Colourful, traditional, diverse – Munich’s city districts. “Out and about with...” offers very personal insights through the eyes of the people who live here and who know their districts best. This time, jewellery designer Saskia Diez shows us her Glockenbachviertel.
Saskia Diez is an internationally renowned designer, best known for the jewellery she produces under her label of the same name. She herself describes it as jewellery for modern people, and she has long been enjoying national and international success. This makes it even more pleasing that this Munich native not only lives in the Glockenbachviertel of the city, but also produces her collections there, and embodies local craftsmanship that is as sustainable as possible. We took a lengthy stroll through the fashionable neighbourhood as she picked out her favourite spots and shared some insights into her work. Out and about with Saskia Diez!
Saskia, we’re sitting right in the heart of Glockenbachviertel, on Gärtnerplatz. What can you recommend along this walk through your neighbourhood?
Café Dukatz is just around the corner from my place and en route to my studio. That’s where we met for the start of our walk. I absolutely love it there because everything they sell they make themselves – delicious cakes, croissants, petits fours; they also make great macarons, which you hardly ever get outside France. The café is so relaxed and welcoming.
That’s true. And it’s a real institution too – the Dukatz has been here for such a long time.
Exactly. We walked across Gärtnerplatz after that, where we are sitting right now. This is a wonderful place to observe the different seasons passing. It looks completely different in spring compared to how it looks now in early autumn, bathed in shades of orange. I think it’s great that the plants here have been orchestrated to do that and it’s really taken seriously. And because I’m a big fan of people who do their jobs well and shops in which you can buy special things, we walked to Kräuter- und Wurzelsepp, which sells herbs, spices, teas and much more. It’s a great place to go for herbs and berries and such, and a wonderful alternative to the superfoods that are all the rage. You also get an enjoyably grumpy welcome there (laughs).
What would you tell tourists who are a bit offended by the grouchiness?
I’d tell them that there is usually a hidden warmth behind it. You have to bring out the friendliness by being friendly yourself or having a question to ask. In any case, you can be sure that you won’t be sold any rubbish in that shop. Incidentally, next door to the shop you’ll find The High. It’s one of the loveliest little bars in Munich, and I even enjoy going there by myself sometimes. The drinks are incredible.
What do you like to drink there?
My absolute favourite is a very small drink called a Libanon; it’s very strong, very spicy and very short (laughs).
The bar is also next door to another place worth mentioning: the Deiglmayr & Knecht paint shop. What’s special here is that you can take in samples of paint or even fabric and they will mix that specific colour for you. What has always kept me in Munich, in terms of what I do, is that there is so much knowledge, craftsmanship and expertise here. And people take so much pride in doing the job well, in fields that have been forgotten in many other places. That is a very strong quality in this city.
I also like the fact that a modern bar like The High is embedded between these two traditional addresses.
Exactly. Everything here is done with care and great attention to detail, including the drinks. I travel to Japan from time to time, and once I brought back a very spicy paste for the owner of the bar, which he then used to create a new drink. You can always get into a conversation there.
You’ve already mentioned your own work. How would you describe your creations?
That’s one of the hardest questions to answer... When I started out, I just wanted to make jewellery for people like me, because there was nothing out there that I wanted to wear. In my work, I generally try to work on an idea, an essence, and then give shape to it. I also love trying out very different materials and exploring limits. My creations are aimed at modern people.
Which comes first: the material or the idea?
Sometimes one and sometimes the other! In the collection I’ve just launched I used mother-of-pearl for the first time. We’ve worked with different structures to see how we can use this material in a modern way.
After our chat on Gärtnerplatz, we walk across Klenzestraße to the Schrauben-Mutter traditional hardware shop, where Saskia Diez once again highlights the craftsmanship and expertise within this neighbourhood. From there, we wander through the various streets and lanes of the area to the Alter Südfriedhof (Old South Cemetery), a historic graveyard which is protected by a preservation order. It’s a wildly romantic garden, currently being reclaimed by ivy and ferns, situated right in the heart of dynamic Glockenbachviertel. We take a seat on a bench that is dappled with sunlight that filters through the still-thick foliage of the trees overhead.
What do you like about this place?
The Alter Südfriedhof is pretty big, and some parts of it have grown really wild. Many well-known people are buried here – you’ll recognise some of them from street names around the city. It’s a location that exudes tranquillity, and another place where you can observe the seasonal changes. In spring, it’s carpeted all over with crocuses. I love walking here because it’s so close to my workshop. It’s a great place for reflection.
Based on the places we have visited so far, can you tell us what you think defines this district?
There are lots of lovely pubs here, but also loads of rear courtyards and workshops. I also love that there is so little traffic here. Of course, there are a few busy roads that go through the area, but overall it’s a quiet place that is very suitable for exploring on foot. All in all, it’s a friendly neighbourhood with lots going on. With the Arena we also have a great arthouse cinema in the area.
When I used to live here, I would often get lost. Does that still happen to you sometimes?
It doesn’t happen any more. But because some streets follow the courses of streams, you can feel like you are heading in a particular direction and that turns out not be the case at all. Driving through here in a car is terrible!
Where would you send me to get something to eat this evening?
Hmm... There’s a great Japanese restaurant on Baaderstraße called Haguruma. They do really good sushi, but the Japanese homestyle cooking is what’s really special. Those dishes make it easy to tell that it’s good Japanese cuisine. The Diese Gut falafel and kofta shop on Pestalozzistraße is relatively new. It used to be a tiny Vietnamese pub with a great menu that was always changing – but in recent years, several Vietnamese shops opened along the street and then the owner decided she should try something new. Now they serve a sort of crossover between Turkish and Oriental food. That’s a good tip if you want to grab something quick to eat on the go.
Let’s get back to your work. Do you remember the very first piece you made?
Yes, I actually remember it very well. It was a set of three bracelets in two colours – the first work I produced in my own name. At that time, I had already finished my training as a goldsmith and had also studied industrial design. I stopped wearing jewellery during my training; although I loved the pieces I had produced, I couldn’t afford any of them – and at the same time, the jewellery I had made just wasn’t me. I was so immersed in the world of my tutors, and I needed to take a few detours before I could find my own language. I still have the three pieces as well as the tools I made and polished to make them.
You work as sustainably as possible. Do you feel a certain responsibility by virtue of the profession you’re in?
Yes, absolutely. We produce locally to keep craftsmanship alive, and it means that our transport routes are generally short – we sometimes do them by foot or by bike. And I always try my best to use recycled gold and silver where possible. There are also simple things, such as paying to offset CO2 produced from transport, and for our packaging we use plastics produced from grass rather than petroleum-based plastics. We are also increasingly producing new pieces from customers’ old jewellery. One of the best properties of jewellery is that it can be reworked. What’s more, when taking apart old jewellery you sometimes find gems of a quality that you rarely see any more, because they are too expensive or they simply aren’t available. The things we get from the earth are finite, you know.
We have spent the whole morning together – what are your plans for the rest of the day? Do you have a specific daily routine?
I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together collections of samples for a showroom in London and also for agents in America and Japan. I’m still making a few additional pieces for the photo shoots that go with those. When I’m not travelling, I do have a certain amount of regular routine, which begins with me getting up early and sending my kids to school (laughs).
A good mix. Thank you for your time!