A UNIQUE ETHOS » PROFILE
Kerstin Laibach ...
Looking-Glass Ethical Arts and Media incorporating
Kerstin Laibach grew up up in a beautiful area of central Europe renowned for hand-crafted jewellery of exceptional
Rising east from the French / German Rhine valley are the higher
mountains of the Black Forest, sweeping south towards the Swiss
Alps. It is here, between Pforzheim and Basel, Switzerland
where Kerstin learnt her trade as a classical goldsmith.
Her journey into goldsmithing began with a three and a half year apprenticeship near Basel,
followed by some years as a designer and restorer in Freiburg,
where she fine-tuned her skills creating bespoke pieces,
while also restoring antique jewellery.
By 2008 Kerstin's growing concern about environmental issues led
to a justifiable distrust about sourcing, crafting and
selling methods practiced by jewellery the
industry - not just standard jewellery makers but even those
claiming to be ethical. Shocked by the pretense (greenwash) and
lack of genuine moral responsibility within the industry - Kerstin decided that the
responsible way forward was
to go it alone; offering goldsmith standard, bespoke pieces with
meaningful environmental principles.
Kerstin: "There will always be room for improvement
while the world continues to mine, displace habitats and cause
animal suffering just for the sake of vanity, but by strictly
avoiding new-mined precious metals and stones, animal derivatives
and hazardous crafting processes, at least I can respond to my
clients questions with clear honesty instead of abstract or greenwash
The pioneer challenge
by VeggieGlobal ... the world's first bio-vegan jewellery crafting
All the vegan and ecological principles we have developed with
Kerstin Laibach for this ethical jewellery project are a world
first. From its original conception in 2006 to final
refinements at the official launch of Atelier Laibach in early
2009, we have debuted many new earth, animal and human friendly
approaches to goldsmithing.
Creating a truly sustainable
goldsmith's workbench environment was the result of thousands of
hours research, reevaluation and some reinvention of traditional
crafting materials and tooling methods. It also meant carefully
seeking out ethical businesses
and organisations that might be relied on for truly recycled /
earth / animal friendly materials and carbon neutral services.
Hardly any proved suitable. For example, truly recycled / biodegradable
/ recyclable / guaranteed non-animal derived jewellery containers
were nowhere to be found, so instead Kerstin Laibach makes
her own all-vegan / biodegradable jewellery pouches as well as
her own vegan sealing wax. She is also the first goldsmith to use
a carefully sourced animal-fat free polishing paste to ensure a
true vegan-based result for all her pieces. Kerstin Laibach is
also the first business / artist in the world to follow "thrucycle"
principles and to use The NOVA Key ethical clarity labelling
main crafting material is of course precious metal
and there was never any doubt from the start that Kerstin
Laibach's gold, platinum
palladium and silver would derive purely from recycling and
never from a newly-mined source. This meant also steering clear of
Fair-trade's offerings in gold, silver and platinum which are
Kerstin's main specialty is to create new
pieces from clients old unwanted family gold - this being the most
environmentally-friendly option of all.
For precious stones she will only use antique diamonds (and
lab-created diamonds on client request). Her "Pre-Millennium Principle" lays
out an age threshold regarding reclamation of precious stones to
ensure that no recently mined gems are used.
Kerstin's first stop for
non-precious stones are
surface "pebbles" permissibly self-gathered with no detriment to the environment.
Kerstin: "My pledge is to help reduce all
artisanal / subsistence-based dependency on gold extraction. From
15% of my profits*, I support land-care education and retraining programmes for communities in developing countries working sustainably
with their local environments - not digging it up for gold. This
includes charity run projects in Africa which assist communities
towards vocations which don't depend on mining but instead working
interdependently, sustainably and productively with their environment,
while lifted out of poverty from profits of their labour. I
embrace only such frameworks which offer genuine sustainability methods,
whereby communities and their environment can thrive for the
long-term without destroying complex eco-systems ... from river
to forest. I also donate a percentage of my profits to wildlife
care organisations in the UK and Central Europe*."
is the difference between recycled gold and new-mined gold?
(opens separate window)
niche in a disposable world...
Kerstin Laibach is a pure hand-crafter of every last detail of her designs. She does not use
any factory pre-made parts such as chains, ring blanks or
closing-mechanisms (a short-cut practice of many jewellers
and designers). Neither does Kerstin cast her jewellery or use
computer programing to design, cast and machine any jewellery (another common
hands-free-from-start-to-finish designer method).
