Industrial Authentics

Industrial Authentics

Industrial Authentics

The Blom & Blom Brothers

The Blom & Blom Brothers

Dear Martin, you collect, restore and sell the industrial design items from abandoned factories mainly in Eastern Germany (former DDR)… You and your brother created the label Blom & Blom. Tell me more about your common passion, background and how do you complete each other…

Ever since we were adolescents we always had a good relationship. We travelled together for half a year, and we visited each other frequently in Berlin or Amsterdam.

The reason why it is certainly not surprising we teamed up is because we are very complimentary to each other. Kamiel is the craftsman (background in Furniture-making/Photography/Video-making), and Martijn handles the business-side of things (background in Architecture and Business). We have our own qualities, and they fit together perfectly. 

Dragons lamp in old production area

Dragons lamp in old production area

How did it all start with the „industrial authentics“?

The industrial ghost-towns where the objects in our collection originate from, inspired us to do what we do. Each piece coming from such unique environment is ‘breathing’ its history, and represents its amazing atmosphere. Imagine a factory abandoned instantly, untouched for more than twenty years, and taken by the hands of time. Plant and trees grow through the floors, rainfall has slowly eating through the roof, and even wildlife returns. We do our best, but actually it is indescribable.

We have developed our own way of working in our search for industrial wastelands of the former DDR. When we scout for abandoned factories it is a combination of research, and a lot of ‘driving around’. You can do some general research to find industrial areas, but eventually it just comes down to scouting for signs like old chimneys, or railway tracks. Once a site has been discovered, we track down those responsible for the property by asking around the neighbourhood, or digging through DDR archives You get yourself in the most peculiar situations, and it takes a lot of effort to actually ‘rescue’ the pieces, but in the end it’s all worth it.

Abandoned laboratory

Abandoned laboratory

Have you always had an affinity for forgotten things and lost places? Did something special happen which triggered the birth of Blom & Blom?

Having lived partly Berlin, we are fascinated by the turbulent history of East Germany, and fell in love with the industrial heritage resulting from the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. It all started with exploring abandoned industrial sites just for the fun of it. When we strolled an old laboratory, or a deserted military complex, we always had a split feeling. On one hand, there was our fascination for the amazing atmosphere of these places. On the other, our frustration that the industrial treasures they hold would ultimately end up in a dumpster. 

What triggered us to set up Blom & Blom was actually a combination of common interest en our personal situations. Years ago, Kamiel left for Berlin to start an online design studio together with three Dutch friends. After being successful for almost two years, they felt the urge to start something new. As a result, they made plans for a ‘Marketplace for authentic experiences’. Plans that resulted in what is now Gidsy – a company that raised 1.2 M seed investment, and is one of the leading Berlin start-ups. Although Kamiel knew this was going to be something big, he decided to ‘resign’ from the online world in order to go back to what he has always been interested in: making stuff using his hands.

As a result his degrees in Architecture, Business, and Social sciences, Martijn pursued a career in Business. After a couple of years working in the world of suits and meetings, it appeared that also he had an urge to actually ‘produce something real’.

A phone call between the brothers in which Kamiel put forward his ideas of dropping out of his current company, and doing something which the extraordinary objects he had found during one of his photography sessions at abandoned factories, were the 15 minutes in which Blom & Blom was founded.

Your customers do not buy just an item, but a rich and epic history – presented in a passport describing its particular origin and history. You revive the industrial design items to a new life in a new environment. Which stories do they tell us? What kind of historical buildings do they come from?

We hope that our pieces can be a representation of the unique history of the places they come from. Some of our lamps come from old factories, military complexes, or deserted laboratories. These places harbor a amazing atmosphere, it is like going back in time. Imagine a factory abandoned instantly, and being untouched for more than twenty years. It kind of feels like a human society that has been taking over by nature again. Plant and even trees grow through floor, rainfall has slowly eating through ceilings, and even wildlife returns.


Do you have a favourite item, you couldn’t separate from?

The funny thing is that every month we can have a new favorite lamp. Among these is certainly our Giant Lobster lamp. It is designed to be explosion proof, and therefore has such a functional, yet sophisticated appearance. My ‘latest favorites’ are definitely the lamps we currently create from old laboratory glass. These glass beaker are for me the perfect example of an object with a hidden beauty. It is a very functional object, but if you look with a different eye, you’ll find out that the glass is very special, and that the way it has been created is only a beauty on itself. It is an object that inspires us to reuse.

Blom & Blom Workshop

Blom & Blom has an own shop, which is in fact also your workshop, a former car repair shop in Amsterdam. Did you find this place per coincidence or you searched it on purpose?

We have searched for it on purpose. We’d grown out of our father’s old shed – where we had our first workshop – and were forced to find a new home. We wanted a place where clients could visit and experience our concept completely, so we sought a location where workshop, office, and store could be in one. We found an old garage in a beautiful industrial building. In the three months of intensive renovation that followed, we brought the building back to its original atmosphere, and ideally fitted our concept. The move to this new building was also a real step forward in our business model. By styling the space completely in line with our brand principles, we created a place where people could experience our work. In the store, our products are giving the attention they deserve. The lamps are displayed separately against a white and are featured with a photo of the place we have found it. In this way, people do not only see the value of the objects, they also can catch a little bit of the adventures we get into in finding these treasures. The opening of the store was a huge success, and gave a new boost to our business, and our brand experience.

