For the last ‘Spotlight On’ of 2019 we caught up with an amazingly talented Irish designer Frederike Grace in her Irish studio in County Kilkenny for a chat. Her workshop is set up in the heart of Burnchurch Townsland in an idyllic country setting, not far from Burnchurch Castle itself. It is however a bit of a trek from her childhood home near the East German border.
Over tea she tells us how she came to live in Ireland. “It was a three week language course and destiny’s kiss that brought me here. I met this handsome Irish man, fell head over heels in love and moved to Kilkenny the following year.” She chuckles and divulges that her first love didn’t last, but she has no regrets: she is happily married and living in County Kilkenny with her three fine boys and German pointer Nick.
Her love for coloured gems started early with her father taking up gemstone cutting as a hobby. In search of the perfect raw materials they frequently visited trade fairs and specialist gem dealers in Idar-Oberstein (Europe’s lapidary centre for cutting coloured gems). In 1989 she was very lucky to secure one of very few goldsmithing apprenticeships in a master crafts workshop near home in Wolfenbüttel. Friederike finished top of her class, winning a scholarship to travel to Ireland and Australia.
When she first came to Ireland she worked with Liam Costigan Goldsmith in Kilkenny before completing her masters in Frankfurt in 1998. She set up her own business ‘Spirit Jewellery’ in 2004 and still uses gems her father cut when she was young. She is very conscientious in sourcing her gems and precious metals – she continues to work with small private stone cutters all over the world, who work in harmony with nature and diamond dealers who comply with the Kimberly treaty. On request, man-made gems can be used as well. Friederike works with recycled precious metals and is available for commission work.
“I like to work with numerology and colours. I’m inspired by nature, the lunar cycle and fairytales, but most of all by the amazing beauty of gemstones.” You can tell from looking at her work that she makes with great sensitivity to the materials, colours and the wearer.
When she isn’t working at the bench, you can find her walking Kilkenny’s beautiful trails and forests with her dog, swimming in one of Kilkenny’s many pools or buying vegetables at Thursday’s organic market on the Parade.
This year marks great anniversaries for Friederike: it is her 30th year making jewellery. It is also 30 years since the German reunification, which is very much alive in her heart and mind – she was living near the Mattirzoll checkpoint and vividly remembers walking the B79 (National road from Braunschweig – Wolfenbüttel to Halberstadt- Quedlinburg) cheering and celebrating the opening of the East German border on that cold night of the 9th of November 1989. Watching the events unfold on that fateful night was watching a miracle happen before her very eyes.
She continues to see little miracles unfold everyday – not on the scale of the collapse of the wall, but more subtle, yet equally beautiful. “I work with the energies of gemstones and sacred geometry to bring joy to your life and open your heart for you to allow miracles into your life.” Never one to sit idly by, she is in her second year as Chairperson of MADE in Kilkenny. She also organises a women’s group and dances can-can with friends for charitable causes.
Friederike will be at DesignYard on Thursday 21 November from 5–7:30PM to talk about her work, inspirations and answer any questions you may have. Join us for a drink, maybe even your first mince pie of the festive season and met the lovely Friederike. She will be bringing her beautiful new, hot off the bench pieces, with her. This is a perfect opportunity to find that uniquely Irish Christmas gift and understand the love and passion that went into its making.
We look forward to seeing you on Thursday 21st November from 5pm at Designyard, 25 Sth Frederick St, Dublin 2.
We look forward to seeing you.
The DesignYard Team