12 June 2017

JCK Las Vegas - a very kind interview by Rob Bates

Interviewed by Rob Bates, JCK News Director

Nine 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 41, 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 early 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 2017 Las Vegas to answer my list of questions.

Photo credit: Kristy Copperfield © 2017
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