Book List of the Week

One Complete Story: Gijs Bakker’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter August 16, 2012

Gijs Bakker

Product and jewelry designer Gijs Bakker: Gijs Bakker Design (Amsterdam)

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When in the early 1990s, Gijs Bakker co-founded (with Renny Ramakers) Droog Design—perhaps the most well-known contemporary design group to come out of The Netherlands—it was with the idea of challenging the design establishment to think about product and industrial design in new ways. Droog (the name is the Dutch word for “dry”), which has collaborated with designers like Hella Jongerius and Marcel Wanders, among many others, would come to define the late-20th-century Dutch design aesthetic with a focus on the conceptual principles underlying design, simple modern forms, and a sense of wit laced with social commentary.

Simply Droog: 10+1 years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, 2004 (Droog Design)

With his own design firm, as an originator of the Chi ha paura...? (Italian for “Who’s afraid of…?”) Foundation, Bakker moved deeper into jewelry design—an area in which he was originally trained and for which he has received many awards, including, most recently, Best International Jewelry Designer (Andrea Palladio International 
Jewelry Awards, 2012). His aim has been to upend perceptions of jewelry as a fashion adjunct and integrate jewelry into the history of concept-driven product design.

Seeing the larger cultural and design picture in which jewelry plays a significant role is reflected in choices on Bakker’s list for Designers & Books. He cites The Modern Ideal: The Rise and Collapse of Idealism in the Visual Arts by Paul Greenhalgh, saying that Greenhalgh is “the first author to put the “New Jewelry Movement” on the timeline of art history.” The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini shows that “even a goldsmith can be a great architect.” About Ida van Zijl’s Gerrit Rietveld (also on Stanley Abercrombie’s book list, as a Notable Book of 2011) Bakker makes the important point that, “Most treatments of Rietveld’s oeuvre split it in two: furniture and architecture. This book reads as one complete story where all the works come together.”

Gijs Bakker and Jewelry, 2005 (Arnoldsche)

Bakker is an author and subject of several books on his industrial and jewelry design production. These include two on his work with Droog—Simply Droog, 2004 (Droog Design) and Droog Design: Spirit of the Nineties, 1998 (010 Publishers)—as well as Gijs Bakker and Jewelry (2005, Arnoldsche), and Gijs Bakker: Objects to Use (010 Publishers, 2000). A 2010 catalogue, Emmy+Gijs+ Aldo by Jan Boelen (010 Publishers), focuses on his work and that of his wife, the late Emmy van Leersum, and their son, Aldo Bakker, himself a successful designer. All contribute to the story of Gijs Bakker's life in design, which echoes what Bakker says (in a comment on another book on his Designers & Books list, The Intimate World of Alexander Calder by Daniel Marchesseau) “fascinates” him about artist Alexander Calder : “. . . the freedom in his work—far from any convention.”


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