Few people know their craft as well as Josephine Bergsøe, who has run her eponymous jewelry line since 1989. A cancer survivor and mother of two, her life has not been without its complications. But for the Copenhagen-based artist, a Zen-like relationship with her art, a voracious curiosity and an amazing team are the stuff artistic originality is made of. Handcrafted and unique, her creations are abstractions of the world that she truly enjoys exploring.
Finematter: Did you always know you wanted to be a goldsmith?
Josephine Bergsøe: Yes, I’ve always known. Ever since I was a child. I went to a very creative grammar school, and you could always find me in one of their workshops, melting glass. In that way, melting and forming is something I've always been preoccupied with. I would melt tin and do enamel and stuff like that. I was lucky to find an apprenticeship straight after high school. I was 18, so it’s always been what I wanted to do.
FM: And then you started your own company right after your apprenticeship?
JB: I started out within the same year that I finished. I still remember my first customer. It was not about the money, but about the fact that someone, a real human being, wanted to purchase something that I had created. It was always my ambition to tell stories through my jewelry, to arouse curiosity. I believe that to be the most essential driving force in human beings: our curiosity. When we’re curious; we’re alive. The moment our senses are satisfied, we get lazy and bored. Curiosity drives us forward; it creates progress. That is the primary reason that I’ve never wanted to use molds. I’m spoiled in that way, but I lose interest if everything is identical. It needs just a little bit of crookedness to catch the eye. It doesn’t even need to be immediately evident to us; you could call it a non-detectable crookedness. Optically, it is even, but your eye gets caught somewhere, right there.
FM: Some sort of breaking point…
JB: Something that keeps you hanging for just another moment.
FM: So from the very beginning, you could focus on just your own creations?
JB: Yes, after about one year. I was very fortunate to be able to do so. Very early on in my career, I was asked to do the jewelry for the movie The House of the Spirits, which was again very fortunate. I worked with a lot of people from the film industry, that’s why I was asked to create jewelry for the movie, and then Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons purchased my stuff too, which of course opened a lot of doors for me. Back then, I did a lot of jewelry art, and one of my ambitions was to exhibit my creations. I was asked to exhibit at the Autumn Exhibition at Charlottenborg [prominent Danish exhibition space, red.], which meant access to new customer segments.
FM: Who formed or influenced your work the most; a special client or some other goldsmith?
JB: When it comes to the craft itself, it was definitely my former master. I knew what I wanted to create, but I did not have a remarkable talent when it came to the craftsmanship. But Klaus, my former master, taught me. He is one of the best craftsmen there is.
FM: So you’ve always known, aesthetically, what you wanted to do?
JB: Yes! I’ve always experienced these physical sensations. Some of my very first memories are of sensations of the tactility in things. I still remember when I was five and my mom had put down an earring on a leaf. I was so little, but it was almost like a physical sensation, I could feel it in my mouth, you know that feeling? And another thing, I remember, which leads back to your questions about influences, was an article about Thomas Hardenberg [Danish goldsmith, red.]. He made these insane creations; you could call it grotesque renaissance, using nautilus shells, corals, skulls and faces. It was not what I wanted to do, but as an inspiration, it was wild.