I was invited to Leipzig last weekend, a city in the east of Germany, to join a small group of bloggers to explore the city and the Designers’ Open. The region of Saxony has been undergoing a process of renewal over the last twenty five years, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I was honoured to be asked to come and experience it for myself. Having been a history teacher for many years and knowing so much about the German Democratic Republic it was fascinating to not only see this part of Germany but to find out more about its movement and progress. It’s almost unthinkable that twenty five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to enter the city, let alone leave. However, Leipzig has always been a centre of culture, a city of books and fairs with a mix of striking architecture seeped in history – so much to see and do!
I joined Carole, a fellow blogger from London, and Mia, who lives in Leipzig and is the editor of a very successful blogzine, Alabaster Maedchen. We spent our time meeting designers, seeing their work and discovering what lies at the heart of this vibrant cultural hub.
My highlight of the trip was the tour of the Spinnerei: an old cotton factory dating back to 1884 that is now filled with exhibition space and makers’ workshops. The buildings themselves were perfect examples of industrial architecture and as the door opened on studios, workshops and pieces of art I could feel the exciting energy of this special place. The workshop of Saxony Ducks was my dream workspace and their creations in the softest wool were stunning and I couldn’t resist an advent calendar based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm from graphic designer Katja Zwirnmann. The buildings have been beautifully restored to maintain all of the character of the original cotton factory, yet allow the artists to exhibit, make, develop and inspire: such an important project and reflective of the progress and creativity of the city.
The space that captured my imagination most was Claudia Biehne’s porcelain studio. Paper-thin porcelain bowls, vases and sculptures whose beauty lay in their fragility and each so unique in its shape and form. Claudia explained the design process, which just added to how precious each creation was. I absolutely love seeing the workspace of creatives so this was such a treat.
We spent all of Friday at the Designers’ Open, a great chance to explore and talk to designers to find out more about the concepts behind their designs. The exhibition space was filled with hand made ceramics, furniture, lighting, fashion and graphic design: a stage for new trends and a market place for new designs. I found a few products, including a kitchen unit that I’m still dreaming about, that I would have snapped up there and then if I didn’t have a teeny weeny baggage allowance.
Concrete furniture and homewares by Betoniu
I loved these lamps made of concrete and coloured twine, handmade over several days by Oliver Schilf in his living room. I’d want three of these hanging in my kitchen!
I immediately fell for these stacking bowls painted with a traditional Japanese blue. Aren’t they beautiful in their simplicity?
The clever and sleek design of these milk jugs with a small sugar bowl stacked on top is brilliant.
We saw more designers around the city at a number of design ‘spots’. The Grassimuseum in the centre of the city hosted several projects by university students and more inspiration.
We were incredibly lucky to be shown the city by the lovely Mia, Alex and Anja – there’s nothing better than a bit of insider knowledge when discovering a new place and great to get an insight into daily life in the city. They took us to see the lakes, just a ten minute bike ride from the city centre, that is a popular spot in the summer but incredibly beautiful at this time of the year with the Autumnal colours of the woods that surround the water.
It was so wonderful to spend the weekend with such great people. Mia is one of the most interesting and generous people I have met in a long time and she and her partner, Alex, looked after us so well, taking us to good restaurants (we ate so well), to must-see spots and introduced us to some other local bloggers. Mia and Alex, you must come to London soon! Claudius and Anja were both so warm and went to great lengths to make sure we had the best possible experience. It was also really great to spend time with Carole and we had so much fun together – I can’t wait to come round for dinner, Carole! We also stayed in a hotel that I would highly recommend called Arcona Living Bach 14.
This is a place on the move, an ever-changing scene rich in culture and ready to change people’s perception of this part of the world. I loved meeting such generous people, discovering new designers and absorbing as much of the city as possible; I’m pretty sure it won’t stay the same for long and I look forward to seeing what its future holds.
*This post was written in collaboration with Simply Saxony.