Blom & Blom Lamp at Hutspot Amsterdam

Blom & Blom Lamp at Hutspot Amsterdam

Please tell us more about your customers. Do you have walk-in customers, online customers, a small circle of regular customers?

It’s hard to really border our client group. Our clients come from all over the world, both private persons and businesses. The main thing our clients have in common, is that the are all looking for a uniques piece with its own story. This could a private person that searches a special kitchen table light, or an architect that requires a custom made light for above a restaurant bar.

Image9 - Impression 4  

Paulina’s Friends is dealing with vintage clothing, carefully collected, restored and curated on our website and in our concept store in Bikini Berlin. What do you think about this idea and the connection between art, vintage & design?

The connection between art, vintage & design certainly makes sense. They all thrive on a creative cultural feeling, and all have a large story-telling aspect.

Dear Martin, thank you very much for this interview!

Good wine doesn’t need a figurehead

Good wine doesn’t need a figurehead

Good wine doesn’t need a figurehead

PAULINA’S FRIENDS limited edition wine collection

Text: Paulina Tsvetanova 

PAULINA’S FRIENDS limited edition wine collection, in collaboration with SAMESAME unites meaningful enjoyment on multiple levels — the haptic touch of a supple, unique piece handmade from recycled glass, with the rich flavor of a millennia-old wine from Thrace. It’s no coincidence that even the bottle looks a bit tipsy. The object remains long after the wine has been enjoyed – whether as a bottle or vase, it’s up to you.

Good Wine Needs No Figurehead, nevertheless:


Edition: 25 unique hand-blown bottles

Varietal: Merlot

Style: strong, dry, spicy red wine

Year: 2015

Quality: Reserve

Place of origin: Thracian plains, South Bulgaria; verified and guaranteed denomination of origin

Volume: 0,7 – 1,3 L

Alcohol Content: 13,3 % VOL.

Temperature for consumption : 59-63 F

Seal: Natural cork

Allergy warning: contains sulfites

Price per bottle: 75 €

Tasting Notes: The clear, ruby red wine has intense top notes of ripe grapes and dark berries (blackberry, black currant, cherry), as well as fine wood aromas. The taste is soft and balanced – on the palate you can feel the wine’s substantial structure, which is at the same time juicy and velvety.

Bulgarian Wine – Cradle of the European Wine culture

In the Bronze Age wild vines were cultivated by the inhabitants of the Balkan Mountains. For this reason, Thrace is considered one of the birthplaces of European viticulture. Viticulture existed in this country since ancient times, when Thracian tribes from north and south of the Balkan Mountains cultivated wild vines and a celebrated a cult in honor of the god Dionysus. In the time of the Roman Empire, Thracian wine was a coveted export, shipped to Greece, Sicily, Asia Minor and Egypt. These ancient sites were then taken over by the Slavs and Bulgarians. In the Middle Ages, Bulgarian wine reached a climax, when local monasteries cultivated sprawling vineyards. In 1393, the Bulgarian Empire was conquered by the Turks. Despite the islamic ban on wine, Bulgarians were allowed to maintain their viticulture through 500 years of Turkish rule. After the Second World War, wine production was intensively promoted. Since then, it has developed into a huge industry. Bulgaria is now a leader in wine exportation – 90% of the wine produced in Bulgaria is exported, reaching more than 70 countries around the world.

Try it before it sells out!



There is also a life before death …

There is also a life before death …

There is also a life before death …

An interview with Lydia Gastroph, owner of the label to promote mortality and life culture w e i s s über den tod hinaus

Text: Paulina Tsvetanova

Dear Lydia, you curate and sell artfully-designed urns and coffins created by recognized and aspiring artisans and designers. A very unconventional, innovative job! It’s no surprise you lectured as a founder at the annual Entrepreneurship Summit. Is your job your calling?

Dear Paulina. Yes, in my company w e i s s über den tod hinaus I sell caskets, urns and funeral jewelry designed and hand-crafted by renowned artists. I also curate exhibitions on the theme of “Farewell Art” in galleries, hospices, churches and other beautiful or unusual places. I created a “coffin shop” as a pop up store in downtown Munich. Due to popular demand of my customers, I have also started to work as an undertaker. I put all of my strength, my stamina, my enthusiasm, endless time, energy, motivation and love into this company. It is my calling, my passion.

Lydia Gastroph, Pnoto: Miriam Künzli

Lydia Gastroph, Photo: Miriam Künzli


Your company seeks to destigmatize the subjects of death, farewell, dying. In Germany as in other affluent societies, this subject is unfortunately very repressed and uncomfortable. Nowadays we do everything possible to us to optimize our longevity and even to bypass death, to prevent it or to age backwards. Why? Death is actually quite normal and part of life. Did your company emerge from a deep desire for social rethinking, or was there a more personal reason?

