12 June 2018

JCK Las Vegas - a very kind interview by Rob Bates

Interviewed by Rob Bates, JCK News Director

Ten years ago, she was relatively unknown. Currently, everyone in contemporary and luxury jewelry design wants to know what’s next for Sieglinde Lim.

Now at 42, Master Goldsmith and jewelry designer Sieglinde (Linde) Lim has accumulated a dizzying list of successes in both finance and jewelry, although you would never have heard it from her.  Lim is self-effacing, warm, private, thoughtful, and has a gift for reflecting and redirecting conversations away from herself.  She is multilingual, holds a Ph.D. in Statistics from an Ivy League plus an Oxford Law degree (not including the other handful of degrees with high honors she picked up along the way from noted institutions).  For over 12 years, she was a successful hedge fund portfolio manager flying weekly between NY and London, all before being accepted into the renowned historic German goldsmith school, Goldschmiedschule, where she graduated at the top in her class.  Prior to founding Atelier Linde Lim, Lim had worked up the ranks as a designer to the acclaimed jewelry houses of Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, and H. Stern. Then, almost immediately after her debut Baselworld jewelry presentation in Basel for H.Stern, she was a star.

Since then, she’s become a single parent to three sons and won numerous awards, such as a 2007 Mercedes-Benz recognition for Emerging Design Talent. Mercedes-Benz continues to annually support her company's creative endeavors through a unique corporate partnership.  These days, Lim’s now-ness is unquestionable. She’s the rare designer with restraint enough to let a gemstone be itself, real and beautiful; yet she finds the right amount of gold to add in that turns a piece of jewelry into something more than just the sum of its parts. Even rarer, Lim’s designs bridge the gap between walking down the street and the cover of Vogue.  In late 2018, her design studios, catering to her private label business, will expand from NY, Chicago, and Munich, to include Hong Kong.

The mannered and observant Lim sat down with me at the Bellagio resort lobby during JCK 2018 Las Vegas to answer my list of questions.

Photo credit: Kristy Copperfield © 2018
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to make jewelry or become a jewelry designer? 
As a child of immigrant parents, it never crossed my mind to equate the love of jewelry and adornment with being a jewelry designer.  Being a goldsmith or jewelry designer was not a possibility in my universe, it was only about how jewelry made me feel and the potential I saw in changing the classic lined jewelry my mother and grandmother owned. I can remember as early as 5 years old, picking out my own jewelry from her closet, asking my mother if it was all right to alter the pieces I had, and the passion I felt when I would have the ideal creation.

What personal qualities are you most proud of? 
My passion for honesty, intent to consider other perspectives, and willingness to work like mad.

Describe a professional setback or failure that may have shaped a later success.
Prior to creating Atelier Linde Lim, I collaborated on opening a contemporary goldsmithing school in Chicago and attempted to implement a pro bono inner city youth metalsmithing program. It was the ending of my tenure there, due to differing pedagogical perspectives. I think if these conflicts were not present, I would have never come to NYC to start Atelier Linde Lim.

Which fashion designers (current or historical) do you most admire? Why?
I really admire the feminine style of Cambodian designer, Romyda Keth.  Her choice of vibrant coloring and attention to detail using natural fabrics, as well as patterns that fit and compliment the natural curves of a woman are relevant with the times.

Looking back to your premiere of Atelier Linde Lim, at what point did you realize your position as a private label designer was a real success?
Years after the debut of my collection, I recall strolling with my then two sons past the Barney’s New York flagship on Madison Avenue, halting in my tracks to stare at the storefront windows dedicated to a few jewelry lines I private label design for.  My toddler twins immediately recognized many of the pieces as they had seen them evolve from sketches in my drawing books.  One blurted out, “Mama! I think your jewelry is almost famous!” It was such a surreal experience.

Can you explain how you manage dual roles as a designer with the daily concerns of a business owner?
It’s a challenging balance. Often times, I feel like an amateur juggler from having to do the both, but I see no other option. I try to have objective views on both sides, and there are days that I sometimes prefer not being the other, but it all seems to improve with time and plenty of practice. It’s impossible to separate the both because they are interdependent of each other.

