Leipzig - Part 1: Designers' Open...

This is possibly one of the largest posts I've ever done (I usually try to whittle down my images and text to a level that is suitable even for people with attention span issues like me), so apologies upfront. In fact, since I still have more images of the beautiful city of Leipzig, I decided to put those into a second post. What can I say, this city had so much to offer in just under three short days, I feel it's worth sharing as much as possible to hopefully introduce some of you to it. 

So, what was I doing there in the first place? In this city in the east of Germany that has only become accessible (at least for current generations) in the last 25 years after the collapse of the Berlin wall, the city that saw industries disintegrate after the German reunification and that seemed to have been forgotten by time, covered in grey concrete and black industrial grime. Well, let me explain because things have changed since: just over a week ago, Katy, a fellow London blogger, and I were exploring Leipzig and the Designers' Open. Having been invited by Simply Saxony and joined by Mia, editor of blogzine Alabastermädchen, we had from Friday until Sunday to take in as much of the design event as possible along with snippets of the city. We flew out from London on Friday morning and each made our way straight to the large exhibition centre, our first stop of the weekend. Now, it has to be said that airplane air in combination with early mornings doesn't quite agree with my face or my eyes, so by the time I had taken two planes just to get to Leipzig and reached the exhibition centre, I already looked like I'd been on a three-day pub crawl - not a good look when a photographer is following you around!

Puffy eyes and dry skin aside though, Leipzig Messe didn't disappoint. A huge steel and glass construction, flooded with natural light and accessorised with indoor trees, the centre had an overall very light and airy feel and lacked the cramped and stuffy atmosphere that I usually encounter at design fairs and exhibition. We were able to leisurely stroll around and take in the works of the designers and makers without ever feeling that we were in somebody's way. 

A few things caught my eye and one of them was Zaprado with their logo t-shirts and printed canvas bags. Now, this in itself wouldn't usually attract my attention, but the collection on show was different as it had been "produced by democratic vote" and is called their Crowd Collection. Members of the public are able to present their designs which get uploaded onto Instagram and the ones with the most 'likes' will be produced and incorporated into the collection. Fashion by democracy - what a great concept.

The next exhibitor attracted me in the same way light attracts a moth: muted colours, subtle patterns created simply through use of the material and beautifully simple shapes, the kind of items I'd happily have sitting in my home, this was possibly the stand where I spent the most time. Betoniu is a company that produces beautiful pieces made from concrete. Bowls, tables, lampshades, match holders and even concrete jewellery, each piece was unique with subtle colouring and and restraint design executed to perfection. When thinking of 'less is more', this is the kind of thing that comes to my mind... 

The next day, after a very bad night where I simply couldn't get to sleep (nobody's fault, the hotel was lovely) and feeling just a little worse for wear, we were taken the the Baumwollspinnerei, a 19th century cotton mill which by the early 20th century was the largest cotton spinning mill on the continent. If you like the kind of red-bricked old factory buildings, then you would have loved this just as much as I did. The grounds were so huge that it felt like a village of its own. Factory buildings, housing for the workers and administrative buildings were all on the same grounds which made it seem a little like a maze...

Nowadays the spaces are filled with exhibitions and workshops of artists, makers, designers including painters, photographers, ceramists, printers, hat makers, conceptual artists and many more. If you're ever looking for creative inspiration, this certainly is the place to be. The huge spaces are perfect for housing studios and artists have way more than just a few square meters in a shared space each, they have very real and workable spaces for their craft. I have to admit to a pang of "space and studio envy" as trying to find the same in London would now be pretty much impossible.

One of my favourite (though they were clearly all pretty amazing) studios was the one of Gela Hüte and Saxony Ducks. The combined crafts of hat and dressmaking within this space were like a little girl's dressing up dream come true. To see the machinery and samples, pattern cutting tables and sewing machines, beautifully finished hats, coats and dresses all in one space made me realise just how we have forgotten about the value of creativity and real craftsmanship in our daily life and wardrobe. In a time of fast and disposable fashion, the creativity and passion of the designers working there was more than a breath of fresh air, it was like finding a long forgotten piece of history which should be personal to all of wearing clothes on a daily basis. The warm welcome we received only made it more special.

We carried on exploring led by our lovely guide (I probably would have got lost without her) who was able to tell us more about the history and the buildings than I would be able to read up on along the way. From painters' exhibitions to huge warehouse spaces, I ended up constantly holding everybody up because I tried to take way too many pictures. I hadn't planned on buying anything because that wasn't the aim or idea of this tour, until I came to this workspace... 

...walking up the stairs to Claudia Biehne's workshop. Of course I had no idea what to expect, but just entering the building and seeing the small sing "Porzellan" hanging over the staircase made me smile with excitement. We walked up the stairs, though not without taking more pictures on the way and entered the beautiful world of handmade and fragile looking porcelain. 

Set against the light coming from the windows, these creations looked incredibly light, fragile and beautiful. Made by Claudia on site, she is looking to explore the possibilities of working with porcelain in a way that goes further than the traditional and to expand the boundaries of this material. The use of paper, leaves and flowers burnt into (excuse my lack of knowledge of the precise process) the porcelain makes for pieces with an ethereal and dream-like quality. Whilst I'm looking to limit how much I buy in general, when it comes to unique and handmade pieces, I feel a sense of justification when it comes to supporting crafts. I couldn't resist and bought a piece that would fit into my hand luggage (second from right, picture above), that I would hopefully be able to get home in one piece (I can confirm that I did!) and that would be a beautiful souvenir of this amazing place...

I can only say that seeing this amazing art and crafts scene in Leipzig has been an amazing experience and has opened my eyes to a place and city I hadn't really considered before. Outside of Germany, Leipzig is still relatively unknown as a creative hub, but the more people travel there and experience just how much it has to offer, the better it will become - not that it isn't already great. Part 2 of my travels to this city will be somewhat shorter and concentrate on the city itself. 

Until next time, find me on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post and invited by Simply Saxony, however, text, opinions and photos are my own.