Peter Bauhuis

Peter Bauhuis

Peter Bauhuis

Interview by Yu-Chun Chen, Crystal Cheng

 

The internationally renowned German metal artist Peter Bauhuis, with his specialized alloyed metal castings techniques, creates numerous metaphoric jewelleries and vessels that hide a multifarious world of links and connections. In the belief that all things are mutually influenced by an interconnected network, Peter has grown to admire all effects that occur to him and his work, including the natural traces and accidents during his casting process. Continuing this sense of appreciation, he has developed an expansive philosophy that embraces all possibilities. Through our exclusive interview with Peter, we’ve came to understand the brilliance underneath his subtle surface of metal pieces and furthermore discovered the humor and wisdom in his unique charisma.

 

Is this your first time showing your work in Asia?

No, I showed my work in Thailand last year. However, yes, this is my first time being present with my work in Asia. I went to Japan many years ago for travel, before I even studied at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

 

What triggers you to make your trip here?

I am here with the invitation of the Golden Museum, being the judge for the metalsmith competition. I thought it would make sense to show some work since I am already visiting here. On top of that, with my personal relationship with Carissa, who is my former student at Alchimia, and through communication and arrangements, she organized this wonderful opportunity and we showcased my work at the Chang Chang contemporary jewellery gallery.

 

Do you like to travel? What does travel means to you?

Yes and no. Apparently, yes because I do it a lot, and no because every time I get really nervous before my travels. I don’t get airsick and I do well on long flights, but it’s the preparation process that panics me and makes me completely unorganized somehow. Even though I do make a check-list when I pack, still it doesn’t help much. It is just the confusion before traveling.

I really enjoy seeing other places, especially if it is linked to getting to know people and especially if there is a clear purpose to travel. For example, a lot of Europeans go to Thailand for swimming, which for me is really strange. I like to travel to a new place with someone who can show me the insights of the everyday living and culture. Having a tour book and having someone local to guide are completely different experiences.

 

Where do you live now?

I live in the center of Munich, Germany. My studio is very central as well. It is very comfortable and convenient. I am very lucky because it is very difficult to find a good location with reasonable rent. German city structure is pretty different from here in Taipei. Munich is relatively a much smaller city and not so dense. We are not so compressed by skyscrapers and do have more greeneries.

 

Being a teacher for quite a long time, how do you feel about teaching? What do you expect yourself to offer to your students?

It is a very good balance to my work. It’s a situation that gives me a different point of view to my own work because I have to generalize. As an artist, I don’t have to know the reasons or questions to jewellery making. I just do what I do. But being a teacher, I need to be prepared to stay knowledgeable and give out general answers. On the other hand, I don’t really like to give out answers to students. I prefer them to find their own answers and interpretations; this is how I define my teachings. Sometimes, students are not so happy about it, but the truth is that there’s not always one right answer. There are many answers and you have to find your own.

 

Before you taught at Alchimia, did you teach anywhere else?

On a longer base, I mostly only taught at Alchimia. But I did organize a lot of workshops, some in different countries. I did a roll of technical workshops for a craft institute in Munich annually, for several years. Often if I travel for exhibitions, I would offer small workshops as well, like this time at the Tainan art university. Sometimes, it is actually easier for universities to invite me compared to galleries. To me, it is an amazing opportunity to dive in to another institute environment and at the same time not have to be involved in school politics.

Once or twice a year, I offer workshops at my own studio in Munich, which is mainly about wax and casting. I do have plans on doing more conceptual courses in the future; however, I don’t really have time to advertise my workshops, so it is more of a word-of-mouth propaganda. 

 

Does teaching influence back on how you create your work?

If I have a thought or idea on a project, it would definitely go into the teaching and the way I discuss with the student or even effect what they do because they are essentially mirroring what I am doing. Then eventually, something new could happen. I believe it is a circle, a spiral of thoughts that goes around and back, like playing ping pong with a ball that changes color and form when it goes from one side to another.

 

When artists exclusively work in their own studio for a long time, they could easily lose judgment of their own work. Do you agree with that?

Yes, of course. There is a German saying of “boiling in your own soup” which indicates the importance of getting new input. It is dangerous to not get new ideas, no matter how good you are. If you are only continuously working on the same thing, with the same method and style, nothing new is going to happen.

 

If a student asks you how to be a good artist, what would you suggest?

I don’t know. There are some factors I could name, such as staying true to your own work because consistency is very important. Also, staying curious and keeping eyes open are fundamental for artists. But to be honest, there is no recipe for being a good artist. In the end, how do you define a good artist? If you want to be a successful artist, you should invent something really fast and spend time developing good relationships with galleries and critiques to make your work famous. But that is not what you call a good artist. It is hard and almost impossible to define. There might be more talented artists than Picasso, but we never know because they might not be as clever to connect with the right people.

In the end, an artist should have the ability to transport their ideas and works into the society, which I think should be included as an important part of their work as well.

 

How do you deal with those other parts of work besides the making part?

I do like the making part the most, but again, it is a network of things, contacting people, travel, and connections: all these surroundings that combine and meet the level of making. Speaking about the work is always not the work but still part of the work.

 

There are artists who come up with ideas but leave the making part for others to accomplish. How important is it for you to create on your own?

