Ingeniøren i lekebutikken
The Playful Engineer
Sigurd Bronger never really planned on becoming a jeweller, yet two years ago
he won one of the worlds most prestigious design prizes.
Sigurd Bronger’s old Volvo trundles along a Norwegian highway on its way from Bronger’s house at Nesodden to the capitol, Oslo, where he keeps his workshop. As he pulls into a narrow city road, the Volvo crackles and Bronger comments that there might be some leprechauns in the back. He drives through a narrow archway and stops in front of a gate barring the way to the parking lot and pulls out an access card with holes in it, like those used in hotels.
– It’s for the gate, I borrowed it from the janitor once and made a copy of it in aluminium with one of my machines, Sigurd Bronger says with a grin.
The short haired goldsmith walks up a dark, narrow stairway and unlocks a door. As he opens the door he immediately starts explaining, pointing and picking up different contraptions inside the well lit, but slightly messy workshop. The jewellery engineer picks up a thin brooch consisting of two gold plated pins and a glass cylinder holding what looks like a piece of gum.
– This is the last of my mother’s gallstones.
Bronger has received numerous prizes, but the most recent one is The Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize. It is considered one of the most prestigious design prizes in the world, and with it follows a cash prize of 1million swedish kroner (approx. £90.000).
– Those money are long gone, Sigurd Bronger remarks with a smile and gesture of a hand.
With the sudden spur in fame also followed a documentary film that ended with a crash landing in a hot air ballon and a baptism in champagne once everyone was confirmed unhurt. The 57 year old designer draws a sigh and shakes his head when the scenario is mentioned.
The jeweller looks through his bookcase and digs up a book full of flashy jewellery, very much a long leap from his own, metal-rich and finely engineered work.
– You have to understand that that there’s so much crap out there when it comes to jewellery. For me it is the beauty of the object that I care about, I’m not too concerned about my works actually being wearable, but for the objects in themselves, to be beautiful.
Sigurd Bronger opens a cabinet and pulls out an enormous ostrich egg tethered to a small gold ring with long, thin springs and a red leather line for carrying it around your neck.
– It’s the biggest type of egg in the world, It’s really quite silly when you think about it, but the frailty of an egg has always fascinated me, he says as he dons the giant pendant.
His design is considered playful and he himself states that he often hangs around in toy shops to spur his creativity and enjoy the different things that are demonstrated.
– The important thing has always been to do my own thing, I make maybe three or four different objects a year. The truth is I don’t really need to sell anything, Bronger says, matter-of-factly as he digs around in his workshop for more brooches and carrying devices for obscure things.
With a safe job within the Norwegian government broadcasting, the world famous jewellery engineer is free to work in his own pace and with his own things.
– My works are almost always called carrying devices rather than necklaces or rings, it has always been one of the recurring things for me that I make something that carries something else, but itself can in fact also be carried.
Opening a box with previous works Sigurd Bronger fishes out a necklace made of a little sound box that laughs hysterically when it is moved around. He explains that he was in a committee for buying art to an exhibition and he sent this piece of work in under a pseudonym because he was tired of his work being bought just because the work carried his name.
– The committee wanted to buy this particular piece, but because I was on the committee I felt it would be very unsporting of me to let the committee buy the work that was in fact my own, and it cost around £7000, Bronger raises his eyebrows as he mentions the price and continues.
– So I took my leave for a few minutes and when I came back I told the other members that I had talked to the artist of the piece and that he was not interested in selling.
Travelling all over the globe to follow his pieces of art and prepare exhibitions, Sigurd Bronger found himself at the Saatchi Gallery in central London this May, where the Dutch gallery “Ra” was exhibiting some of the accomplished jewellers work.
– This business is very much about coincidences and it was in fact a coincidence that I got into jewellery in the first place, Bronger says as he exits the Saatchi exhibition.
–My grades were awful out of High School and I didn’t get in anywhere, but I got offered a spot at a one year arts and crafts course. When I was done my school had just started an interchange collaboration with a university in Amsterdam, Netherlands and I grabbed the opportunity seeing as my grandma lived there, Bronger says with an air of fate.
Another reason for seeing Sigurd Bronger out and about is the lecture that he has been holding in different venues around the world. He says that he is not one to brag, but that the lecture literally is called “All About Me” and is just him talking about himself. Seated on a bench in the slightly windy London autumn outside the Saatchi Gallery Sigurd Bronger seems in a way distanced from the world of art as many know it, mumbling snarky comments after flamboyantly dressed visitors entering and leaving the gallery.
If you were to take a trip to the worlds biggest museum for industrial design, Victoria and Albert Museum in central London and look for Sigurd Bronger’s work you would find yourself faced with a squash ball held in place by a metal construction. There is more to this work than meets the eye however, the jeweller explains.
– It has to be kept within a glass frame within a glass frame because the rubber in the ball produces some fumes that would destroy the other pieces in the collection. Sometimes I can’t control myself and end up telling people that it is intentional, but it really isn’t. Yet I think it’s pretty cool, and the fact that I put “British Made” on it, Sigurd says grinning proudly at the work he finished while teaching for the Royal College of Art in London.
A father of one and husband to accomplished potter Anne Line Sund, Sigurd Bronger believes that it would be impossible to live the life he has now if it weren’t for the fact that his wife also is an artist.
– She knows how these things work, she knows that if there’s an upcoming exhibition or something like that there will be lots of work an stress and little time for anything else, he says.
– The hardest part is, as it is with all work that demands creativity that sometimes you just can’t get any further, and that is really tough, with these kinds of occupations that we both are in there are extremes on both ends. It’s very good when it’s good, but it can really feel hopeless at times, Bronger says while his eyes fall slowly to the ground.
Back in Bronger’s workshop, half of it is filled with books of his heroes. He calls them a bunch of crazy people, but with an affectionate tone in his voice.
– It’s the extension of what really is real that fascinates me with the world of arts, pushing the thought boundaries, he says as he gazes dreamily into a huge book.
As some of the other people renting locales for workshops in the same building as Sigurd Bronger arrives he serves himself some coffee and gets ready to start the workday and if it were up to him he’ll hopefully be doing the exact same thing for as long as he lives.
– I want to continue doing this if I can make the art that I want to make, there’s really nothing more to it.