finding the imperfect perfect: artist kris ruhs and linck ceramics venture into the new
In a tale of intertwining love stories, the artist behind the iconic but insistently modern Milan boutique 10 Corso Como teams up with the third generation owner of the historic Swiss ceramics company Linck.
"I was here, alone, in Milan when I was a young girl. I was modelling," explains Annet Berger, the third generation owner of the Swiss ceramics company Linck. "I was fascinated by Milan, by this culture. For me, as a Swiss girl who was quite, shall we say, organised, Milan was just more... easy. Fashion, at that time, was very open, very colourful, and 10 Corso Como -- now it is an icon, then, it was just a very new experience -- it was so different to everything else, there were no concept stores. It was a new kind of freedom, of creativity."
Having made a bond with Carla Sozzani's world famous gallery, bookshop, café and fashion boutique 10 Corso Como more than 20 years ago as a young model in a new city -- an emotional connection made stronger when she accepted her partner's marriage proposal on the roof terrace a few years ago -- Annet has now become a collaborator, working with Sozzani's partner and creative other-half, the American artist Kris Ruhs. Opening up her family's Bern-based artisanal ceramics company to a bold and unfamiliar creative direction, and to a new international customer, their collaborative collection launches this week, during Milan's design expo, Salone del Mobile.
The fruits of Annet and Kris's collaboration are three intriguing ceramic objets d'art, a marked variation from Linck's signature gleaming white, alternately curved and angular vases and bowls. Standing 45 centimeters tall, the large vase-like objects each have a black gloss-glazed central column, with an outer encasement in an organic-looking, uneven glaze and wide openings through which you can see the smooth inner column. The three styles have one large, or two, or four wide openings, respectively, each made in a limited edition of 15.
Though Annet protests that the traditional Linck ceramics aren't all perfect clones -- each piece made by hand and therefore with unique variations, she concedes that Kris Ruhs has opened her eyes to a different conception of perfection. Standing in an art-stacked and cat-filled warehouse at Ruhs' Milan studio, she grabs one of the sturdy collaboration ceramics in her hand and asks, "Is this now not perfect, because of this...," running her fingers over the uneven glaze. "It's perfect because it has this!" she enthuses, smiling at Kris, who demures, "They wanted to go in a different direction. This is a little different". Annet politely, but emphatically disagrees: "It's more than a little different; it's revolutionary!," she says.
How did Kris react to the near-flawless, Swiss style of Linck? "I like it. I strive for perfection," he explains, "just a different kind of perfection". "Annet was attracted to the kind of things I do for 10 Corso Como, so I think it's a nice approach, to contrast. Taking it to the next level, for them and for me. I gain from their perfection, maybe they gain something from me, a different approach," he adds, musing that, "There's no such thing as perfection in a sense. I like that they take this more serious approach, to make a series of things, because my type of thing, I can never make two. I get myself into lots of trouble when somebody says, 'I want something like that one'!".
"Ceramics has a lot of history, it has a lot of techniques that are old: you have to be patient, to let it dry for a long time, to be careful to match the glaze, it's quite difficult, there's a whole science behind it," Annet explains. "If you do it the way they do it!," Kris jokes, noting that his usual pottery style is '5 minute rakus': "You put it in the fire and pull it out while it's still hot. You shock the hell out of it!," producing a crackled effect, he explains, grinning mischievously and adding, "I'm the worst kid in the class, I can't be taught". "But a lot of new stuff comes out of it, the experimental approach," Annet responds, herself reflecting founder Margrit Linck's interest in a wide and diverse range of art movements, from her surrealist contemporaries Picasso, Giacometti and Braque, to styles of African sculpture.
Artisans at the Linck studio train for four to five years to learn the techniques needed to create their signature forms, and some of the nine staff have been with the company for more than a decade. How did they react to these more artistically unruly designs? "At first, they wondered, 'How are they going to match?' -- because we're always doing the same forms, and they know they will be all white, or black," Annet explains, "But then, there was one guy who was fascinated by these forms, he had some kind of fire to do it, and then the others came with him. Now, like me, they fell in love".
The Linck and Kris Ruhs collection is available now at 10 Corso Como in Milan.