Between high fashion and daily wear, how do you account for both in your designs?
It is often a difficult balance that has to be struck, to make design successful. I look at each design sketch and ask my team and myself: What is the purpose of this? What are we trying to convey? Is it intended for everyone? Or only the few? Et cetera.  And, from there, it evolves into a game of adding and subtracting…

What is the difference between an artist and a designer? How are they similar? 
An artist works with abstract ideas that are left to interpretation. A designer works abstract ideas into a tangible, functional medium. Both artists and designers are similar in the fact that part of our jobs is to dream.

Lastly, would you share a list of some of your personal interests? 
Beyond my three boys.... spice markets, TED talks, newspapers (specifically The Guardian, Die Welt, and the NYT), running a volunteer metalsmithing program for urban youth, fly fishing, cooking, NPR, gardening, dancing (Latin) under the summer stars in Chicago's Grant Park, and off-piste downhill skiing.   

04 April 2017

Jewelry through human history

I used to say that jewelry was invented at the same time that we were learning how to master the use of fire, but with this recent discovery of eagle talons that had been clearly manipulated in order to be worn as jewelry, the time frame for this particular invention got pushed back 100,000 years to 180,000. You can go read more about this discovery in Smithsonian Magazine.

What does that say about our current culture of trendy pieces and DeBeers pushing diamond jewelry as a prize for the obedient wife? To me, it strips this primal human urge and we completely miss that potential charge.  The guys, for the most part, get left out of the fun of adornment. 

The more I think about this history and purpose of jewelry, the more I am asked to make pieces that connect with our past, whether through wolf teeth (please refer to the January 2016 post in memory of Nancy Abelmann) or gold.  Pieces intended to beautify, yes, but also true talismans.  Giving energy to the wearer, reflecting their life, their potential.  Below are two commissioned pieces utilising stones passed down from two different families for the next generation.  

02 January 2017

Humbled in a New Year

It has been an exciting 11 years since the founding of Atelier Linde Lim, and what an incredible ride!  As I reflect back on the time, I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for joining me on this inspiring journey, and all of the individuals that helped me along the way: my father, Catherine Deans-Barrett, Claude Fouché, Alan Anfinson, Eddie Foley, Rico Hernandes de la Vega, Regina Sneor, Axel Sandstrøm and Tanguy Seiwert. 

I feel blessed to have such an engaged and thriving community that grows each day.  Many of you have been with me since day one, and it is your support that allows me to continue creating and being inspired by the organic and architectural world around me.

Fortunately, I found a business sponsor along the way who shares my passion; I would like to humbly thank Mercedes-Benz / Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for all that they have done in the last 7 years, and what they continue to offer my studio.  This has been a circuitous route for me; 56 years before, this same German company offered my father, a young graduate student from Technische Universität Berlin, a position to be their new diesel truck engineer.  This provided an unprecedented opportunity to an orphan from the Sino-Japanese War, a space and place to create, design and build with a unique vision.  My father and I walked a more traditional path early in our academic trajectories, but our inspiration to collaborate with other talented designers and artists comes from a very deep, passionate and fierce intent to save and protect individual creativity, with the assistance of unique programs from companies like Mercedes-Benz. 

I am often asked why I remain so passionate about protecting creativity. The answer is simple: designers and artisans represent a group of people who break the mold. We often go against the grain to create objects that aim to bring joy and new ideas to the physical world.  We believe and fight for intellectual freedom and balance in a world that is so often off-kilter.  I remain in awe and truly humbled by those creative forces that work around and with me. 

Atelier Linde Lim is still growing and learning (I do not plan on stopping!). Thank you again for joining me on this journey as Atelier Linde Lim continues to morph to shift design paradigms.  

With love and humbled thanks,
Sieglinde "Linde" Lim
Founder / Goldsmith / Principal Designer

24 January 2016

In loving memory of Nancy Abelmann

It is with great sadness we share that an incredible woman, mother, noted scholar, cultural anthropologist, and friend, Nancy Abelmann, passed away from her battle with cancer earlier this month.  She was one of the most compassionate individuals I have ever come across, and was kind enough to stay in touch with me even after I went to another institution for graduate studies and entered the financial private sector (rather than remain in academia).  

A mentee of hers from decades past (who happened to be my T.A. when I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois) asked me to design and create a piece she could wear when lecturing students, to remind her, and at the same time pay tribute to, Nancy's tremendous strength and brilliance.   