Fundamentally, I try to scrutinize and re-think the status quo: must things be as they are? Are there ways to embellish something to improve it, to humanize it, to make it sustainable and environmentally friendly? And I’m ready for radical social rethinking. It requires courage, to confront the taboo subject of death and set out to deal with such extreme experiences. As a young girl, I was deeply touched by the death of my classmate, who died at age 17 from leukemia.  At her funeral I felt that the old-fashioned, heavy, and massive coffin did not suit her. At other funerals later on, I often wondered at what I saw there, whether everything really must be so bleak, and whether a coffin must be so industrially-manufactured. The key experience establishing my company was my sister’s diagnosis with terminal cancer. With this, a process of profound personal confrontation with dying, death and goodbye was set in motion. My sister wanted to create her last farewell herself and I wanted to do something beautiful for her, a final kindness, so to speak. So I made it my goal to oppose the aesthetic and artististic deficit in our culture of grief, which I had long perceived, and to replace it with a culture of grief which is aesthetic, artistic and individual.

Your “products” are funerary art that can be used even in life, as a chest, box, cabinet, bench, etc. Is the multi-functionality of simple modern vessels a deliberate or conscious choice? Do you think that by integrating these objects into daily life, customers will not be put off by the “original function” of the vessels?

I place a great importance on the aesthetics, beauty and the high-quality artistic and craftsmanship of these “last things”. Our brain responds to unpleasant visual stimuli with fear and rejection. This is why I consider it wise to oppose the inconceivability of death with conscious, artistic design. Since my products can be easily integrated into a modern residential environment, both the coffins as furniture pieces, and the urns as vases or vessels, we have the opportunity to deal with death, which can enter our lives at any time, on a daily basis. From a pragmatic point of view, the multifunctionality of objects is useful both from the ecological as well as the economic point of view. If we consider that every single one of us has to be buried or burned by law in a coffin, it is certainly sensible to use it as a cabinet or chest in our lifetime.

Urn "In Your Hands" by Kati Jünger
Urn “In Your Hands” by Kati Jünger

Many young, healthy, living people buy such urns and coffins and put them in the living room. Isn’t that a little spooky? Do you think they like to deal with the issues of one’s own transience, the incomprehensible and the uncontrollable on an artistic level?

My experience in dealing with these “last things” has shown that these products encourage people to think and to feel relief, finally, to ask questions and communicate in a quite uninhibited way about the topic of death. People who want to deliberately prepare their burial have told me that it is soothing to know their last dwelling. It also opens the way to talk with relatives and friends about dying, death and burial, and to formulate wishes for their own farewell. Guests and friends who visit me at home are amazed at how beautiful this can look and how unproblematic it feels to live among the innumerable coffins and urns that populate my home. No one is creeped out by the coffin-cabinet which stands in my living room, on the contrary, it often inspires imitators. One can easily understand this: death belongs to life.

Farewell Art: Large red coffin and flower decoration from the Flower Art School Weihenstephan

Farewell Art: Large red coffin and flower decoration from the Flower Art School Weihenstephan


Unique, individual coffins and urns are part of the “artistic staging of death”. And isn’t this a pious thing from a Christian point of view?

To care for myself and for others, to bring love and appreciation to myself and my fellow human beings is a Christian commandment. This commandment does not end a person’s death. Individual design of the “last things” is like a final act of love. To want to give someone something special on his or her “last journey” is an expression of deep appreciation. Two years ago, I converted to the Catholic faith, not least of all because I am attracted and fascinated by artistically-designed churches. Would these spaces then also be irreverent from the Christian point of view?

Ruth im Sargladen

Ruth, Lydia Gastroph’s deceased sister, in a coffin store She was the great, decisive inspiration w e i i s s über den tod hinaus

Your customers certainly attach great importance to aesthetic design, sustainability and ethical values. While it can’t bring the deceased back to life, but it lightly softens and embellishes the grief. How would you describe your customers?

My customers are mostly people who have dealt with art, culture and design, or come from this professional environment, and want to be buried as they have lived. Many came first from my artistic circle of friends. They were thrilled that I could offer something that suited their views and their lifestyle. Now they had the opportunity to escape the “optical horror of burials” – as they called it. Others were looking for new forms of farewell design over the Internet, or attended one of my exhibitions and lectures.


Urn Burial, Farewell to Rhino

Urn Burial, Farewell to Rhino

Why did you also feel that you should work as a death-companion and undertaker? Is the artistic conception of a funeral enough, or do you consider these services equally indispensable?

I am not a trained death-companion, but I accompany my clients, at their request, up until the end of their journey beyond death. I mainly act as an artistic funeral consultant, and an encouragement to take initiative with regards to the design of their final farewell. I would like to take away people’s fear of shaping and carrying out the final farewell. In this area, too, we can develop into mature citizens who are self-determined and well-informed, capable of putting your wishes into practice. The deep-rooted presumptions of our society haven’t lost much ground. What is nice is that I can now access a large artistic network that I have built up over the years and which can be made available to my clients.

Urn in the making - in the workshop of Kati Jünger
Urn in the making – in the workshop of Kati Jünger

You invite musicians and writers to some burials, where they create a burial as an unforgettable performance. What a beautiful appraisal of the deceased. So you place great emphasis on your rituals being different from the traditional. What is played, read, sung?

