The bohemian culture of Kreuzberg has been on the rise in the last 30 years, the underground music scene influencing nightlife and audio around the world, and the bohemian style of fashion has played a part in changing catwalks across the industry. More recently a renaissance of craft and young artisans has made Kreuzberg the centre for well made locally sourced goods in Berlin. By young artisans I don't necessarily mean young in age, but rather young in development. In this Journal post we explore a long-standing resident of Kreuzberg, who has recently moved away from a commercial 2D discipline of design to a more hands-on approach to ceramics, whilst influencing local residents to follow his journey.
I spent a few days wondering the baron streets of Kreuzberg on a reconnaissance mission, to explore local stores and workshops, to discover more about this quiet uprising. Whilst on the West edge of the district, close to Viktoria Park in an empty street with doors closed and shops shut, one façade had products and a plant pots flowing from within, and above the entrance the word ‘Keramik’ in painted script. I walked down a small concrete flight of stairs into the basement shop, walls stacked high with ceramic creations from a long living resident of Kreuzberg, Roland Hauk. As I walked inside, to my right was the workshop where I was kindly greeted by Roland.
Surrounded by works-in-progress and his potter’s wheel, Roland gradually warmed to my interest and presence, telling me about how he came to opening Phoenix Galeria. After a career change in 2013, Roland opened the store as a workshop where he could experiment as a budding ceramicist, and create whatever her wanted, and then try and sell these products to friends and neighbours.
Roland’s pieces are now demanded around Berlin which keeps his business thriving in a City where new developments are displacing some residents and small businesses. He tells me that things have been changing in Berlin over the last few years, and that even though designers and makers have been flourishing here, small businesses are under threat from increasing commercial development within the neighbourhood. Luckily, due to increasing demand from his customers, Roland recently started intimate ceramics classes to share and teach his experimental approach to Kreuzberg locals keen on getting their hands dirty.
Roland started his journey into ceramics just under a decade ago, and is entirely self-taught learning from books and experimentation as he goes. Previously a hand illustrator and animator, Roland longed to get hands on with something more physical by creating signature products to fill customer needs for unusual products that weren’t there. He says that he learns new things every week and passes knowledge onto students of his workshops which take place every month.
Being more experimental in the craft means that each piece is unique, and collections produced in different months can have radically different style. Using locally sourced clay Roland experiments with new commissions, learning new hand building and turning techniques as he goes, in producing anything from plates to pet urns. His specialities lie in unusual designs and varied colour glazes which make each piece stand out. Ceramics studios are becoming more prevalent in Berlin with ceramists making their creative hub Kreuzberg itself. With workshops and amateur classes on the rise, the craft renaissance of Kreuzberg is surely welcomed by the patrons of the city.
Words and photography by Freddie Elborne
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