She offered me a pair of wolf teeth as a possible center to the design.  She bought them while attending an Asian American conference with Nancy.  The most primal jewelry is made from bones and claws, and this was one of the most unusual materials to cross my jewelry bench.  These wolf teeth were originally strung on simple wires.  I intertwined branches (that were reminiscent of Nancy's wavy hair!) out off 18K blackened gold and diamonds, and attempted to  transform them into totemic earrings.

Contributions in Nancy's memory may kindly be directed to:

University of Illinois Foundation
Nancy Abelmann Scholarship Fund
1305 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801.

26 October 2015

A hurried year...

Apologies for the delay in updating this journal... Summer went swiftly as my sons and I journeyed once again to our most favourite of Scandinavian cities, Copenhagen, for the month of August. It is always humbling and such a deep honor to collaborate with Illums Bulguis, and their very talented design anchors.  I look forward to returning again next year!

On the studio front, we tearfully bid adieu this month to our beloved Axel Sandstrøm.  Axel has been an integral part of Atelier Linde Lim for the past six years... he just completed his Ph.D. in comparative literature and returned to his native Stockholm to begin an assistant professor's post.  His expert administrative / technical skills, ability to maintain a firm gatekeeper's position (as many might have begrudgingly experienced!), alongside jovial nature will be sorely missed.

With that said, the studio warmly welcomes Sarah James as the new executive assistant.  She comes by way of the Neiman Marcus Group, and we are excited for her arrival during a bustling time of year! 

On the studio project docket, we received a surprising number of commissioned bracelet requests.  A designer can have such fun as they can incorporate organic and delicate lines similar to a ring, but at a more statement level.  Please enjoy the snapshots!  And we will be back again with a year in review update come winter...

16 February 2015

Pro Bono Jeweler

A favourite metalsmith of mine, Gabriel Craig, has been revisiting the notion of the world of craft and the handmade and how it fits into our contemporary life. 

I was delighted to hear him talk last week at a seminar held at Parson's.   Love the idea!  I often receive some very strange questions about how my work is made, and it is true that in our modern society the connection to hand work has been lost to the point that many cannot even fathom how pieces of metal are alloyed, formed into sheet and wire, manipulated into various shapes, joined by heat, and finished through texture or polishing.  A thousand bravos to you, Gabriel!

In the meantime, please feel free to peruse the latest open-ended commissioned pieces from this first quarter of 2015.  These types of commissions grant me full artistic freedom stemming from the design trickling all the way to the type of metal / gemstones.  So much of these designs were inspired by what my children have been learning in their creative and loving preschool classrooms at Akiba-Schechter.  Tristan often comes home informing me of the animals and colours of the Arctic landscape;  Armand constantly provides me much insight on the newest facts on the colours, shapes, textures and temperatures of planets in our solar system (Pluto is no longer a planet!  Old news to the rest of the word, but new to me!); little Cassian is learning his colours.  He was my official assistant in selecting all of the gemstone combinations for all these creations!

On the project docket for March, I am honoured to create a piece for a school that has brought my children so much joy and instilled a deep love of learning - Akiba-Schechter. Below is a sketch of a Star of David necklace pendant I am currently working on for their fundraising event's silent auction.... After weeks of design deliberations with my boys, we decided upon a three dimensional architectural version of the star.

Please enjoy and wishing for spring's swift arrival!

24 November 2014

2014: a year in review

Now is the time of the year that plans for 2015 are being put into place. Before the calendar changes, I wanted to go back and share some of the notable moments of 2014, both business and personal...

The early part of this year brought with it notable personal changes that directly impacted linde lim designs... the late-pregnancy loss of our baby girl, and the very abrupt passing of my dear and design-talented friend, Alan "Woodie" Anfinson. 

Their losses prompted me to take a respite from the blog so that I could refocus on the remaining students at Metalwerkstatt as well as my private label clients. 

It was to my great surprise in the summer to receive design collaboration invitations to two innovative fashion houses: Galleries Lafayette (Paris) and Illums Bolighus (Copenhagen).  Before I knew it, our three boys and I were packing our bags and excited for a summer in new urban landscapes and challenging design paradigms.

Speaking of designs, below are a few examples from the private label pieces as well as the designs inspired while working in Paris and Copenhagen...

I hope you enjoy them as much as they helped lift me out of the sadness from earlier this year.  

Wishing you a brilliant year in 2015!

sketches of a collection  

a finished collection
a sketch...
production piece
copenhagen inspired
paris inspired