Rituals are culturally-integrated actions that make sense of things and provide support and guidance. I do not want to give in to trends, or to be flippant with the idea of ritual. Rituals emerge over long periods of time and have a deep meaning. Christian rituals, for example, give comfort through faith in resurrection. As part of a farewell gathering, I try to motivate the family members and the circle of friends to recite or perform something themselves. I make recommendations: music, which is played live, actors to read lyric or literary lectures, for example, one might read a poem by Robert Gernhardt. Dance, or even fairy tales, which are symbolic life-cycle stories. All this is carried out at the highest artistic level. It is important to be able to oppose the cookie-cutter “assembly line music” with live music – and especially the new and unpredictable, never before heard, composed specially for the occasion. I offer to people who want to plan their own funeral, to listen to music from the musicians who will later play at their burial. I once experienced a very moving live performance at the grave with the favorite songs “Strong as Two” by Udo Lindenberg and “Just to visit” from the Toten Hosen. The client could listen both as often as she wanted up until her death.

What is the biggest challenge in your job? Perhaps you would like to tell us an unforgettable situation from your professional life.

Probably sounds strange now, but the biggest challenge for me is to write bills for my services because I live from the death of other people. This always leaves me with a bad feeling, because my relationship with clients in this very personal, even intimate, situation is usually very intense, because it is difficult for me to draw the line between friendship and business. There have been many unforgettable situations. Many of them are too private to recount. I often think of how the white-tiled pathology of a hospital is suddenly transformed into an almost contemplative, spiritual place, thanks to the special charisma of one of our coffins. One of our terminal clients had us deliver his red coffin to the unused pool of his bungalow and photographed us enthusiastically. Just as my dying sister asked me one evening, to arrange her coffin interior, hand-felted for her personally by a textile artist, and her burial clothes, which she had arranged herself, before her sick bed.She remarked “Lovely, I like it. I am happy. You don’t need to put it away anymore” then, she sent me home. The next morning she died.

Farewell to the Rhino
Farewell to the Rhin

Do you try to alleviate the fear of death in your clients and your collaborators?

No, that would be presumptuous. A person can manage the fear of death only for his or herself. However, I believe that the struggle and the daily thought of death contribute to life’s wisdom.

Hermann Hesse said, “All art comes from the fear of death.” What is your personal relationship to death?

Fear of death compels me to deal with death and dying on an artistic level. I am fascinated by the border experiences that are reflected in art. Fear of death urges me to confrontation, not repression, in effect, according to the motto: “He who does not put himself into danger perishes in it.

Deathbed Photo, Collage by Özen Gider, Coffin Interior by Bea Grawe
Deathbed Photo, Collage by Özen Gider, Coffin Interior by Bea Grawe

Do you know how you would like your own burial to be?

Iknow the principal thing – who will bury me. I often talk about it and hope that some of my desires fall on fertile ground. It is more important to me, however, that I die as I hope not suddenly and unpreparedly, but quite deliberately but painlessly and in the hospice of my choice, somewhere where I already have friends and close contacts, and I hope that there is at least one human being to accompany me beyond death, for whom, so to speak, the clocks stand still, someone who has all the time in the world and does not have to go to work or to other obligations. I have already have my coffin-cabinet at home — you just have to lie it flat and remove the shelves, then I would like to be laid out in it openly. If I were to die now, I would like a religious funeral with the priest of my choice, who I know would find the right words. My artistic network will surely make a nice unconventional contribution to the farewell party. It can be quietly romantic, it can be tearful, it can be sad and dark, and anyone will be welcome. Then, to restore everyone afterwards, there should be a funeral banquet so lush and excellent that the tables bend under its weight. My greatest wish is that all of this happens without a employing the services of a funeral home, I want it to be a community project of my relatives and friends. Let me tell you, you can do it!

How do you find the strength to prevent the pain of the deceased their relatives from impacting you personally? Can you have compassion and mourning without sympathy?

My greatest sources of energy are silence and nature. I discovered a couple of nearby places where I can retreat when I need to gather my strength. When I’m alone there and can sink into the here and now, worldly pain, grief, compassion, compassion and self-compassion relativize themselves. If I can not drive out into nature, I search for churches, mostly architecturally modern, which do not distract from inward reflection. In addition, I regularly go to church on Sundays, which structures my work week and makes me pause, gives me comfort and lets me reflect on what is. I feel secure and welcome in a larger community. And I go as often as possible to my adopted homeland of Greece, where I can always find new strength — the light there heals all sorrow.

Sympathy Vase, porcelain from Elisabeth Klein, flowers from Anna Lindner

What is the greatest consolation for the people who know that are about to die? And for their relatives? What can a living person learn from death?

I heard Heini Staudinger give a wonderful lecture on this topic at the Entrepreneurship Summit. Like him, I would like to quote Rilke on this difficult question: “And when I go out of my garden in the evening, I am tired, I know: all the ways lead to the arsenal of the unlived things.” Staudinger interprets this as follows: An arsenal is a weapon room. When it is more and more filled with our own unlived life, our personal arsenals fill up with more and more aggression against ourselves, against the environment and against fellow human beings. What we can learn from death is to live our lives in mindfulness and not to suppress our finitude, but to consciously accept it.

