Last summer I had the chance to visit Katharina Schmid’s studio in the heart of Vienna. Perched in a beautiful sunlit street, I couldn’t get more excited when I realized that the yellow building with the blue storefront was going to be her studio: the Lindengasse Atelier. To be perfectly honest, I’m here to visit Katharina and Katie G Jewellery as well, as they share the studio/gallery space. And as it goes when you visit a shared studio it is hard to try to separate the visits as the space has both of their imprints on it. Even so, Katharina was the one who found this space (her fifth studio as she will explain) that it turned out to be her dream jewelry studio. This is the one she had been meaning to have for a very long time.
As I walk in I find all of the things that I like in a house in display at the studio. It is a clean, modern, white space with a beautiful window that lets lots of natural light in. The modern high top table with barstools to sit with clients catches my eye. It’s such a perfect place to sit and discuss a project with Katharina. The benches are on one corner of the gallery space and in the middle two tables showcase the work of both Katharina and Katie G. . There are white marble displays, a gorgeous folding screen with a beach image in fabric and jewelry hanging from it. Then there are the drawer cabinets, a beautiful old console that holds a secret and of course, Katharina’s ufo plants.
On another room lays her office, a small open space kitchen with a backdrop of white locker doors from floor to ceiling that belonged to a school and of course, Katharina’s little garden. This is the place where she nurtures her ufo plants, and if you are lucky enough to go there and buy jewelry from her, you’ll probably leave the gallery with one (she gifts her clients a baby “ufo” plant).
Katharina has an easy smile and talks with enthusiasm about her path to become a jeweler. I laugh when I see that she answered the questionnaire twice: one with a very detailed account of her answers and another one written by hand with a shorter version. Of course that you’ll see the longer version here because I thought it would resonate with lots of other jewelers and also because it shows Katharina’s beautiful soul and sensibility.
If you’re ever in Vienna, go and experience the space and jewelry for yourselves and get the treat to meet Katharina in person. Now, and without further ado, let’s jump to her answers!
Address: Atelier Lindengasse, Lindengasse 5, 1070 Wien, P: +43 699 17414356
How did you become a jewelry designer?
“After high school I went to a goldsmith college to learn to craft from scratch. I wanted to be creative so I thought I’ll give it a try. It wasn’t what I expected. I thought I could design right away. I already had so many ideas for designs and couldn’t wait to transform them into real life jewelry. But first I had to learn the technique and practice a lot by doing tedious and difficult tasks like sawing straight lines or filling square angles. Learning the craft takes a lot of time. The first few weeks my fingers hurt a lot, I couldn’t imagine how goldsmiths could cope with that. Despite it all I fell in love with those techniques and tools immediately. I love how it enhanced my eye for detail in all life situations.
In goldsmithing the traditions and techniques date back to ancient times and over the centuries were hardly replaced but complemented by modern technology. For me it was like discovering a whole new world and I admired my teachers who could make all those perfectly manufactured pieces. I began almost 16 years ago and I’m still learning with each piece of jewelry I make.”
What’s the first thing you do when you get to the studio?
“Almost everyday I ride my bike to the studio. This is my favorite way of getting there. A cup of coffee starts my work day”
What do you like most about your space?
“This is my fifth studio and I hope this is the one where I can stay for a very long time. Some years before I found my current studio space I made a list of how my own perfect studio should look like some day. I dreamed of having one room with high ceilings with a big window facing the street and the entrance door right next to it. I always thought it would be really nice to have my bench and tools in the same room where I present and make my jewelry. For me the process of creating it’s the most important and that’s what I wanted to show my customers. Two years ago a dream came true and by coincidence I saw this announcement that this space was up for rent. It used to be a fashion store at the time. When I first entered this room I knew at first sight that with a bit of renovation this was it: the studio from my wishlist! And I love the layout!”
Pick 3 objects in your studio that make the space yours:
“A mirror from my grandmother; some old tools from my great-uncle who was a watchmaker and my growing collection of ufo plants”
What’s your favorite spot in the studio?
“Definitely the workbench! Crafting jewelry is still my favorite activity. I would love to sit there and create new pieces of jewelry all day long. Getting lost in the moment and falling into this special state of concentrating is almost like meditation. Also I love talking to my customers and showing them our jewelry collections. There is so much positive feedback and kind reactions that often make my day.”
Any studio rituals?
“Everyday we open our old safe in the morning and put the jewelry out onto the table in the showroom. In the evening we put them back in. It’s a nice and repetitive work that starts and ends a day.”
What do you love and hate doing at the bench?
“I love creating new designs. I also love soldering. The moment when two pieces of metal melt together- pure magic! I don’t like repairing jewelry. It takes a lot of patience dealing with the unexpected surprises that can come up doing this kind of work.”
What makes you procrastinate?
“I don’t really enjoy coming up with texts for press releases. It’s kind of obvious as there aren’t many words on my website!”
What is currently inspiring you?
“It’s miniature things that fascinate me at the moment. Snowflakes with their different shapes and patterns. And water drops. Like the ones that come out of the leaves from our banana tree in the studio.”
What piece of jewelry do you always wear?
“I always wear one of my FORGET ME KNOTS rings. I have a few and each of them reminds me of the time when I made it. I also wear a ring I got from Katie G. It’s a very thin ring with hammered surface. It’s a nice contrast and a good combination at the same time. Like our studio cooperation.”
Currently obsessed with which gemstone/metal?
“Pure gold and all the different colors of alloys”
Piece of jewelry you’re most proud of?
“The engagement ring I made for a friend of mine that is also a jewelry designer I admire. It was a surprise so I had to design it together with her boyfriend. I was very excited. All went well, she liked the ring, said yes and in the end I got to make their wedding bands.”
What’s your dream jewelry piece?
“Making a song into a piece of jewelry. “Gold” by Spandau Ballet for instance or a song by Prefab Sprout.”
Worst piece of jewelry you had to design/create?
“The ring for my certification exam. At the time it was the most difficult thing for me to make and at the same time the ugliest piece of jewelry I had ever seen. Now I actually like it.
The best thing a client ever told you?
“The best thing is when people come to the studio wearing my jewelry that they got as a present and tell me that they love it and seem happy.”
The funniest thing a client ever told you?
“I think it is funny that people come in to ask about our ufo plant and sometimes even ask if they can have one.”
What’s on your desk right now?
“I am trying to keep it clear of tools I am not using, but I end up cluttering it up. The first 15m of the workday the desk is in perfect order, after that only I know where things are and sometimes I even know why they are there.”
If you weren’t a jewelry designer?
“I could only be happy working in a garden”