“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Wiener Schmucktage 2018

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The mixture of its enormous historic importance and its evident drive for a contemporary global role has developed a cultural buzz in Vienna rare to find anywhere else. Just look at the diversity of programs happening this Fall and Winter in the Imperial City (read our subjective shortlist here). For the first time we participated at the Wiener Schmucktage (Jewellery Days of Vienna), which also received some jet fuel this year. We visited Michaela Arl de Lima, the talented designer at her workshop in our neighbourhood and one of Vienna’s icons, FREYWILLE.

For centuries, Vienna has been well known for handcrafts including goldsmiths and jewellery makers. The recent developments in technology, design and material sciences have opened new doors for experimenting at the confluence of various art forms. The Wiener Schmucktage, established by Veronika Schwarzinger a few years ago, was born in these very interesting times. The event sets up the entire city as a single stage for curious locals and visitors to encounter innovative jewellery designers and artists over the duration of six days.

‘The boundaries between traditional craft and conceptual design are blurring. Interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches – such as an intensive engagement with sculpture, video, performance, architecture, design and fashion – are leading to surprising results in jewellery production.’ – says Christina Werner Initiator and Leading Project Manager. ‘At the same time there is a trend to return to handicraft tradition. Thus leading to a conscious and responsible handling of our material resources facing the altered production conditions and the consumer behaviour of today. The diverse approaches in jewellery making are reflected in the jewellery pieces themselves.’

Being an international design hub, which nurtures a new generation of jewellery makers, is a priority for the entire city. You can tell the importance by having the awesome Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art – MAK standing behind the jewellery week project. The MAK Columned Main Hall hosted the kick-off reception and the venue provided the stage for a series of lectures for the enthusiastic audience.

The six days were packed with breakfasts right at the workbenches of jewellers, discussions, evening cocktails and organised tours brining curious minds behind the scenes at 35 locations across the city.

We used this opportunity to peek into the store of Michaela Arl de Lima in our neighbourhood and visit one of the most well-known Viennese contemporary jewellery houses, FREYWILLE.

Michaela Arl de Lima

There she is grinding the coffee in front of her tidy shop in Neubau. The whole sight is so typical to this area of the city: the former silk factory centre of Vienna, Neubau, has become the vibrant 7th district offering diverse cultural, gastro and shopping experiences. Old, new and reborn find their audience and cast an unmistakable Viennese chic-magic out of the formerly peripheral and industrial environment. The hottest and most obvious cultural triangle (Leopold Museum, Museum Moderner Kunst aka MUMOK and Kunsthalle Wien) in the Museumsquartier (MQ) was developed here at the turn of the new Millennium. MQ was designed to set the heartbeat for its wider surroundings and act as a recreational area for intellectual minds. However, hundreds of galleries and small shops have popped up in the backstreets. These hidden spicy surprises make you feel home and eventually settle in the area – Neubau is a melting pot of artistic and entrepreneurial creative minds.

This is why the Carinthian-born Michaela Arl de Lima ended up here too. Just like her father, she graduated from the Higher Technical College for Teaching and Research in Ferlach, Carinthia as Gold and Silversmith. But unlike her father, she actually developed a career in this field and became master goldsmith in 2008. Her little store at 25 Lindengasse is also her Viennese workshop, where she is generally to be found. In order to retain this dual role there is limited space for larger tools, therefore she left the kiln in his original workshop in Ferlach.

The window to the street and the one in the shop reveal her latest pieces. ‘As you can see, I love tourmaline’ – she smiles. ‘These gemstones may include metals like iron, aluminium, magnesium or lithium, which bring beautiful colours into the crystal. The earrings here include lithium, hence the pinkish and green-blue hues. The columnar shape is characteristic to the tourmaline but the abundant inclusions give an individual personality to each stone.’

‘I also love the graduation of colours and that it sometime changes depending on the angle you view it’ – she goes on. ‘I use many other gemstones, of course. Exceptional stones I may find can drive my designs, but more often I draw my inspiration from everything that surrounds me – travels, streets or architectural structures…’

Michaela creates rings, earrings, necklaces and adorns even purses with jewellery. Although the shapes vary on a wide spectrum, you can tell that they were formed by the same hands. ‘I don’t think in collections and matchy-matchy pieces. I love when two very different creations meet on a woman and harmonise. You certainly must have a strong taste and confidence, but these genuine encounters between the jewellery and wearer cast a different heat.’

Since she opened the workshop in Neubau, she gets visitors who just happen to pass by and others directly looking for her jewellery. Small ateliers like hers offer a very personal experience – beyond the jewels created with her utmost care individually by hand, you may even get an excellent coffee ground by the same sedulous hands perhaps. The Wiener Schmucktage does a great job at bringing small and larger, better-known brands onto a single platform. It uncovers and links them all for you to discover.

Come, continue the tour with us to FREYWILLE.


Photo credits: Loupiosity.com.
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