Urn-vase by Kati Jünger, flowers by Anna Lindner
Urn-vase by Kati Jünger, flowers by Anna Lindner

Have you experienced any miracles? Someone prepared to die who then regained health instead, so everything was in vain?

No, but I hope I can still experience it.

And what about life after death?

If there is a life after death.

Actually, you are goldsmith and jewelry is your main area of success. Do you also make so-called mourning jewelry? How is it different from normal jewelry?

Around the turn of the century, mourning jewelry was an independent category of jewelry. I myself used to try to work with grief and loss, and to see whether I can handle these feelings in jewelry. And I’ve had success with this approach. Mountain crystal tears, which can be worn as earrings, and the like. For me, the medium of jewelry was never really suitable to combine with the subject of grief, although I now also exhibit contemporary jewelry artists who are intensively engaged in themes such as transience, morbidity, vanitas motifs and the like. From these two professional poles it has arisen that I have told my enterprise of Victor Hugo’s quotation: “Death and beauty are two profound things which carry shadow and light in equal measures, as they are two sisters, terrible and creative at the same time. Protecting the same puzzle and the same mystery.

Hans Baldung Grien, Death and Woman, 1517. As a persecutor, lover, and warning with the hourglass, death appears in Baldung’s pictures. As a contrast to the woman’s flowering beauty, and also because she gives birth to life.

What advice would you give young start-ups?

I would like to say from the heart, be very certain that your founding idea and what you are doing is coherent with and affected by who you are as a person. Today so much has become interchangeable. The virtual world is increasingly withdrawn from the deep human longings for closeness, security and mutual care. The central longing of all human beings, however, is to be touched and touched, not only physically, but, above all, internally. Do not neglect this aspect, because these are the basic needs of your future clients. Do what you do with love and: learn a craft art.

Dear Lydia, thank you very much for this wonderful interview!

w e i s s über den tod hinaus is prsent @ PAULINA’S FRIENDS in BIKINI BERLIN.

Photo of a coffin store, still-lifes on the wall by Eva Jünger, Urn vases from Kati Jünger
Photo of a coffin store, still-lifes on the wall by Eva Jünger, Urn vases from Kati Jünger
Recipe for Success: Passion

Recipe for Success: Passion

Recipe for Success: Passion

…Passion for Applied Art

We spoke with Dirk Allgaier, owner of Arnoldsche Art Publishers, about his publishing house, applied art today, and the distinctive quality of the printed book.

Text: Paulina Tsvetanova


Dirk Allgaier with a brooch by Babette von Dohnanyi. Photo: Miriam Künzli


Mr. Allgaier, Arnoldsche Art Publishers is, to my knowledge, the only German publisher specializing in the field of applied art. Especially in the areas of jewelry and ceramics, you are making a considerable contribution to the publication of these arts, which are somewhat neglected in the Central European region. What makes you different from other art publishers?

On a purely organization level, as far as production and distribution is concerned, we probably do not differ so much from other art book publishers. I think it is our passion for our books and for applied art in general which sets us apart. In our publishing houses in Stuttgart you can find not only a lot of books on these topics (also from other publishers), but also exhibitions of jewelry and ceramics from numerous international artists.

Besides this small in-house collection, each of us is personally interested in these art forms. For example, I am especially passionate about contemporary ceramics, as well as the decorative arts.

Since 2015, we have also expressed our enthusiasm for these art forms in a series of exhibitions, the “Arnoldsche Weekend Art Gallery”, which takes place twice a year. We’ve had the opportunity and the great pleasure to exhibit ceramic works by Beate Kuhn and Sebastian Scheid. In addition, this summer we displayed jewelry projects by Mari Ishikawa and ceramic sculptures by Thomas Bohle in our publishing houses. In November of this year, we will continue the series with jewelry by Silvia Weidenbach and ceramics by Karl Fulle, which I am particularly looking forward to.

How do you rate the applied arts / design scene in Germany? What are its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and risks?

The German applied art “scene” is quite small and manageable. This is, on the one hand, an advantage, because that offers opportunities for great growth. The challenge is to bring focus to the unique, unmistakable and inimitable features of the objects. One should try to get the “Brandthink” out of the minds of potential buyers, so that they are able to see, perceive and feel things again.

It’s easy to wear a piece of Cartier, Chanel or Versace jewelry, with a price tag to match, which is almost arbitrary and interchangeable. On the other hand, it’s much more exciting, communicative and socially-relevant to wear a piece by Bernhard Schobinger, Otto Künzli, Daniel Kruger or Tone Vigeland.

And at a fraction of the cost. There’s also the chance to discover talented newcomers. I can purchase a ceramic or glass sculpture at the highest level of design for a few hundred euros. And you really have to look for a long time to find unique pieces in the fine arts.

What can applied art/craft learn from art and vice versa?

In my opinion, the separation between applied and visual art is purely academic. If you are get into the adventure of ceramic arts or jewelry art or glass arts, you will soon find that these are merely different, but equivalent, highly complex artistic forms of expression that are in no way inferior to the supposedly canonical arts of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography or performance art.

