Ute Kohnen: The Jeweler of Berlin

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I walked those Berlin streets not in search of beauty (for it was everywhere, breaking through), but in search of a way to intelligently navigate the raw, the refined, and the propulsive.

There in the old Jewish Quarter, not far from the Kunsthaus Tacheles Artist Collective, I found Ute Kohnen.  I'd seen her shop a few days before—spare and clean—and when I found my way back to it, the door was open and Ute was inside, repairing a necklace for a customer.  I was the only customer there, but Ute let me be, let me study each piece in the Galerie Und Werkstatt—the silver worked by a 21 year old; the fabric bracelets (handmade felt, found buttons, painterly details) of the artist Elim Kaah; the delicate glass bead work and gorgeously original necklaces, earrings, and rings that Ute herself designs and makes.

I asked.  Ute indulged me—telling stories about the jewelry itself, about the gallery's history, about Ute's life in Berlin, a city she migrated to directly after the fall of the wall. It isn't easy being an artist, and it's especially difficult in a city like Berlin, where an artist's career is affected as much by tourists' moods and capabilities as it is by rain and sheer luck. But Ute, reaching at times for a translation dictionary, told me stories with a grace that I, a perpetually struggling artist myself, received as something close to holy.

We have to see when we travel.  But we also have to listen.  I am grateful to Ute, therefore, grateful to this gallery on Linienstrasse 141, for the sanctuary and the conversation.  I always buy something lasting in a city I've fallen in love with, and at Ute's shop, I indulged in Elim Kaah's artistry and in one special necklace crafted by Ute herself.  The link to Ute's work is here.  Images of Elim's remarkable felt artistry can be found here.


Melissa Sarno said...

This is so cool. I love her 'armbanders'(the only word I could make out on her website) especially the ones with faces on them.
It is interesting that when you ask a stranger a question they often tell great stories. I recently had this happen with my local butcher and a woman who makes pickles in South Carolina.

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