The various education centers for jewelry design offer very different ways of completing a course of stuides to become a jewelry designer. The range of courses on offer is indeed equally varied as jewelry design itself is today. Applicants can select between colleges and some academies. The colleges offer a structured curriculum: practical relevance and projects with the consumer goods industry are part of the contents to the studies. The counterpart to colleges are academies of the arts. One of the few courses in jewelry design at an academy is the jewelry class under the tutelage of Otto Künzli at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.

Otto Künzli
The Academy of Fine Arts is a familiar address in Munich

Located right in the heart of Munich in the now fashionable district of Schwabing, the Academy of Fine Arts was founded in 1808. Various artistic subjects are united beneath one roof in this imposing, Neo-Renaissance style building. The library in the academy is regarded as being the best and most beautiful art library in Germany. A total of 30 professors teach almost 700 students in the classes for ceramics and glass, stage design, painting and sculpting and the courses in interior design and architecture. The jewelry class at the academy has been under the tutelage of Prof. Otto Künzli since 1991 and is a small department with only 20 students. Anyone walking along the impressive corridors of the academy looking for the jewelry and equipment class will stumble into a wing of the building full of studios that offer students a home at the traditional goldsmith work benches for a study period of no more than twelve semesters. In addition to Professor Künzli, the students receive support from the Dutch jewelry designer and assistant Karen Pontoppidan and the studio manager Matthias Mönnich. The offices of the three support staff members are directly next to the students’ studios and form a small and intensive unit within the major workings of the academy.

Draft for the planned extension to the academy
Nanna Melland, necklace “Deladence”, cord, gold splinters

A place to network ideas and make international contacts

The Munich jewelry class rose to prominence outside of Munich under the goldsmith and jewelry artist Hermann Jünger, who held the chair from 1972 until 1990. Herman Jünger saw jewelry design as an artistic challenge, which had at its disposal all possibilities from architectural stringency through to playful freedom. Initial exhibitions of his students’ work at Munich museums soon followed, making a name for the jewelry class even outside of Munich. Internationally renowned goldsmiths such as Erico Nagai, Daniel Kruger and even Otto Künzli himself, to name but a few, emerged from these important years for the jewelry class. Many former students of Jünger and Künzli have been and still are trend setters of style and still play a defining role in the very lively gallery and jewelry scene in Munich, even on an international level.

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Mason Douglas, brooch, enamel

Nowadays, students come from all over the world to study intensely under Otto Künzli. Half of the students in Künzli’s class are foreign. The study classes from all kinds of nations share studios and equipment. The aim of the course is to qualify graduates to work as freelance goldsmiths. In addition to artistic criteria, students should primarily be empowered to solve design tasks that are related to jewelry production as part of the studies. The challenge that the professor and his team put to the students time and again is to design jewelry or equipment as individual or unique pieces or as small series on a scale that the students can still control. The class for jewelry and equipment is not a teaching studio in the sense of a basic crafts education. Therefore, admittance to the studies requires the proof of required knowledge and skills in goldsmith work through an apprenticeship or internship with a goldsmith. The interviews of potential students also focus on suitability with regard to the artistic and creative process of design.

Jiro Kamata, pendant “Magazine”, plexiglas

Students should be in a position to plan and create the jewelry as a unique item or a small series. The course at the academy is designed to produce neither jewelry designers nor special craftsmen. Each student selects his or her own project topic, regardless of their study year. Weekly meetings of the entire class or individual meetings between students and support staff are intended to solve formal and content criteria. The plan or the idea for an item of jewelry may be defined in a drawing or in a model. After this, the material, the technology and the surface treatment are selected. Required technical or formal amendments arise during implementation, which were not or could not have been identified during the planning phase. There is no separation into a theoretical-planning and a technical-practical part of the course. All techniques of goldsmith work and producing small series are conveyed in the goldsmith class.

Mirei Takeuchi, jewelry cord
Shari Pierce, pin jewelry, golden thread

Practical reality

Cooperation with other departments in the academy, for example with the photography class, is believed to be sensible and is an important supplement. The decisive factor in the overall studies is less that the students should receive a professional qualification, but instead that they should gain their own yardstick of artistic quality through the critical appraisal with various tasks and techniques. Otto Künzli does not see the jewelry designed by his students as being object jewelry, like for example at the Dutch academies. Instead, jewelry should primarily be wearable. Jewelry design in Künzli’s class has rid itself of the focus on valuable materials. The students constantly gain new insight through cooperation with schools such as the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Guest lectures or seminars by internationally renowned jewelry artists, some of whom were graduates of Jünger and Künzli’s jewelry classes, round off the studies and convey an impression of the broad wealth of design concepts. The young designers can gain first practical experience by exhibiting in jewelry galleries or by selling their own small series, for example as we see in the Pinakothek of Modern Art in Munich. The annual exhibition at the academy takes place each year at the end of July. The jewelry class then presents a joint topic, each year attracting a large number of interested visitors. Otto Künzli’s class has good contacts to the Gallery Marzee in Nijmegen, Holland. The exhibitions there are another opportunity to present work to an audience interested in artistic jewelry. The exhibitions in the gallery all run under the name “Tatort”. “The students should not simply follow a predefined path set by the teacher, but should instead find their own personal style of design”, emphasizes Otto Künzli. Künzli’s jewelry class promotes and demands individuality and should result in pluralist skills in concept and implementation. A love of experimentation and lightness in jewelry is presented with great love of new things and with a touch of self-irony.

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Florian Weichsberger, cord, plastic rings