The reception of these art forms, for example, is much more open in the Scandinavian countries than in Germany. Or think about the Turner Prize, which was awarded to Grayson Perry in 2003. This was a sensation, as the renowned art prize was presented to a “ceramicist”, which made headlines and showed that although the jury was aware of the value of “ceramics” as a form of artistic expression, the media was less so.

Maybe it is less the case that these arts learn from one another. Rather that they fertilize one another. In any case, with our publishing program, we are concerned with offering the so-called applied arts a forum which, in our opinion, it clearly deserves.

Just recently, I read an interview with the gallery owner Jörg Johnen in ZEIT, on the mission of his gallery for contemporary art. He draws attention to the ceramic arts that have fallen into oblivion in the last 20 years. For him, it is an exciting counterpoint to the constant sampling and tweaking of young contemporary art, to the “mouse click art”, as he says, which sooner or later gets tiresome.

He attributes to contemporary art hardly any depth of thought and experience. But that is exactly what I find in the applied arts, and perhaps it is what the visual arts can learn from them again?

Since 2015, you have been the publisher of Arnoldsche Art Publishers, where you have been working for over 20 years and have been responsible for the support of international publishing partners. Tell us a bit about your professional career, from your study of archeology to your challenges as a publisher.

In 1992, I finished my Master’s in archaeological studies. I had always wanted to work in a publishing house. So, I started to work towards a professional training certificate at Klett in Stuttgart. Part of this training was a three-month internship in a publishing house.

I did my internship at Arnoldschen. After the end of the three months, I didn’t even go back to school, but stayed on at the Arnoldschen as the first permanent employee.

In hindsight it’s already fascinating to see how publishing has become more professionalized and internationalized in these 20 years. Also I was able to really understand the transition in retail purchasing from traditional book sellers to online merchants (mostly Amazon).

Previously, the bookselling trade was a reliable way for small, specialized publishers to reach customers. This is no longer the case, far from it, since half of the bookselling trade has disappeared over the past 20 years, and many bookshops can no longer afford to carry a large assortment in their store. I see this as a major challenge to keeping our potential customers informed of our publishing program as professionally and comprehensively as possible.

Nowadays many people no longer know the experience of flipping through a printed, tactile book, of experiencing its smell. In the age of social media, many young people have missed not only the experience of reading printed media, but also the experience of the sensuous feelings associated with it. This loss has an impact on our quality of life. How do you see these developments and what do you do as a publisher?

I find it wonderful that you point out the tactile characteristics of the printed book as a medium. There is no digital substitute! But do not forget also the design of a book that is not subject to the dynamic design of an e-book. Each page – or in our perspective, double-page – is composed!

Whether an artist’s monograph or a museum catalogue, a book possesses its own rhythm, its own structure, its own sequence, which can be grasped only by going through the whole book. If a (supposedly only) analog medium, it is nevertheless a separate format – different from an exhibition, an online appearance, a database, etc. – and this format can not be totally replaced (at least so far)!

For us, to design a book is to create a visual translation of the work of an artist or a collection or a topic into the two-dimensional, printed book form. In addition, an author thinks twice about what he or she writes, it is not so “rapid fire” as on the Internet. A book provides considerations which are thought out to the end, to which one can refer back, there is nothing “rapid fire” about it.

By the way, I don’t think that young people don’t know what a book is, or don’t read. Even young people know about the experience and the value of a book — who doesn’t? More problematic is the fact that fewer and fewer people are interested in applied art. Or collect it — that is, for me at least, to surround themselves with these works of art in everyday life.

The art market may have drifted a little too far into an investment market, which makes it hard for the applied arts to keep up with the market or, on the other hand, to offer the applied arts the chance to gain credibility through a genuine, authentic presentation.

So what can we publishers do? Well, we continue to publish outstanding books of what we see as urgently noteworthy artistic perspectives from today’s so-called applied art. Should I name some books at this point? Probably not, but you should definitely be familiar with “Passion for Ceramics: The Collection of Frank Nievergelt “, the publication of an outstanding collection of wisely- and expertly-curated ceramic art from the past 40 years.

Or the publication “Barbara Cartlidge and Electrum Gallery”, which documents the gallery owner and the gallery par excellence, which was one of only three galleries which gave a voice to jewelry art in the twentieth century.

Do you have a favorite publication?

I love every single one of our publications! Among our ceramic publications, my favorite is the two-volume “Vase / Sculpture” from the GRASSI Museum Leipzig, which documents the extraordinary variety and beauty of contemporary ceramic arts and is now referred to as “the Bible of ceramic publications” by connoisseurs. But I’d also say that the wonderful ceramic monographs of the Austrian Thomas Bohle, the Norwegian Torbjørn Kvasbø or the Japanese Yasuhisa Kohyama can be counted among my “favorite” books.

As far as jewelry goes, of course, the long-out-of-print catalogue of the jewelry collection of Helen Drutt “Ornament as Art”, 2007 in cooperation with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. But the jewelry monographs of Thomas Gentille, Mari Ishikawa and Daniel Kruger also appeal to me in their individuality and proximity to the work of the artists.

