My goal for the studio visits was always to search for independent designers that create jewelry. I always get thrilled when I see a traditional goldsmith studio but I have an enormous interest in seeing creative people work with different, non conventional materials. So, a long introduction to say that I was more than thrilled to finally showcase the studio of two designers that create jewelry out of concrete.
The bergnerschmidt studio is located in the basement of a beautiful building in a cool residential neighborhood of Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. But don’t be fooled, this is not a dark, hidden basement, quite the contrary. A pair of red chairs and a table outside on the sidewalk leads you down the stairs to this heaven of concrete objects and jewelry. This feels like a modern version of the Ali Baba cave, where the walls are covered with technical drawings, sketches, inspirations and photos of the jewelry itself. And of course Lily Bergner and Elli Schmidt.
Lily and Elli are the masterminds behind the bergnerschmidt brand. While going though their website I was extremely pleased to find two women behind the brand. The two designers met while studying fashion design at HTW Berlin and quickly realized they shared lots of ideas. Their final university project was the seed to the creation of bergnerschmidt, which they started in 2009 right out of university. The inspiration behind their creations is pretty much based on the Bauhaus movement and their design philosophy is that less is more. The modern, cool aesthetics of concrete leads to clean designs that showcase the geometry of the objects. They both laugh as they explain that their original designs were actually more complicated and ornate but that after some trial and error they arrived to a simplified design that they both loved. Lily explains that the whole point of working with such a material like concrete is to strip the design of all of its ornaments and leave it on its original form, which is based on geometric lines and angles. To which Elli adds that it’s not easy to make design simple, it’s actually a more complicated process.
Contrary to common belief, concrete jewelry is very lightweight. By comparing concrete with silver, a ring in the exact same size would weight 4 g in concrete and around 25 g in silver. And contrary to the fabrication process of jewelry with metal you do not worry as much with thickness of the piece, which opens up a whole world of design possibilities. Still the creation process is extremely laborious and a messy one. First you have to create a silicon mold for basis of the design. Once the mold is done a laborious pouring process begins and knowledge of curing times, textures, colors ensues. This ends up to being a knowledgeable process that improves with time, practice and testing.
Coming back to Lily and Elli's studio/workshop, this is a perfect place to display their jewelry and work. There's a display of the collections they've done in the past, and bear in mind that not all of them are jewelry pieces. There are also simple, modern office accessories like these beautiful little houses where you can put business cards, notes or pens. I'm very biased for statement pieces and I love all of the jewelry pieces they've made: from the necklaces to the gorgeous cuffs, to the very geometric rings. I ask Elli and Lily to model the jewelry so that I can take some photos and it's fun to see how they complement each other. They truly are a design duo that think alike and really work well with each other. To exemplify this there was a moment that I ask them to sit at their desk so that I can photograph them and they totally forget about me, start talking about work and actually start having a meeting. This is truly precious to see.
Which brings me to the last thing that I promised and definitely have to mention: their desk. I fell in love with their desk, which they have made themselves. It consists of a pallete top, with black legs and a beautiful patina on the wood. I think that they should make more and sell them as they are great. They laugh at the thought, but honestly, don't you think they're beautiful? They should create a line out of it (and we should create a petition to ask them to make them).
I had a really, really good time with Lily and Elli and I consider myself extremely lucky to had had the chance to understand the concrete process and see the final, beautiful result. It was such a breath of fresh air to get to know them and see a different side of jewelry creation. I wish them all the best and thank them to receiving me so well at their amazing studio space.
bergnerschmidt concrete jewellery
studio // showroom: kollwitzstr.57, 10405 berlin, Germany
How did you become a jewelry designer?
"We both studied fashion design. We first experimented with concrete and jewellery when we made our final exam, it was part of our diploma collection."
What's the first thing you do when you get to the studio?
"Turn on the light, open the windows, look around at what we did last and make coffee"
What do you like the most about your space?
"It is a square space ;-) our favorite shape. We just love our studio."
Pick 3 objects in your studio that make your space yours
"Our table made by euro pallets, yellow lamp from our childhood back in the 80's, bergnerschmidt garland"
What's your favorite spot in the studio?
"Sitting in front of our studio, drinking coffee on our red old garden chairs in the sun"
Any studio rituals?
"We try to never leave a mess"
What do you love & hate doing at the bench/desk?
"Love: imagine, develop, design, draw new projects, collection, etc.
Hate: book keeping, having fights with Excel"
What makes you procrastinate?
"Sometimes the lack of time and money or the borders of the material itself"
What is currently inspiring you?
"Geometry. Now and forever"
What piece of jewelry do you always wear?
"Elli: cuff or ring (more black)
Lily: cuff or ring (more white)"
Currently obsessed with which material?
"Concrete was our first love and will probably be our last. Other materials we love: paper, leather, wood, silver"
Piece of jewelry you're most proud of?
"From our new collection KVADRAT
1. baukasten chain no.1 and baukasten chain no.2
2. Open front cuff"
What is your dream jewelry piece?
"Making concrete jewelry is already our dream"
Worst piece of jewelry you had to design?
"Luckily we've never been in that situation"
What's the longest period of time you've spent at the studio and why?
"Maybe 14h? Last preparations for fashion week, same procedure every season :) "
What's the best thing a client ever told you?
"One customer said our ring was her favorite piece of wearable art. She loves it and she's glad we made it. A true declaration of love"
The funniest thing a client ever told you?
"Your white concrete looks like a rubber"
What's on your desk right now?
"Production of our new collection and a collaboration with a very interesting german designer"
If you weren't a jewelry designer?
"Lily: probably a product, packaging, graphic designer or goldsmith
Elli: carpenter, potter, restorer"