The next stop on the Europe tour has been Amsterdam. The first trip to the Netherlands for both of us. I was looking forward to visiting the capital of early 21stC design thinking. The fact that almost the entire country has been designed and constructed is unique – the dutch have a saying that ‘god may have made the world but the dutch made the netherlands’.
In Amsterdam we splurged and decided to stay on two houseboats. This was a great choice. One, because it meant that we didn’t have to schlepp huge suitcases up and down flights of narrow stairs. Two, because it felt like we were living in Amsterdam rather than visiting as we had a lounge room and kitchen and could relax, spread out and even cook at ‘home’. And three, because the canals are still the heart of this city in many ways and we were able to see so much just from our waterfront windows.
My first visit was with the world renowned designer and co-founder of Droog, Gijs Bakker. We arrived in Amsterdam on the last day of an interesting retrospective exhibition of jewelry work by Gijs and his late wife Emmy van Leersum at the Oude Kerk – the oldest church in Amsterdam which is ironically (or appropriately) located in the heart of the redlight district.
Gijs held a conversation on this last afternoon regarding the work on show, his creative collaboration with Emmy and the state of contemporary design. It was moving listening to Gijs talk about his life and work with Emmy in the ancient church. The church itself has 2,500 huge slate slabs forming the floor and each one is a tombstone. Over 10,000 Amsterdamers are buried under the church floor. A fitting scene for recalling memories of lost ones.
Gijs has recently parted company with Droog in well publicized separation which is dicussed on his website. But he was joyous about the prosepct of having more time to devote to his own design work and to the jewelry collective chi ha paura …? – which translates as “who’s afraid of ….?”
He also talked about the increasing attention to the ‘slow movement’ in contemporary design.
The following day Gijs welcomed Sandra and I into his wonderful home and studio in a stately old townhouse facing on the Keizersgracht. We were surrounded by interesting artwork and design prototypes and enjoyed tea and cake while chatting about a huge range of topics. Gijs was about to fly to Taipei for an intensive teaching workshop but was relaxed and charming and made it clear that it was important to take time and savour life’s encounters.
To see more of contemporary Dutch jewelry design check out www.op-voorraad.blogspot.com.
The San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design will be hosting an exhibition of chi ha paura …? opening on January 15th 2010! Gijs will be in San Francisco for the event. Stay tuned to SFMC+D website for announcements of public programs around the opening and Gijs’ visit to SF.