Very close are the three volumes “Fired by Passion” with more than 1,400 pages on the early Viennese porcelain of DuPaquier, which was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2009.

Tell us about your current projects.

We are currently working on more than 20 publications. They are all exciting! I can tell you that much in advance. This year books are still appearing. For example, about Edgar Degas, about the graphic work of jewelry artists, the Russian Constructivist architect Boris Velikovsky, about Japanese food and its various cultural aspects, as well as jewelry made of precious stones and other materials found in the Idar-Oberstein area over the past ten years.

Even just the selection of these few books shows the great range of our publications this year. Not to mention “The Flying Leaves”, a historical collection of 15th and 16th century leaflets, a first-rate cultural treasure which we are very honored to be publishing. And all this from a small team of four hard-working, ambitious employees, all of whom strongly identify with the direction of our publishing program.

How do you envision the future of Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Mr. Allgaier?

Rosy, what else? If I shared the widespread opinion that the art book was at its end, I would have to hang up my hat! The well-made, high-quality art book has its place in our lives and thus a future. Nothing you can find online, even if it’s more-or-less well-informed, or even an up-to-date museum inventory, no Pinterest page, no Facebook account of an artist, no moderated Wikipedia entry can offer you the same value that you get from a carefully thought-out and planned book.

And then I have to go back to what I called the “visual translation” in book form, a book, especially an art book, is carefully composed, it opens up an inimitable, access to a topic which you cannot get anywhere else. Be inspired, enjoy and discover – it’s a way to discover art!

But, one should always look at the original, this is a completely different experience. I therefore recommend our “Arnoldsche Art Gallery” November 11th to 13th, for the stunning jewelery objects by Silvia Weidenbach and the inspiring ceramics by Karl Fulle, because nothing – not even a book – replaces the original!

You will find these publications from Arnoldsche at Paulina’s Friends in Bikini Berlin:




On the Hunt for Serendipity …

On the Hunt for Serendipity …

On the Hunt for Serendipity …

We visited the product designer and installation artist Carolin Koch in her workshop in Berlin-Rixdorf and spontaneously photographed what was lying around her studio. This was a real wunderkammer experience!

Text: Paulina Tsvetanova


Carolin, Rixdorf is very little-known part of Neukölln. What brought you here?

Before coming here, I lived in Kreuzberg for almost a year. I wanted to look for a new apartment to enlarge my space. I always found Neukölln interesting, with its rough pavement and the opportunity to further develop the neighborhood. A close friend had heard about an apartment recently vacated by his housekeeper, and I moved in.

In your first life you were goldsmith. How does a goldsmith become an artist?

Oy, that question can hardly be answered in a few sentences. I would have to go on a bit. In my life, nothing happens by chance. Many of the decisions I’ve made haven’t been clear from the start. Back when I was about to take the Abitur I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. One of my classmates told me of her desire to become a goldsmith. “Aha, Goldsmithing, that might be something,” I thought. In any case, it wasn’t something to study, but it was a craft I could learn. At that time, there were only a few places to train as a goldsmith. Another of my classmates knew the owner of a goldsmithy. Working there for the next three-and-a-half years, I benefited from a lot of training. The highlight was the vocational day school in Cologne that I attended on Fridays. My boss was an excellent draftsman and designer. I was always fascinated by the idea of taking my own creations on paper and realizing them in 3D. After the apprenticeship, I studied design with a specialization in product design in Münster. That’s another story. How much time do you have, Paulina? I met an artist who invited me to exhibit in her studio. That was shortly before my move to Berlin in late 2008. On this occasion, I created the first of my framed-object pieces out of natural materials. Ja… and in Berlin I have developed further. My participation in “48 hours Neukölln” 2009 was like a springboard for me.

Do you view yourself as a designer, an artist or a craftswoman? These categories are getting more and more fluid these days. How can they be combined? Where does art end and design begin, and vice versa?
It is exactly this mixture. I am neither one nor the other. The mixture makes the charm. My study of design has trained me in appearances and function. My artistic side creates patterns of order, turns everything on its head and/or combines things which don’t seem to go together. I need the craftsmanship to implement my ideas. The border is fluid, yes — I share your opinion. And I welcome it very much. I find it nonsensical to separate the one from the other. I myself don’t ask what is what. I do it because I like this blurring of genres and I like to avoid categories. Why? This, precisely, is artistic freedom.

Your work lives on small stories – sometimes mind-boggling, often deeply hidden … Your personal story briefly summarized?

Summarizing briefly is not exactly one of my strengths, as you may have noticed. Okay. Three words that sum it up: coincidences, coincidences, coincidences. “Fate” also works. But the English word “serendipity” for “happy coincidence” expresses it best. I was just born under a lucky star.

You have succeeded in approaching your hobby, namely gathering everyday things that most people do not notice, with an almost scientific meticulousness, and putting these things into a new context. Where does it come from? Is there a childhood story that inspired this?
Interesting question. Is there an origin? Yes, perhaps. As a child, I liked to play with wooden blocks, marbles, spools of yarn, or other things that seem to be the same and yet all different in detail. I like to sort and order. This is reflected in my work.