In general, I don’t judge people with this. I know that in this field of craft, you’d have a very high reputation if you do things yourself and not through somebody else. I think it’s not about deciding if its good or not. If the result makes sense, and the context of thoughts and materials work perfectly, then it doesn’t really matter who makes it. As for me, it is quite important that I do make most parts myself because it is my way of thinking. A lot of thinking in my head only makes sense with my own fingers. To create forms, I can build them with computers, but to find form I need to make them by hands, modeling, carving, mounting…

 

Do you sketch before you begin working with hands?

My way of finding form is to work in the third dimension immediately. Rather than sketch, I would model directly, then correct or make new ones. I think it is important to have variations to see which the best is. Sometimes if we work relying on what we draw, the drawing might not be the best, but then you’re already influenced and stuck with this image that you have in your head. Therefore, sometimes I am a little suspicious about drawings.

 

When we see your work, we see mostly organic forms, hardly any angles or sharp lines. Is that something you are conscious of?

Since I work mostly with wax, it feels quite natural to have this organic shape. Well, of course if I feel the need to make a shape angle, I would for sure do it. It is not forbidden; it’s just not necessary. Enough people are doing sharp angles!

I am a trained jeweler, so I have worked along with the general way of making jewelry, which begins with a sheet metal. You hammer it, which is oddly out of fashion, then you cut it, solder it with a good angle, and file it to the finest. If this is what you want to achieve, then you have to be perfect at being extremely precise. But to me, I am really more interested in beautiful curves, and curves are naturally organic. There are no sharp angles on a human body, right?

 

Sometimes students are still at their early stage of learning the craft but already want to jump into creating freehandedly. What is your thought about that?

There are two schools of thinking actually. One says you should be completely free without being overloaded with knowledge and techniques. On the other hand, if you eventually want to make with metal, there is no other way around to know the making of metal. When you look at my biography, you’ll see that I’ve done my trainings for many years, and working at a jewelry company with a really high standard of quality has taught me the right attitude to making. I think it is important to know what you do. I don’t necessarily think being a jeweler means you have to know everything about metal, but you still need to excel in one field.

 

How does your background or upbringing influence your decision in your professional career?

When you look back now, it is definitely easier than back when you decided at the time.

I came from a family of makers. Both my father and my grandfather were watch makers, so when I was young, I did not want to be a watch maker. However, growing up, I had always liked to make things with hands, and being accepted by the jewelry school at Hanau kind of led me to where I am. I didn’t have a clear direction then, but I knew I wanted to make something quite universal.
With my family background of watch making, the environment of a workshop space has always been very familiar to me. Other than watches, my grand-father also created woodworks for yachts. The family history of building material parts together has definitely made an impact on me.

 

There is a distinctive sense of metaphor in your work where you allow people to view with their own interpretations. How did you develop this openness in the philosophy of your work?

I think again that it has to do with curiosity. A child trying to look at the world sits in the bathtub seeing water running down from the surface and can’t grasp it–very trivial. He looks it up to see what happened, and then he’ll learn about physics, chemistry, and the way water is formed: the electric tensions, how things can be solid but transparent, and so on. Suddenly, one world opens and another world unfolds. Someone far way got aNobel Prize and you’re still sitting here in the bathtub thinking. This circular scenario is what I enjoy picturing.

 

Do you rely more on intuition or logic?

Do I rely on anything I do? That I don’t know. If you think of a mathematician, you would probably have the idea of a logical person, but when you know them, they actually talk all the time about intuition, and when they speak about mathematical formulas, they always speak of beauty.

And if you think of artists and think intuition… Actually, good artists only talk about logic. So, it is a cross of things; these are not contradicting. I don’t think we are comparing two things that are really the opposite. I think we need both: the intuition of a mathematician and the logic of an artist.

 

If you are not making jewellery, what else would you do?

I have really great interest in archeology, but really when I think of how archeologists work, I don’t think I would enjoy it. All professions have their own structure, and I really appreciate that I have this freedom in the structure of art making.

 

You mentioned earlier that being able to work and teach gives you balance. Could you tell us more about your sense of wellness in life?

I guess you’ve said my answer already. I think balance is very important, a balance of different things that defines you. Personal relationships, work relationships, and most importantly health because you cannot properly work without good health. With my work, traveling gives me a lot of pleasure and inspiration–of course, not directly but they all build into my network of thoughts.

I enjoy also my everyday life and going to work in my studio, the small moments that are very valuable. Every summer, I have sometime for myself, enjoying my mornings at the parks or pools and in the studio making things in the afternoon just by myself without assistants. I very much look forward to that.

 

When you are in your busy schedules, do you have any rituals or practices that help you relax and center yourself?

One thing that I do almost all over the year is go to the mountains. I try to always take one day off every week, usually Sundays, and just go to the mountains and have a nice walk.

 

Do you have a favorite piece of your own work?

It is often the latest piece, or the second-to-last piece. I do like certain pieces more than others, because some do succeed better. But to be honest, I do not have a favorite one, simply because my network of thoughts could change constantly, and sometimes I could realize the value of an older piece much later.

 

Any interesting story behind a piece that you could share with us?

There are definitely a lot of interesting stories behind all my pieces that are not told in lectures. They all have a special story, so I cannot really put one under the spotlight. However, there are pieces that I am more curious of what would come next.

 

Can you share with us your next plan or project?

Yes, the next big project is an intervention at an archeological museum in Germany. They have invited me to do something with their collection, something that I cannot reveal yet. After my trip in Taiwan, I will be continuing with this project, discussing and fixing the details. I’m not sure if I will be provided with enough supplies or resources for a big project, but we will see!

 

 

For more information about collecting Peter’s work and customized ring please email : info@changchang.tw

 

Custom Field

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

Date