24 Jul 2021

Karl Fritsch: the Wellington jewellery artist with a punk sensibility

From Saturday Morning, 9:40 am on 24 July 2021

You don't want to maybe do dishes in Karl Fritsch's rings, but the German-born New Zealand jeweller says they're all designed to be wearable.

"I don't think every piece of jewellery, every ring, has to be 24/7 all your life," he tells Kim Hill.

With his partner Lisa Walker, Karl is one half of contemporary jewellery power couple who've been credited with helping put New Zealand on the art jewellery map.

Karl's work - and that of five other jewellers that was supposed to be shown in the (cancelled) German jewellery festival SCHMUCK - is currently part of a New Zealand exhibition that's already shown in Nelson and is about to open in New Plymouth.

SCHMUCK - which means 'jewellery' in German - is like the Venice Biennale for jewellers, Karl says.

The upside of the festival not going ahead is that the jewellery works are getting more notice than they'd usually get in New Zealand, he says.

Karl's work is exhibited in many international galleries and before Covid-19, he usually travelled overseas three times a year.

Right now, though, he's happy to be at home in Island Bay.

"It feels really nice to settle where you are. It's all done here - it ends up here, it gets shown here. It feels right."

NZ jewellery artists Karl Fritsch and Lisa Walker

NZ jewellery artists Karl Fritsch and Lisa Walker Photo: Ebony Lamb Photography

Inspired by a friend's screenprint on a piece of seaweed, Karl now collects seaweed from Wellington's Red Rocks Reserve and makes lamps from it.

Seaweed can act as a "healthy home indicator," he says.  "If it goes soft and smelly I think you should do something about it."

To shift his mind space and take care of his back, Karl has taken up tai chi.

"You just move and rely on the form and try not to think… it's an amazing mix of concentration and movement. I'm just finding out about it and still very keen."


The group show PREVIEW: Kiwi Schmuck runs from 30 July to 30 August in New Plymouth.