You get to the heart of things, to capture their peculiarities, to improve them. Your approach is like a sort of alchemy. Where do you find your “gold”?
Frequently on the street. My gaze is like a detector pointed down, rather than straight ahead. Sometimes it is gifts from friends. There is a great junk store on Richardstraße. They somehow have everything, from office clamps to living room cabinets. If I don’t find what I am looking for, I find something else, which sometimes fits even better or inspires a different idea. Often, I find without searching.

Does everything that you collect show signs of use? … Is everything “vintage” or are there works that arise from new “relics of everyday life”?
I’ve also tried to buy and incorporate new things. But these objects can be overly slick, they have not experienced anything. Too boring. The patina of the object speaks without words and is much more exciting. I did do a project with ice spoons, which I bought, but I altered their appearance. That’s how it goes. They are still waiting for me to deal with them.

Your workshop is a veritable museum. You are literally surrounded and absorbed by your found objects. Don’t you need a little privacy to gather energy and strength for the next journey of discovery? 

Among other things, this is my inspiration. I don’t like completely white walls. I need a visual abundance for new ideas. All of the things around me are not always present, though. I store some in cases or assortment boxes. For a recent exhibition, I gathered up everything from this stock that had touched me in some way. Gradually the piece developed from this.

How important is color to you?
Color has only recently become very important to me. Color is life and energy. You can use colors discreetly as accents, use them in a targeted manner or just let them pop. In my more recent work, I’ve been working with neon-colored poster cartons. Recently, at “48 hours Neukölln” in 2016, I used fluorescent colors and black light. This created a beautiful effect.

And how does two-dimensionality relate to three-dimensionality in your work?
Everything is possible and can be combined. There are no borders.

Arranging a number of the same kinds of objects has a contemplative component. Is this a sort of meditation for you?
Well yes, even consciously. In my work with these objects, I am sometimes so drawn in and concentrated that it can surely count as some form of meditation. It is moments of happiness.

Do you have a favorite piece and why?
The work with the Pink Panther comes to mind. The Panther is placed between a question and the somewhat hidden answer. He acts as a questioner and encourages the viewer to find the answer. I like this kind of interaction, and, of course, the Panther himself.

Are there any works that you do not want to part with, as they symbolize an intimate, personal story?
Thankfully not. Everything I put together can and should change owners. I am happy when others get find joy in my works.

On a related note, you curated an exhibition with real stories from different people and their corresponding story-tellers, in the framework of 48 Hours in Neukölln.

Can one bring you a personal history, for you to tell it anew? A personal work of art as a commission? Is this a work of immortalization or of therapeutic transformation?

In 2015, the theme of the festival was “S.O.S. – Art Saves the World “. I asked some friends to tell me about a personal experience that was especially meaningful, which they connect with an object. By integrating each story with a humorous or playful art object, I wanted to create a new, positive context between object and storyteller. I hope that it has worked for me here and there. This was my own thematic project.

For a commissioned work, it is less therapeutic. It is actually more about immortalization. Or maybe it is therapeutic, who knows. That would be a wonderful side effect. If I receive an item from the customer, I would like to know its exact significance. This is important in order to create the right framework for this object, in the truest sense of the word. My questions to the client are sometimes then passed through the family to find an answer. This is exciting, also for me.

So I tell a story which is not new, rather I bring together everything that already belongs to the object, everything that adds to its meaning. Here my thoughts can already go in many directions. So my customers are often surprised by the final piece.

Your love for detail characterizes you as a person. What about the big picture – do you have a mental image of it from the beginning, or does it develop over the course of the work?

It is rare that I have a picture in mind. It is a process. A lot of things are only revealed in the composition. You can sense it, even if it doesn’t all fit together yet. Then I cut something out, exchange something or add something new. Here too, chance is a good advisor. The work does not only come from the gut. The mind creates the concept and can be guided by feeling.


You produce all of your frames by yourself. Often the art is created by the frame itself.
I can’t make all of my frames myself. I work with a wonderful carpenter who has the soul of a designer and artist. The content and the frame are part of a concept. I do not separate that.

In addition to your installations, you also work as a product designer? Tell us a bit about your projects. What have been your favorite so far?  

My study of design has provided me with an important foundation in many respects. However, I no longer understand myself as a pure product designer. Like in a well-mixed cocktail, I mix the best parts of everything I’ve learned. A product, or rather a project, which has accompanied me since my studies, is “seveninone”, a chewing gum bag which I have developed for stick gum. It is, if you like, very near to my heart. I’ve been chewing gum for ages and it was also the topic of my diploma thesis.

How would you characterize your clients?
Appreciative, humorous, open, detail-loving, warm and affectionate.

Is there something you hope to do in the future?
On my own intellectual backburner, for the past few years I’ve been playing around with the concept for a journey through all 16 German states… I would stage whatever I find on the road, what people give me, or what I come across otherwise, in some way that speaks to the state in which I found it. This could be exciting, because I don’t have a plan for what it will look like. At this point I can just plan the route.

Many thanks, dear Carolin, for your thoughts and for the wonderful time that we spent in your exceptional habitat.
Find more about Carolin Koch’s work