Starting off her Career at Wolford, Teje Waidmann decided to make a drastic change and studied to become a jeweller and goldsmith. Now, she talks with us about her work, her inspiration and her path that brought her to where she is today.
You come from a family of artists.
There were a lot of artists in my family, yes.
Your grandmother was a photographer, your grandfather was in the music industry…
… my great grandfather was a painter. It was always in the field of fine arts, yes.
Did this influence you a lot?
It influences you no matter if you want or not since you grow up with a certain feeling for aesthetics. You are always surrounded by beautiful pictures and furniture. My father was a trained tenor singer so music has always been around and you grow thinking this is normal. On the other hand, my upbringing has been very sporty and nature loving. Growing up with brothers it has been a very wild and free childhood. Without mobile phones, of course. We went out in the morning and only went home to eat something, it was pure freedom. It was a wonderful time.
Nature also influences your jewellery designs a lot.
It is very important. It is the shapes that I grew up with. Today, when I take a stone in my hand and there is a certain bend or a colour I know immediately what to do with it. I think it is one of my strength to immediately get inspired. No matter if I go to fairs or my merchants come to show me the stones I instantly have pictures in my head of what I am going to work out of it and what the piece is going to be. But I always need a specification. Either it is a person, the colour of someone’s eyes, the shade of the stone and its shape. And then I am building something around that.
Before working with precious stones you have been in the fashion industry. Why did you choose to go into the actual designing and decided to become a jewellery designer?
Goldsmith and jewellery designer.
I draft every everything and work on it from scratch. It is very important to me to transport this message from the very beginning. I have started my education very late but with a lot of passion and focus. Right after my graduation with my first exhibition I understood that everybody has its own personal handwriting and it is very dear to me to show how much work and know-how it needs to realize an actual piece of jewellery.
For a lot of people jewellery is just an investment but for me, it goes beyond that. It is about the significance of the piece and its history. On my website, I also say the true value of a gem is the history it carries with it.
Your pieces are all unique.
My pieces are unique pieces that I create together with my customer. Then I also work on designs on my own, design pieces and look for different solutions. The harness I am wearing is quite unique. Coming from the fashion industry I think that jewellery always has to be wearable. That is very important to be so every piece has to be something unique and outstanding.
Is jewellery something for you that belongs to the everyday life?
Yes, it is, but it has to fit the occasion. The harness I am wearing is perfect for my work, it does not handicap me in any way and I can work without any limitation. It does not get stuck anywhere and it is so close to my body that it does not affect my movements.
I would not be able to wear something moving in my everyday life, it would also be dangerous for me working with the heavy machines. I would not be able to wear a long necklace and I am also not allowed to during work.
This generally goes a lot of active people. This is why my long necklaces also have the variation of being worn in a double. Multifunctionality is a big part of my collections, a necklace can become a beautiful bracelet for example; Flexibility is always very important to me.
What makes your customers special?
They are all courageous women that have established themselves in life and want to be inspired and to a certain extent also seduced. They enjoy creativity a lot. That can go as far as styling, for example, me advising the mother of a bride regarding fabrics.
Talking about courageous women, what makes a woman courageous to you.
Women who make their own decisions, that are curious, that look for solutions and are open to trying out something new. I have three daughters, they are all great, young, courageous women. Courage has nothing to do with age for me. It also does not need to be something that changes the world. But for me, they are in motion, they are open to new things, they exchange ideas and do not stick to the same patterns. For someone that needs Tiffany to build self-esteem, I am certainly the wrong atelier. I am a brand, but a brand for individuality; for unique solutions.
Jewelry often is something that is rather given to women than them buying it for themselves. How do you see women, that go out and gift themselves with a beautiful piece of jewellery that they have chosen themselves?
In general, these are my clients. The ones that get inspired by me and also fascinated.
Then again there are the men in my friends circle, who realize that surprisingly it Christmas is ahead: I find it magical when a husband comes to find something beautiful for his wife. They come with a vague idea we begin to work together on. The most beautiful moment is when their idea is translated into the exact piece they envisioned and the come to collect it with a smile on their face.
I am grateful to be a part of so many beautiful moments. Sometimes a man comes in with his wife to surprise her and I have the pleasure to work together with her on a personal piece.
For you, jewellery is something very personal. You are translating someone’s personality into a piece of jewellery.
This is also kind of my claim. I want my pieces to be favourite pieces. This is also what I expect in a way. And it often turns out to be this way. But it is all about the way of working together, connecting with the client, the drawing… Once the decision is made, it is usually very clear. While working on a piece, it can happen that I make small alignments. This often fascinates me. The drawing is often almost identical with the finished pieces. It is a tenth of a millimetre of distance and strength that can give a piece a totally different charisma. Sometimes it feels a bit like doing architecture at the workboard.
