“A Talk with Gijs Bakker”, Jewellery & Product designer, The Netherlands

December 13, 2010 | No Comments

“Dutch Design is sober minded, harsh, lightly ironic, with a view to the world, uncomplicatedly constructed & material, opposed to luxury and therefore easily accessible to the public. My purest example of it is the Point-welded bracelet of 1966”.
Gijs Bakker, 2010 Amsterdam

I consider this article a real treat for you my faithful readers…a talk with none other than Gijs Bakker! On the “top search list” of my blog Gijs is listed twice (!), therefore I contacted him to ask if it would be possible to meet and have “A Talk”. Despite his overloaded schedule he immediately agreed and kindly invited me to join him at his studio in Amsterdam.

Gijs Bakker is known for his design of jewellery, interiors, architecture & products. His real break-through, together with his late wife Emmy van Leersum, was at Bureau Buitenland Amsterdam (the current Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) in 1967 with the exhibition “Design from The Netherlands”. He is also known for being the founder of Droog design (1993) as well as being famous for his project “Chi ha paura..?”, founded in 1996 meaning “Who’s afraid of… contemporary jewellery?
Some of the jewellery (objects) in the CHP collection are designed by Gijs Bakker, but also many are designed by international designers. Frequently made by well renowned Dutch goldsmith’s Jan Matthesius and Pauline Barendse, who create them with great precision.Yii, led by Gijs Bakker“I’m very proud of Yii, the objects that came out of it and being further developed for 2011”
“Yii” , pronounced “i”, was launched at the “The Salone del Mobile” in Milan earlier this year, and since travelled to Los Angeles and Paris. “Yii” derives from “Yi”, which in Taiwanese philosophy means “Change and transformation” and is believed to be the underlying law behind nature”. 
“Yii” is a project of Gijs Bakker formed in co-operation with the Taiwanese government & the Taiwan Craft Research Institute, which was founded in 2009.
Gijs was approached to become the Art Director for a project to save Taiwanese craftsmanship. Craftsmanship in Taiwan has always been primarily focused around the building of Buddhist temples. Nowaday however, there are few new temples being built but Taiwan is keen to protect its cultural inheritance in the form of craftmanship and hence the launch of this initiative to combine Taiwanes craftmanchip with design. Unfortunately Taiwan is better known for its electronic business than design. The Taiwanese wanted someone who could expertly lead the project to fix this major challenge. They approached Gijs because he’s a multi talented world-wide known designer and experienced teacher for over 40 years now of amongst others the postgraduate Masters at the Design Academy in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). Since September 2010 he is Head of the Master Programme at the Design Academy.
The offer to be Art-director at Yii immediately got his attention; facing a true challenge where cultural inheritance, next to working only with 15 Taiwanese artists and 20 Taiwanese craftsmen, would lead to something unpredictable. It was up to Gijs to choose the artists. During the selection process he was surprised to see three of his former students from the Design Academy on the list of potential candidates. That gave him the full confidence that this project would be successful. Each artist got linked up with one craftsman, to form a duo. During the whole project Gijs gave workshops, lectures and Master classes. The most difficult part was to stimulate the artists to find their “individuality and transforme it into design”, a way of thinking Taiwanese weren’t used to nor taught to do so. Basically they had to learn to transform their craftsmanship, a cultural inheritance of an enormously high level, into a “personal global design mind-set”. By this meaning “experiencing total freedom of expression of their vision(s), towards the creating process of a renewed object”.
For more information about “Yii” and the collection you may visit Yii design. You can also take a quick scan at design.nl. There is a possibility that the collection will be later on display in Amsterdam this year. Naturally I’ll keep you posted! But right know there’s no extra information known about it.
The great thing is of course that “Yii” is on-going. For me personally, Margriet, I’ll hope there will also be a lot of jewellery created in this second collection as it’s clear that this project has already produced some unpredictable awe-inspiring beauties!

World-wide you’re also famous for “The” Madeleine Albright brooch. Can you tell us something about it?
Well, the Gallery of Helen Drutt in Philadelphia, who is my agent in the USA, asked in 1996 thirty of her artist’s to create “a pin” for Madeleine Albright after she read an article in Times Magazine about her pins. So, just like all the other artists I designed a pin for Madeleine Albright and it’s true she liked mine very much and choose my brooch to wear for the cover of her book.
Helen Drutt did the official opening of the exhibition “EMMY+GIJS+ALDO” at the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen, on 30 Oktober. The exhibition is an overview of objects my late wife Emmy, me and our son Aldo designed. It will be on display from 31 October2010 until 29 May 2011.

There are quite some books about your designs..
Yes, that’s true! Therefore I would like to take this opportunity to display all the books about my designs. If you would be interested to see more of my jewellery or other items, please take a look at the web-site of Gijs Bakker.
Also the book “Emmy van Leersum, Broken lines”, ISBN 9065380728, is a beautiful publication about Emmy’s work.

My museum recommendation for jewellery and much more is easy; The Victoria & Albert Museum in London! In 2009 some of my designs were shown “during the exhibition “Cold War Modern”. Right now conservator Glenn Adamson is working on the exhibition “Post modernism” due next year in which also some of my designs will also be on display.
Also the San Francisco Design Museum,(SFMC+D), which is now temporarily closed, is one of my favourites.
In The Netherlands I would like to recommend the  SM’S (Stedelijk Museum ‘s Hertogenbosch) Showing as of now is the exhibition “Wie is er bang voor …sieraden/ Vijf collecties Chi ha paura…?” a 12 years overview and will includes the new collection “Body Stories”. 

This article is published with courtesy of Gijs Bakker, 2010.


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Margriet Sopers

Margriet Sopers, FGA

Having a diploma in jewellery, FGA and a propaedeutic of the Academy of Art followed-up by interesting years as a jewellery expert at Sotheby's & Gemeentelijke Krediet Bank, as well as being a member for years of the Society of Jewellery Historians, I am glad to share with you today's world of jewellery.

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