Dutch-born Gijs Bakker is one of the most renowned jeweller’s and industrial designers in the world. Behind every creation lies a message, an intent, an action designed to make the observer stop and think.Gijs Bakker
Gijs Bakker’s professional intent is to make people understand that jewellery is far more than a mere decorative accessory to fashion. Last May he acted as honorary President of the Next Jeneration Jewellery Talent Contest 2014, the competition that promotes new talent in the Italian goldsmithing environment, instigated and created by Fiera di Vicenza.
How would you rate this experience?
I see it as an excellent opportunity for young designers, otherwise I would never have accepted the role. What I like in particular is that it combines the art world with business, in fact this event is organised by Fiera di Vicenza and not by a museum or a city, which is what usually happens.
What do you think of the new generation of goldsmith designers?
I am always hyper-critical, to be perfectly honest I see lots of good ideas that these young designers just aren’t able to develop, they get stuck at the first stage of the process when, in fact, they need to learn that they have to go further, do research, make these ideas circulate, otherwise, what often happens is that the end product is rather flat. Unfortunately, I’ve realised that young people have a cultural gap, they have little understanding of materials and techniques, and the problem is, that, with the excess of information they are bombarded with every day, they have everything at arm’s reach but they don’t know how to take advantage of it.
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You started your career working as a jewellery designer, what do you remember about this period?
Yes, I went to art school in Amsterdam to train to be a jewellery designer, I remember that I was very good from a technical point of view but I didn’t have a clue about what the jewellery world was really like even though I’d studied it. It was when I left school that I started to ask myself certain questions. I hated my creations and so I started to rethink things and a whole new world opened up for me, and I realised that in this line of work, just as in any profession linked to art, one needs to knock down barriers and open one’s eyes, that’s the only way to create something original.
In your view, is making jewellery more personal than making a design object?
It depends, jewellery is created to be worn by someone, it tells a story, it’s personal, therefore whoever purchases it has to be on the same wavelength as the person who made it. Then the wearer takes the designer’s art out into the world.
When you create an object, do you first of all think about a story that you want to tell via the object?
Yes, absolutely, for example, my latest piece is called Plastic Soup and is part of a project about global identity. It all sprang from an article I read about marine pollution. I found out that the second-highest cause of this terrible phenomenon is plastic drinking straws that people throw into the sea or leave on the beach. So I created a bracelet from these straws fused together and made sure they were still recognisable as straws, particularly on the inside, and then I covered them with gold. I made a bracelet out of solid gold and straws, I’m really proud of it as people are interested in it, it tells a story and can become a topic of conversation regarding an important issue which is largely ignored by the masses.
Who is your icon?
Alexander Calder, the sculptor, I’ve always been fascinated by his work, ever since my days at school. Most people don’t know that he also created some stunning pieces of jewellery, very simple but truly exquisite pieces. I also hold Bruno Munari, the artist, in high regard. I remember when I was young, I was travelling to Naples and I came across one of his creations that inspired one of my first pieces of jewellery. I didn’t have money but I wanted to buy it so much that I sold my camera to raise the funds.