It also sounds a lot like psychology.
It is. The working is very meditating. For a long time, I was scared of working alone which is why I have worked in workshops. I have worked for two years for Schullin. Back then I have created a unique necklace with brilliant plates which took me three weeks to design. Being on display for one day a lady has purchased it. It almost broke my heart to never have met this lady. This was one of the reasons I have started my own business, I wanted to work together with my clients, I wanted to know who was going to wear the pieces I have created.
Do you think that the understanding of true craftsmanship is getting lost?
I believe that the zeitgeist with lead towards not everyone having a house furnished with Ikea. It is a decision like if I want to purchase a ballgown with money I have worked hard for myself I would like to have something that is not the same as 10 other people at the ball. It is a very conscious decision and it is a goal of mine to create awareness for it given the possibilities I have working with my clients. It also has to be understood, that a ring that is manufactured by hand is something different.
There is a great Philosopher, Richard Sennett from New York, who wrote the book “The Craftsman” and he describes beautifully how many repetitions are needed before the coordination between head and hands is automatized and that someone does not need to think anymore about what one is doing. It is the same as playing the piano, the work a surgeon is doing, every musician or in my case a goldsmith; it is craftsmanship that needs to be learned.
The beautiful part about it is that one never stops learning. Every lock is specifically made for the gem, in terms of proportions and mechanics, it always has to fit.
Do you design mainly for women?
In a way, it still is like it. But I feel that more and more men are coming by my atelier. It is a beautiful development which I enjoy a lot. There are not a lot of options for a man to gift himself but it may work is not only limited to jewellery, I also create decorative items.
Your designs are often a mixture of soft and strong, do you intentionally work with this contrast or do you let the pieces lead you there?
I have been asking myself the same. The shape of the pieces almost creates itself. I like to play with shapes and contrast and with compliments. I love to discover materials with contrasts and turn them into something unified. Indeed, I really enjoy doing that.
I think it gives a beautiful tension. I think this makes my work special because I can feel this tension. Also, the combination of materials, for example when I have my merchants with me to pick the gems. A mat sapphire plate combined with a beautiful transparent stone. For me, this contrast has something beautiful. Yves Saint Laurent, for example, has done this combination of pink and red. This has also characterized my childhood. My mother had all her clothes made and also played with these colours. With Yves Saint Laurent establishing this freedom of contrast and its tension was a certain part of my childhood.
Do you believe that jewellery design can provoke and raise questions the same way that fashion design does?
I believe there is something underneath that wants to get out. I have some ideas for a jewellery installation. To abstract the jewellery and connect it with Fashion. A fashionable jewellery piece is quite outstanding though, I have plans in my head. I think I will gift myself this or on my next birthday.
You are always drawn back to Fashion.
Yes, Fashion is always coming back to me, it is a part of me.
The dress you are wearing has been designed by yourself.
It is a two-piece dress. I am a big admirer of Vivienne Westwood is magnificent and I like to create my own pieces. I got my first Barbie when I was 6 and I immediately started working on furniture and designing dresses. I have always loved to create
Has Fashion been brought to you when you were a child or how did you get into this field?
I can remember, when I wanted to do something I went for it, I had to do it and was very focused on it. I wanted to create my own dress when I went out the first time so I got fabric, started cutting and sowing without sawing a thing about sowing. I still have this dress.
And it went well back then?
It went very well. I know my body well enough to start cutting and sowing without doing measurements. If I want something I get there. Of course when working for someone else you have to know how to sketch and to cut. This takes a lot of time and know-how to get there. But all of this helps me creating my jewellery. Every ear is different, the same goes for every decollete. Every necklace lies different on the collarbones and the bone structure of the neck. One always has to build models because a piece lies different on every single one. But the most difficult area are the ears. And that is something one needs to learn.
What would you advise everyone who wants to become a goldsmith?
When I started someone told me: Don’t! And to tell the truth, I would say the same. You have to be very courageous to become a self-employed goldsmith. What needs to be there is a good and reliable network. At the end of the day, you are going to work with precious stones so there is a lot of budgeting and one needs to have the funds beforehand. I believe you have to know what you want. You need focus and a lot of courage
Like the women who wear your pieces…
Principally yes. But I also give them courage. I feel, how the ladies leave my atelier with courage and strength. And every piece and the person who bought it has a beautiful story. One day a bride-to-be came by, who said her husband would under no circumstances wear a ring. She wanted to pick one and her future husband would come with to the appointment. I showed him around, took him through the materials and processes and finally he was so fascinated of the archaic hammered pieces. They went for two beautiful palladium white gold rings and after trying it on for the first time he did not really want to take it off again and even wanted to wear it before the wedding.
It was such a nice compliment and he was so happy with it.