With a combination of
hand skills and the flair of a natural artist, Kerstin isn't shy to lift a hammer and get her hands dirty, forging an
entire piece from a slab of recycled precious metal to final polishing
and every hand-tooling process in-between. Therefore, all of Kerstin Laibach's designs are hand-drawn and adjusted to "holistically"
suit the client's individuality while allowing an organic flow; how the aesthetics of a design evolves during hand crafting.
This gives a Laibach piece a tactile "soul", as Kerstin crafts
even a simple wedding band with exact comfort preferences unique
to its wearer. This also means critical technical differences
can be addressed when, for example, ensuring that a wedding band
and engagement ring worn on the same finger truly fit together
based on the characteristics of an individual clients finger.
The price of
The growing cultural trend of the modern
designer jewellery "brands" is integral to the vanity trade.
Technically, the outpouring of one-season jewellery is accelerated
by the simplicity of computer modeling/casting / 3d printing
processes thus causing more environmental damage to nature than
any other fashion accessory - from sourcing to disposal.
in stark opposition to the plasticized designer branding culture creates
a spirited challenge for Kerstin, a goldsmith artist who genuinely exemplifies
complete organic dexterity within the modes of design and crafting ...
Her work has been described as "Slow" jewellery with
make long-term heirloom jewellery as an artist and goldsmith, not as a
"brand," - in fact I find the term "brand" vulgar in its over-used
commercial context. Therefore,
I am increasingly aware that it is often only the most environmentally-tuned jewellery clients or
even some fashionistas who identifiy with my craft
methods and ethical approach. It's from within that tiny
niche that I am happy to receive commissions."
scenes ... From three years research
to launch in March 2009 and the continuing mission...
Kerstin: "Laibach atelier is essentially the brainchild
of my partner John, an extraordinary environmental visionary and
talented artist in his own right and sole inspiration to my "outside
the jewellery box" design approach. My partner's immense
moral and creative support has been invaluable, and which now
extends to the wonderful design and craft aesthetics of my
studio / gallery which opened in 2014.
My ethical pledge is the keystone to my entire creative output.
It is impossible to please everyone, but I do take pride in aiming
to explain everything that the customer wishes to know about my
ecological approach. I strive to ensure that my work meets the
ethical wishes of the most meticulous vegan or environmentally
astute customer, meaning that my pieces can be enjoyed by everybody
of all dietary or ethical preferences".
Having formerly worked
only with with priceless gems, Kerstin is often asked what now
inspires her to also create pieces also from simple "pebbles"...
Kerstin: "Beside the positive environmental
approach to making pieces with surface gathered stones I find
myself automatically gravitating towards pebbles shaped over time
by nature and which humans have not manipulated. The form of an
uncut, unpolished stone is like a memory imprint of the earths'
natural motion over millions of years. This must be why pebbles
can feel so natural in your hands and why they give such a "feel-good"
sense when I have set them into jewellery without adversely changing
their structure. To be able to wear and therefore connect with
an ancient, elementary fragment of our world is a rare thing in
an age when everything else around us so manipulated and modified
by humans. Even with the "architectural" collections and my Finger
Sculptures , I like to use the shapes and lines of natural stones
to determine the structure that surrounds them. It's a miniaturized
approach to how artistic forms sculptured by nature and manmade
art in architecture can harmonize."
Kerstin on her mentor...
"I am proud to be associated with the respected nonprofit
web resources Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal who have researched
extensively to determine ecological factuality within the jewellery
trade and to establish a more truthful perspective of what can
be termed as ethical jewellery."
Kerstin Laibach sincerely
hopes that you will appreciate the result of her unique approach
to genuinely handmade work, and that you may subsequently find
your perfect ethical jewellery piece for a lifetime's wear and
perhaps to pass down for generations to come.
and quotes compiled by Looking-Glass Environmental
Arts and Media.
* Kerstin Laibach
currently donates an average of 15% of her profits to
specific wildlife and environmental protection organisations. These currently include organisations in the UK, Central Europe, and Africa
and are distributed on average on a year to two year basis.
Some of her sculptural pieces are also created and donated to
organisations specifically for auctioning by the organisation as a
Laibach Principles - A Slow, Holistic Approach
A Unique Ethos