There is an internationally renowned education center for jewelry designers right in the middle of the live Rhine metropolis: the Polytechnic College and its course in product design. Located in the tense field between art and design, unique and series jewelry and products, students of this course are challenged to define their own focus.

Polytechnic College
The hand with the drawing pen points to the entrance of the Düsseldorf Polytechnic College

Düsseldorf is an equally lively and important German media, fashion and trade fair city. The Art Academy, large museums and numerous galleries – including quite a few for contemporary jewelry – offer an ideal environment for design students. The building of the Dusseldorf Polytechnic College is located not far from the city center and just a few steps away from the expansive Rhine Park. The Faculty of Design here teaches both communication and product design.

In the studio

Jewelry designers have been educated in Düsseldorf since 1947. When the polytechnic college was founded in 1971, the subjects of jewelry and enamel at the Crafts School were incorporated in the design faculty under the versatile enamel artist Prof. Sigrid Delius and the jewelry kineticist, Prof. Friedrich Becker, then combined in the course in product design. A team of three different personalities has since emerged in Prof. Elisabeth Holder, Prof. Hermann Hermsen and Dipl.-Des. Herbert Schulze. This lends the course its current variety. Interdisciplinary study goals are the independent development of design positions and the critical appraisal of social phenomena and market strategies.

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In the seminar. Awards such as the Midora Design Award, the Innovation Prize at Inhorgenta Europe 2004 or the repeated award of the State Prize of North Rhine Westphalia confirm the high standards of the Düsseldorf courses
Professors Elisabeth Holder (right), Herman Hermsen (left) and qualified designer Herbert Schulze (center) at the opening of the exhibition “nicht ohne” in the Kestner Museum, Hanover. In the background we see the upright lamp by Astrid Eckert

Three personalities, three starting points

Elisabeth Holder focuses on unique jewelry. Her teaching deals mainly with free artistic expression. She feels that connections to other art forms are free-flowing, and the professor believes sensitive and conscious handling of materials is important when experimenting. Critical appraisal of each topic is based on personal experience. The working process consists of a repetitive cycle of impressions, that are made sensually tactile, and objective observations. Her courses are generally structured as dynamic group work.

Nina Wöhlke, “Bone scarf”

Hermann Hermsen from Holland focuses on series jewelry and product design. He sees the development of form as an elementary task without neglecting questions of technical product requirements or the market situation. Hermsen does not believe that artistic standards and series production are mutually exclusive. He teaches his students that the creativeness is found in the design, whereas production can be delegated. His courses cover a wide spectrum of topics beyond simple jewelry design: Under his guidance, the students develop watches, spectacles, bags, accessories and objects of everyday use such as lamps or letter openers.

Nina Wöhlke, “Pig Ring”, silver, red stone
Sandra Schepp, “Door buzzer”, plastic model, manufactured using the rapid prototyping method

The designer Herbert Schulze deals with the field of ecclesiastic and secular objects. This does not simply focus on individual pieces made using silversmith techniques, but also on topics related to product and object design. For example, in cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, door buzzers were developed making use of the rapid prototyping method. The vitality of his courses is mirrored among other things in the inclusion of work in the exhibition “Loffel” – an initiative by the Gallery RA in Amsterdam, repeated participation in the Grassi Fair in Leipzig and the Silver Triennale as well as participation in various design competitions for liturgical equipment.

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Tanja Friedrichs, “Respoon”, spoon made of old plastic bottles and canisters
Alin Boyaciyan, mirror sleeve for flowers, plastic foil

Regular workshops and external jewelry designers as guest speakers round off the course of studies. They include familiar figures such as Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Alexandra Bahlmann, Johanna Dahm, Georg Dobler, Birgit Laken, Jacqueline Mina, Ted Noten and Brigitte Tendahl. The used variety of materials reflects the wide range of technical equipment in the workshops. In addition to seminar space and workshops, students can also work in a silversmith smithy, an enamel workshop, a workshop with furnaces for ceramics and glass, a foundry and an extremely well-equipped machine room.

Nicole Hanselle, “Baggage carrier”
From the inpetto collection, dirndl ring by Ingrid Bartesch-Schek, silver, yarn

Practical experience

Participation in competitions and prizes and networking with companies are elementary parts of the comparatively small but extremely vital course of studies. This practical approach has frequently resulted in companies organizing the competitions including the competition pieces in their own production. The students acquire practical experience with galleries in the numerous exhibitions that are part of the course. They organize their own concepts independently, select the works and carry responsibility for organization and assembly. For example, the exhibition “12+3” in Gallery Raben in Vorden in Holland, which featured current work by teachers and students, was organized in this way. “Aspekte in Serie”, “Nearly famous” and “26+4” are touring exhibitions with student work that have been shown in many galleries around the world over the last few years. Interesting design publications have been created for these exhibitions in cooperation with the neighboring course in communication design. The extensive catalogue book “nicht ohne”, which accompanied and complemented the exhibition of the same name, is also an interdisciplinary co-production. It was on show in leading museums of applied art, such as the Grassi Museum in Leipzig or the Kestner Museum in Hanover. The documentation, which was published in 2002, reflects the work in the course of studies over the last 10 years.

Ingrid Micheel, “Flö der Flaschenöffnerring” (the bottle opener ring), stainless steel
Ring by Schmuckwerk, designed within the framework of cooperation with inpetto by Jenny Brommer

Success through initiative

The student forum “inpetto” was founded four years ago in order to prepare the graduates for professional self-employment. As a non-profit organization, it enables the students to include their designs in the inpetto collection and to structure it according to their own wishes. It is inpettos philosophy to preserve the authenticity of design in its translation to series jewelry and to bridge the interface between the creative world of the designer and that of the marketplace.

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View of the exhibition “nicht ohne” in the Düsseldorf Trade Corporation

Inpetto will exhibit for the fourth time in a row during the lnhorgenta in Munich in February 2004 and for the first time at the Passione 2004 trade fair in Frankfurt am Main in March. Inpetto also successfully offers design services and develops concepts through to the prototype stage. The innovative results of the cooperation with the firm M&M Uhren GmbH/Alfex Switzerland and the firm Schmuckwerk have been included in each firm’s collection. The project with the firm Leser-Schmuckverpackungen is also promising. In February the company will make a selection of prototypes developed in the current semester. The young students will then be given the opportunity to develop these prototypes to production maturity in a practical semester in the firm. Motivating factors for the students in this process include not only the remuneration of their design output, but also the promise of seeing their own design appear on the market.

Installation view of the exhibition “12+3” In Gallery Raben

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Course in product design:

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