Erich Zimmermann interviewed by Patina Gallery

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 12.02.2018
Erich Zimmermann Erich Zimmermann
Patina Gallery
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Erich Zimmermann. Necklace: Cleopatra Oxidized Silver Collier with Rock Crystal, 2016. Oxidized sterling silver, rock crystal beads.. 44 cm long, 0.8 cm diameter. Photo by: Patina Gallery. From series: Cleopatra. Erich Zimmermann
Necklace: Cleopatra Oxidized Silver Collier with Rock Crystal, 2016
Oxidized sterling silver, rock crystal beads.
44 cm long, 0.8 cm diameter
Photo by: Patina Gallery
From series: Cleopatra
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., proudly presents Gracefully Capturing Space, the ultimate expression of one of Erich Zimmermann’s passions – flying. The renowned German jewelry maker thinks of the heavens as his third dimension of creative space. His new exhibition of contemporary jewelry opens April 6, 2018, continuing to May 6, 2018. The exhibition opening complements the Parsons Dance performance that is scheduled in Santa Fe on the same day as the gallery opening. Zimmermann finds special meaning in both the art of modern dance and the concept of space. As a private pilot, the Augsburg, Germany, metalsmith imagines jewelry in the context of light and space and as an instrument for illuminating and celebrating the grace and precision of human movement. Zimmermann paused recently in his studio to talk about Gracefully Capturing Space.

Please describe your jewelry and how you design and make your beautiful pieces.
If I make something, I always try to make it the best I am able to do. If I design a ring, I try to become a part of that ring. I try to feel like this ring, to be this ring. And sometimes it is hard for me to give this ring away. I don't hurry or rush. Normally, I take too much time to finish.
For me it is important where I do my work. The surrounding has to be kind, and I have to feel well while doing my work. I hate ringing telephones and other disruptions.

You are creating a collection to complement Parsons Dance. How do you as a jewelry maker feel connected to and find inspiration in the grace, precision and movement of dance?
David Parsons and I have the same high ambition on quality and perfectionism. In particular, my Cocoon collection has an organic aesthetic inspired by the rhythm of movement and nature. The lightweight creations with a silvery or golden matte finish have a modern clarity and emotional gracefulness that are united in harmony.

What influences the collection that you will unveil at Patina? What are some of the distinctive features of your new pieces?
The new collection is not finished. I am still working on some pieces I find quite exciting – maybe something in black and maybe something with sculls, which are subtle, lean and curvy. And I am looking forward to working on small bowls.

You often talk of harmony and visual sensibility in terms of your jewelry designs. Do you think dancers share a similar sensibility?
You can express the same sensation in a lot of ways. You can dance it or you can make it. What matters is this: that you feel strongly about what you want to pass on. Then it is important that you are able to make the sensation understandable and make the materials interpret that sensation.

Do you, then, feel a connection with the Parsons dancers?  How so?
It is very hard to express yourself. The dancers have to practice half of their lives to perform a show that conveys a precise feeling. Likewise, I work the whole day and half of the night to create with my hands what I see with my inner eye and what I feel in my heart.

Do you consider the act of choosing and wearing jewelry, like the art of dance, a sensual experience? Please talk about the intersection of romance, dance and jewelry.
The intersection I see is sensuousness, sensuality and sexiness. Early on I decided not to make jewelry to be looked at in showcases or to be exhibited in museums. I want to have my jewelry worn by a human being. She or he should like it, and it should become a part of the person who wears it. It should be a treasure which is beloved, which is a partner.

Describe your creative process that creates the interplay of materials, textures and colors?
For me, every gemstone has only one kind of color to be set in yellow, white or rose gold. The surface is a very obvious and evident criterion of a piece. That is very important for me. I have at least five ways to matte a surface.

This is not the first time you’ve traveled from your German studio to appear at Patina Gallery. How long have you been associated with Patina, and what is the impact of that relationship on you?
I did meet Allison the first time 10 years ago, but she did know my cocoons already years before. In those 10 years we have developed a close relationship. I have visited the gallery three times. Even my son and my daughter have been there.
I even have made specials designs that are sold in United States exclusively at Patina. I really like Patina, the people working there, the atmosphere and, above all else, the high-quality art displayed there.

Cocoon Pendant Earrings, 2016, from Cocoon Collection. Materials: Sterling silver with 18K yellow gold ear wire. Dimensions: 62mm long.
Photo credit: Patina Gallery.

You are a pilot. Why do you love it? How does it appeal to the artist in you?
I do like flying very much. The air above us is the third dimension of our living space. You have a very nice overview of what is happening below. I feel detached from the bondage of the daily grind. I feel free.
Especially when I make aerobatics with a glider, I feel like a dancer in the Parsons company. You have to learn hard. You have to practice a lot. It is very exhausting but, when you succeed doing these challenging figures, you feel excessively good. And you are sure that it is worth all the pains from practicing.
By the way, for the two or three times I have come to Santa Fe, I did arrive with a Cessna 172. Coming and going was always a pleasant flight above an interesting landscape.

About the Interviewee

Erich Zimmermannranks among the elite of Germany’s most accomplished metalsmiths and jewelry designers. His works have won numerous international awards and reside in the collections of prominent museums. Erich and his wife, both jewelry makers, live in Augsburg, Germany, where they share an atelier.