The Munich Jewellery Week is over. I didn’t manage to see everything- not even close- but as I had no project myself this year, I had more time to see exhibitions than in previous years. The tendency seemed to be towards simple jewellery-friendly displays and big group shows. Personally, I found there to be a lack of the more intimate atmospheric shows, but then again: I didn’t see everything. In any case there was plenty of great art jewellery to discover, some of which I am going to feature in Extraordinary! on KARMA CHROMA in the coming weeks.
I would like to begin with Christoph Straube’s current series titled “Enamel on Silver” and “Enamel on Steel”, which I would describe as stunning comic-like drawings in enamel on metal of simple geometric three dimensional shapes. He was showing them this year at two different places; at the fair in Munich, with gallery Rosemarie Jäger and a booth he shared with the JAC group.
Like me, Christoph first completed a three year apprenticeship as a goldsmith at the Berufsfachschule für Glas und Schmuck in Neugablonz, Germany. He then went on to study at the College of Fine Arts in Nuremberg, Germany, in the class for gold-and silversmithing under Prof. Ulla Mayer from 2000-2006. During and after his art studies he experimented with many materials, but for these new series he came back to traditional goldsmithing techniques and materials. The necklaces were already on display in the Schmuck 2014- exhibition and attracted me immediately. To be honest, enamel-on-metal-work is often not surprising me. In the big picture, I feel the aesthetics that are reached with enameling techniques have exhausted themselves somewhat. Christoph’s pieces however, have something very fresh and unique about them. With humor and skills he has created a clever body of work, which challenges the viewer: Perspective distortion and a play with overlapping elements to create optical illusions which invite the eyes to explore. Christoph states that he likes to invent a system with its own logic, within these boundaries he investigates what is possible. For me they are extraordinary, sensitive pieces of art jewellery which are beautifully made adornments and are really fun to look at.
At the fair, he showed me the backsides of the brooches, which bring in another element: colour. I like the contrast between the black and white fronts with their delicate drawings and the boldly coloured backsides, which concentrate on outline and surface.
Christoph Straube kindly answered some questions for me about these pieces:
Carina: You experimented with many different materials in your previous work. What made you decide to come back to traditional jewellery materials like silver, steel and enamel for this series?
Christoph: I like the idea that the silver and steel pieces look as if they were sketches which have been cut from paper sheets – opposite to pieces where non-precious materials are processed in order to visually look like more precious materials.
Carina: Can you explain a bit the process of developing and making these pieces?
Christoph: As a first step I sketch everything on paper – for me, that’s the fastest way to develop a shape and an idea. After that, with the help of the computer and a 3D software, I construct three dimensional objects which I can rotate in order to determine the particular perspective view. I export everything as a line drawing to Illustrator, where I align several shapes and print them out on paper. From here, the traditional hand craft process starts: I simply cut out the shapes, glue them on a metal sheet and saw them out. The rest – and main part – is enamel painting: in several firings I apply a white background, shadings and at last I draw the black lines with very fine ground painting enamel. Only after the last firing and assembling of the whole piece I can see if it’s right.
Carina: It seems you develop your technique further and further until it is immaculate. Are you a perfectionist? How much do you leave to chance?
Christoph: I am a perfectionist regarding the accuracy of the initial draft and the pure technical part of my work. In enameling, I appreciate unpredictable colour changes or traces from the work process like paint dust on the surface. For me this makes the vibrancy of the pieces.
Carina: A part of the work on these pieces is happening on the computer. What do you think about the increasing use of computer-based techniques in the field of art jewellery? What significance do they have for your own work?
Christoph: For my work, the computer is just a tool like a saw or a file. With the computer the drafting work gets much more efficient but is just a step in the whole process. You don´t see it at the end. Though, I find a meaningful use of computer-based techniques in jewellery quite interesting. Generative design is a huge field, and some people use especially the faults of CAM methods like coarse surface structures, which surely give new design possibilities.
Carina: What would you say is the golden thread that runs though your work?
Christoph: A humorous and comic-like aspect went along with most of my pieces. Further, I found myself often working in design systems which limit the amount of possible shapes. In earlier works, this happened by stylization or a work principle like making pieces by folding only. Also the enamel necklaces and brooches with their geometric shapes cannot be done with any shape in its particular perspective and alignment. Yet this limitation lets me experience the freedom in designing even more.
Carina: Thank you!
Christoph: Thank you!
If you want to see more of Christoph´s work, please visit his website: www.preciouspages.de
Christoph Straube: Necklaces, untitled, sterling silver, enamel (2013-2015); Brooches, untitled, stainless steel, enamel (2015-2016); Photos: Christoph Straube
Text edit: Hayley Grafflin