Kobi Bosshard

Click to enlarge
Kobi Bosshard at the Malte Brun Hut, Mt Cook; 1962. Bosshard family collection.

Kobi Bosshard at the Malte Brun Hut, Mt Cook; 1962. Bosshard family collection. Image: Studio La Gonda

1 of 7
Description of a Greenstone Pebble; 1989. Rotasa Foundation, San Francisco.

Description of a Greenstone Pebble; 1989. Rotasa Foundation, San Francisco. Image: Studio La Gonda

2 of 7
Brooch; 1992. Private collection.

Brooch; 1992. Private collection. Image: Studio La Gonda

3 of 7
Necklace; 1987. Dowse Art Museum.

Necklace; 1987. Dowse Art Museum. Image: Studio La Gonda

4 of 7
Souvenir: A Pebble from Haumoana; 1992. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Souvenir: A Pebble from Haumoana; 1992. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Image: Studio La Gonda

5 of 7
Brooch; 1973. Bosshard family collection.

Brooch; 1973. Bosshard family collection. Image: Studio La Gonda

6 of 7
Pendant; 1980. Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira.

Pendant; 1980. Auckland Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira. Image: Studio La Gonda

7 of 7

Urbis: Until recently, in New Zealand, there was a perception that your father and grandfather were both goldsmiths. Is this why you went into the same craft?

Kobi Bosshard: I think it probably was why I chose to become one because, when I was 16, I didn’t know any better. So I think it was quite a natural thing to fall into. I was expected, in the long-term, to take over my father’s business which I eventually did. So I think the choice of becoming a jeweller was probably made quite a few years later.

U: When you arrived in New Zealand in 1961, was there a contemporary jewellery industry here?

KB: I came out here and worked for a Swiss jeweller who had a business here in Wellington; he got me over. I made contact with him and came to work for him. From my point of view, it was extremely conservative work. It was mainly diamond rings and very, very conservative.

U: How do you go about designing a piece of jewellery? Is it like designing a piece of art and somewhat separate in your mind from how someone might wear it or is wearability foremost in your mind?

KB: I think this has probably changed over time. Initially, I think I designed it as a piece of jewellery. Essentially I think that is what it is and it has to be able to be worn reasonably comfortably – and then I do my thing.

U: What are your favourite materials to work with?

KB: I can work with gold and silver and so they are the only ones I know how to do. I also like precious stones; I think they’re quite a magical thing and so I make a lot of rings with them.

U: What is the importance of detail in your pieces?

KB: I think anything, whatever we look at, can look superficially very good from a distance. Then we start to look at the details and they start to give away things and for me I think it’s always when I look at the detail in a car or a machine or in anything, and I find the detail is a bit shabby then I think if they were mean on the detail, they were mean on the idea too and then I think the credibility of the piece goes out right away. There are very few people with so much genius that they can overcome that just by great ideas. For me I think one of those people was Picasso. He used to make some jewellery and he wasn’t a jeweller. … But we can’t do that. We still have to take to the detail.

U: Jewellers often work with someone to create a special piece – an engagement ring perhaps. Have you ever turned someone away because they wanted to create something that wasn’t authentically you?

KB: I think mostly what happens is that somebody comes along and says ‘I’ve got an idea’. The first thing I say to them is ‘okay let’s look at this idea’. In most cases, I think people have strong ideas, mostly something they have seen and then I say ‘I’ll make something and I’ll keep in mind what you have indicated that you like, but I will make my thing and if you don’t like it then forget about it and I shall keep it’. I think my responsibility is to the tradition of my trade and I don’t want to let that down, and then to myself – that I want to be honest to myself, and then I have a responsibility to the customer to satisfy their needs. In 40 to 50 years, I think one or two people said ‘no, we really don’t like what you’ve made for us’. That’s okay. I pulled them to bits or used them for something else.

U: Looking back on your career, what have been some of the highlights?

KB: I used to take the function into account. ‘It’s going to be a ring, it’s in the context of a stone’ and then I will design what fits with my own requirements and with the craft. But over the years I’ve been working with a lot of metal and I think I know quite a lot about working with gold and the processes. So more and more the processes have started the design – the metal tells me what I can do. I think designing is always being seen as ‘we tell the material what to do’ and I think, in the long run, it’s actually the other way round. … So for me designing is probably less a matter of drawing something on paper and then trying to follow it. That’s not what it is now at all. It’s saying I’m submitting my material to such and such a process and I find out what happens. …Probably one of the highlights, is what happens when I get to the point when if I’ve said ‘I’m going to do such and such’ and then I have to leave it as it comes out. I think it might not come out pretty, it might not come out in a balanced shape but I can’t interfere with it anymore. To get the courage to leave things alone once I have reached that point – that was probably one of the highlights…The next highlight is actually this exhibition which is coming up.

U: What has been most difficult about being an artisan in New Zealand?

KB: You call it artisan which I prefer to artist, because I think the biggest difficulty I’ve overcome but that a lot of people have is that actually they’re expected to be artists without actually ever even defining what art means. It’s a hierarchical and pretentious thing which is being pushed on them all the time and I think that made life difficult for me at times. I think I realised that we are goldsmiths, we are artisans and maybe sometimes we do something which is art but we make jewellery for people; that’s what it comes down to. That’s all it is but that’s a great thing as well. I think it doesn’t have to be art in order to be amazing work; so that’s my hobby horse.

Kobi Bosshard: Objectspace Masters of Craft runs until 17 November 2012 at Objectspace, Auckland.

More people

Art in all the right places

Art in all the right places

Curator Sophie Wallace returned home from her time at Pace Gallery in New York to open Hastings’ newest gallery, Parlour Projects.

Most read

Modernist horizon

Modernist horizon

This holiday home in the Hawke’s Bay is equal parts relaxation, art gallery, viewing platform and a subtle homage to Palm Springs.