1st Place – ALTERNATIVE METALS/Materials
To say that Gabri Schumacher’s art, jewelry, designs, special projects, exhibitions and awards are numerous is, at best, an understatement. She has created special gifts for royalty not just in her own country of the Netherlands but in other countries as well. She is the first woman to own her own studio/gallery in Schoonhoven, a city that has been in existence since 1280 AD and is known as "Zilverstad" ("Silver City") throughout the Netherlands. Gabri is an influencer on so many levels, only one of which is her beautiful jewelry.
About the winning piece:
What materials did you use in the winning piece?
Titanium, 14K gold and diamonds.
What processes did you use?
Once I had the idea for the design, I started cutting it out in paper to try different forms. When I was satisfied, I drew it on the computer in a 3D program just to see the perfect prototype. The digital drawing of the ring had to be perfect in every detail to know every size of every part. The ring is composed of multiple layers that had to fit perfectly in each other with the same degree of folding, which is technically challenging. With the computer drawing, I had the perfect blueprint for the cutting of all the titanium pieces, which was very important because of the folding. I used different techniques of stone setting with the gold parts to put the layers together.The diamonds are clamped between two plates of titanium.
What inspired the piece?
This ring is a special piece because it’s about designing. Once I read an interview with Ettore Sottsass. In it, he said that, since he was a child, he was always thinking, drawing and making things. Designing was for him a way of living; it was life itself, from morning until evening. I realized that I recognized myself in this. I am always thinking about design projects and dreaming about every form and possibility. Dreaming about designing, having my head in the clouds, gave me the idea for the shape of this ring. I am, of course, also a craftsman, and the technique of a piece is very important to me. So actually, this ring represents me: the mind of a designer and the hands of a craftsman.
How long did it take to make?
Total with drawing and thinking was about two months off and on.
What did you learn from the piece?
I re-learned a lot of things I already knew and experienced them again. Also, the more precise your work, the better it is. Patience.
Do you think this piece will influence your work going forward?
Every piece brings me further.
Does it reflect your current look/designs/brand?
Yes. It is absolutely my style. People who know my work will recognize it as mine.
What do you like most about the piece?
It is very technical. You can see how it is made. It is different from normal rings. And you can wear it.
About the Artist:
Where do you live?
I live in Schoonhoven, in the Netherlands. It is the “silver” town of the Netherlands. A lot of people work in silver, gold and jewelry here.
Did you study jewelry?
Yes. I studied at the School of Applied Arts ("De Vakschool") here in Schoonhoven.
Did you apprentice?
I did an internship while I was in school. I have a friend who makes jewelry, and I wanted to experience the same life he had. He taught me a lot. I started my own business in 1985. Since 1996, I have run a business with this friend, Huub Rogier.
When did you discover you loved making jewelry?
I was influenced as a child about creating art because my father had an atelier. Even though he was not a jeweler, he made things with his hands. My father saved my first piece. I was surprised as an adult that he had kept it so long. It was a pendant.
How long have you been making jewelry?
Do any of your other passions influence your work?
I like to travel of course. When you are on a special trip, there are so many new influences that make such an impression, so you have to do something with it.
For example, last year I was in Namibia, and there were some trees from prehistoric times that were so amazing. I am now making pieces based on these trees. You never think about the fact that these trees have been here since almost the beginning of time.
I like graphic design very much and that is also a part of my business.
What other types of work have you done in your life?
I also make tableware, bowls and plates. Product design and graphic design are other areas I work in.
When are you most creative?
When I am very busy I am the most creative. If you are busy then you see and get new ideas.
What is your company’s name?
Artis Causa: It is Latin for “because of the art” or “because of the craftsmanship.” My colleague and I find meaning in both translations.
What is your artist statement/design philosophy?
I love to use repeating, often geometric, forms, resulting in clear designs. It’s important for me that a design evokes emotions and tells a story. Designing itself is about versatility, being open to new opportunities and all forms of inspiration.
How do you get the word out about your work?
Exhibitions, and I like to enter competitions. You get a lot of publicity.
Also, we have been running our business for a long time and have repeat clients all the time, mostly for custom work.
Do you have a staff?
We have some interns sometimes. Right now it is just the two of us.
What is your favorite material to work with?
Gold is my favorite.
What is your differentiator from other designers?
I think my work is very technical and architectural. I love patterns and symmetry.
What do you love about making jewelry?
Because it has different values for me. Emotional. Aesthetic. Valuable. Sustainable.
Are you influenced by trends? If so, what is one trend you relate to?
I don’t think so. I might be influenced without knowing it. We had a party last year, and people who came liked some pieces that were made 20 years before, which makes me think I am not influenced by trends.
What is the one thing you most love about your studio?
What is the one thing you would change about your studio?
We are currently in the process of changing it, to make the atelier bigger and the shop smaller.
What is your favorite tool?
Polisher. Because then you know you are near the end and can start something new.
What is one word of advice you received when starting to make jewelry/run a business?
My family was very proud. Since 1280 AD, Schoonhoven has been known as the silvertown of the Netherlands. I was the first woman to start a jewelry business here since Schoonhoven existed. I just found that out recently in a book. Women have always worked in the business, but no one had started one on her own before me.
What one word of advice would you give beginning designers?
It needs more than a talent for this work. There are so many things you need to do besides just create jewelry. It really has to be your true passion.
What work inspires you?
Jan Schoonhoven, an artist who made objective and minimal art. It’s a coincidence his name is the same as the town I live and work in.
What achievement in your jewelry life are you most proud of?
I am proud to be in this business with my colleague now for 22 years. We did it ourselves.
What jeweler would you most like to have dinner with or visit their studio?
A few weeks ago I was at an exhibition called 100 Years Steltman. Steltman is a jewelry house in the Hague, and I would love to see how they made their fine jewelry back in the day, especially the Art Deco jewelry with the old techniques and its very high standard.
About the Saul Bell Design Award:
What did you feel when you found out you were a winner?
I was so happy, of course. It was a dream come true. It’s a confirmation, appreciation that what you think yourself is beautiful, is beautiful for others too.
What made you decide to enter the competition?
A competition is a challenge, it’s a drive for me to make more beautiful and extraordinary pieces, which excites me. The Saul Bell Award is a very prestigious award. I love the quality of the previous winning pieces.
What other design awards have you won?
HRD is the leading diamond certification business in Antwerp, and I have twice won their design award and have won numerous other awards in Europe. Also my daughter is a designer and I made pieces for her and she was a finalist.
Interview by Marlene Richey