from younger artists that they give up, because somebody, who was very important in their eyes has rejected them. It's the belief in what they do and they should either understand that this opinion doesn't matter or somebody else will like it. It also happened to me many times and you learn. It's a marathon. They should think that what they do, art, is a marathon. And if they are successful, as Christoph said, there are many artists that were very successful and then a lockdown comes and destroys your work, your projects, your everything. So you have to be very tough. And very determined to succeed in an environment that is very hedonistic and does not always play by the rules.
A.S.R.S.: Yes, thank you so much! I think we are all looking for a kind of better future.