Interview with Felix Lindner: How do I want “something” to look?
Brooches originally served as fastenings for cloaks and gowns. Only after the invention of buttons they became purely ornamental. One key attribute of all jewellery that they never forfeited, however, was to be a bearer of meaning and a badge of distinction. Unfettered by the limitations intrinsic to pieces worn around the neck, finger or wrist, brooches present a chance for contemporary jewellery artists and designers to negotiate fundamental design parameters such as shape, colour, material, and composition on a miniature scale. The objects now emerging beyond the bounds of the mass market at the interface of art, design, and craftsmanship, moreover, seem to manage perfectly well without precious metals.
Felix Lindner, a qualified goldsmith and trained jewellery designer, combines various principles in his brooches including designing the reverse side more elaborately than the front. In an interview, he explains to us where these originate from, the relationship that precious and base materials have to one another and the functions that jewellery has today in his opinion.
How do you choose your materials? What for you is the charm of base materials?
I choose materials, because I see a particular quality in them. These are above all aesthetic characteristics such as chromaticity, structure and texture. On the other hand, there are material qualities that allow me to implement an artistic plan with specific resources.
I would like to go into the term “precious” a little. A material is described as being precious from a scientific (chemical) point of view when it has a high stability under environmental influences. In the case of gold, platinum and silver, the stability is extremely high. Then there is another definition of precious which has a more financial meaning. A material is precious when it is rare and sought-after – naturally, both meanings of “precious” are linked.
Our general understanding of jewellery is influenced by precious metals and precious stones. Indeed, the use of “base” materials in jewellery has a long history. Animal teeth in amulets in the Stone Age, exotic shells and fruits during the Renaissance and Baroque, cast iron in the 19th century are all examples of base materials that have experienced particular appreciation in their age and bear witness to civilising events. The illustration shows quite a good picture of what I mean. Who would think nowadays of presenting a coconut as something of value?
In this respect, I consciously use base materials like plastic components. Plastic is a material that has a high technical ability and at the same time is a waste of resources and yet offers fantastic colours and material qualities. Since being discovered, plastic has occupied a firmly established place in jewellery design. Interestingly, I use precious metals in my work similarly to the way they are used in the coconut cup. The fact that it is a reliable size, chemically stable and relatively easy to manipulate allows the material to be worked and made into a “precious” commodity. Naturally, I also take into account the general agreement that it is a particularly valuable metal. This produces something of a contrast when combined with plastic.
What concept or what principles do you follow in your brooch work?
I have been making brooches for around 18 years where the front is made from a discovered object or a reduced shape. The reverse, in comparison to the front, is often elaborately worked. Several principles meet in this method of working.
At the beginning, there is a really archaic principle: you find an object, it catches your attention, it gives you pleasure and you want to communicate this. You put it on and you display it.
My work as a designer is finding a technical solution that reflects the character of the object and makes it into a brooch, into jewellery. It helps me to change the status of the object.
The design of the reverse also involves playing with the brooch element. The title of the (admittedly somewhat bizarre) house track “How to do that (in a new way)” by Jean Paul Gaultier has always been something of a leitmotif for me. Naturally, I try to formulate and communicate aesthetic concepts.
Items of jewellery are multi-faceted, there is the clearly communicated message and the ideal significance. That is another principle that I deal with in my brooches. A (dull) example is a wedding ring – everyone sees it and understands. But the name of the spouse and the date of the marriage are engraved on the inside of the ring and, alongside other wonders and catastrophes that the ring stands for, are concealed from most people.
What functions do you see jewellery having nowadays?
Looked at carefully, actually nothing has changed: jewellery is purpose-free and beautifying. Jewellery marks you out, meaning that it defines the wearer and/or makes you belong. In addition to its actual existence, jewellery has another level of meaning. These are the essential functions that jewellery has had since its beginnings and that it still fulfils today. Anyone adorning themselves with “contemporary jewellery art” positions themselves and clearly appeals to the “cultured beholder”.
What advantages and opportunities does the brooch offer as a piece of jewellery in comparison to others such as a chain, for example?
You wear brooches on your clothes. They are an extension of jewellery pieces that were originally used to close items of clothing. This results in a spatial distance to the body. Brooches are jewellery that you put on and wear on the outside. As a result, they produce a relatively abstract platform that gives the designer more freedom to communicate ideas.
Chains and ear jewellery mostly function directly on the skin. The body is much more obvious. When designing chains or ear jewellery, different themes suddenly take centre stage: for example, the ideal of beauty, femininity and the erotic aspect of jewellery.
Where would you place yourself between craftsmanship, art and design?
I am a goldsmith – artist, craftsman and designer. I enjoy the fact that in this job, as I practice it, features of these three creative areas can be unified, which in our society are sadly often disconnected from each other.
I see myself as an artist, because personal themes drive me – which derive from my view on our society and environment. I would like to replace the term “designer” with “Gestalter” [creator]. In every job I do there is a moment when I see myself as a “Gestalter”. Then there are specific tasks: how does an idea become reality and what formal language is used in overcoming technical necessities? This part of my work is always “design” and creation. I like asking myself: how do I want “something” to look? Here is another explanation that I have always found very helpful: “[…] Gestaltung ist die ästhetisch qualifizierte Formung eines Inhalts. […]” [design is the aesthetically qualified shaping of content] (Lexikon der Kunst, Leipzig: E. A. Seemann Verlag).
In the final analysis, craft allows me to control the manufacturing process and its results. Craft experiences enrich the creator’s options and also point out the boundaries. The virtuoso practice of a craft brings a lot of pleasure with it.