About me

“I like to swim against the tide”
The work of Christiane Wilhelm

The Glockenbachquartier district is a vibrant artists’ quarter in the centre of Munich. Many buildings are from the Gründerzeit, the phase of dramatic expansion in 19th century Germany; there are countless cafés, restaurants and small galleries.
This is where Christiane Wilhelm has her studio, this is where her very individual vessel sculptures, jars and lidded vessels, bowls, vases and teapots are made and where they are displayed, pieces unique on the ceramics stage. They have been thought through down to the smallest detail; there is nothing random about them. And yet, they still have a certain sense of movement, an almost dance-like quality. It is noticeable that all of her forms are round. This is no surprise: without exception, they are thrown on the wheel.
From the beginning, the wheel has accompanied her journey. It began during her apprenticeship with Else Harney and Wendelin Stahl at Burg Coraidelstein on the River Moselle, which she started after graduating from school. After that, she studied at the College of Ceramic Design in Höhr-Grenzhausen under Dieter Crumbiegel and Wolf Matthes. In 1979, she qualified as a master craftswomen and worked initially in the ceramics industry in the Cologne-Bonn region before she went freelance in a shared studio in Konstanz, by Lake Constance, in 1981. Finally, she relocated to Munich with her studio in 1987.
Since her apprenticeship, Christiane Wilhelm has always been concerned with the design of the form of her vessels. She is inspired both by the form and the surface treatment, which in her hands leads to unconventional shapes in combination with individual surface treatments that create a harmonious whole and which never fail to fascinate and enthral the viewer. Christiane herself speaks of simply designed forms with tactile surfaces. The surfaces of her subtle forms are structured with lines incised or scored with a knife, or with painted marks and lines, or patches of porcelain applied to the stoneware body. Glossy surfaces contrast with matt ones, silky smooth areas with grooves. What is noticeable and thus characteristic is the relatively small footprint in all of her pieces. This makes them seem to float; they drift away from the banality of every day life.
This is true of the oval and gourd shapes just as much as for the spindle or discus forms.
The openings of her vases are usually recessed and highlighted with gold or silver leaf. Whole wreaths of flowers made of individual pieces of porcelain are inlaid in the scored stoneware surface. Sometimes, they simply line the opening like a precious necklace. The oval or gourd shapes are frequently decorated with gestural brushstrokes, either in green and black or white and black. The surfaces of the severe, dark three-dimensional vessel sculptures are incised with a knife, line for line, a meditative act; the wide-open interiors reveal a radiant red or gleaming, precious gold. This sumptuous treatment of the interior is not visible to viewers at first sight; they have to approach the vessel and plunge deep inside.
Since 1981, Christiane Wilhelm has participated successfully in numerous solo and group exhibitions as well as in national and international competitions in Germany, Europe and overseas. Venues in the UK and Ireland include the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, the Bristol Guild, the Art in Clay Festival in Hatfield, the Potfest in the Park in Hutton in the Forest, Penrith, Inspires Gallery in Oxford, the Mary Gallagher Gallery in Wexford, Ireland, the Sarah Denholm Gallery in Bath, and in 2007, 2012 and 2013, Ceramic Art London at the Royal College of Art. Christiane Wilhelm is a member of the Bavarian Arts and Crafts Association (Kunstgewerbeverband) in Munich and the International Academy of Ceramics in Geneva.
Christiane Wilhelm’s art needs to be explored. It is not targeted for rapid consumerism; instead it demands an intense study from the viewer or the user. It is thus no coincidence in our fast moving times that Christiane Wilhelm says of herself, “I like to swim against the tide”.

Antje Soléau / for Ceramic Review
Antje Soléau lives in Cologne and works for German and international arts and crafts magazines as a freelance journalist. Translation: David Erban.