Brooches Against Animal Abuse

The jewelry designer Gitta Pielcke tells us in an interview about the jewelry she creates to take a stand against caged hens

Our society has long since realized the importance of keeping hens in humane conditions. As a result, even average earners often buy free-range or organic eggs – people prefer to enjoy their breakfast egg with a clear conscience instead of saving a few cents buying mass-produced eggs at dumping prices. As a committed environmentalist, Gitta Pielcke considers animals and nature in general as important topics that have always served her as sources of inspiration for her jewelry. More recently, she has even been creating politically motivated brooches in her atelier in Augsburg, addressing the issue of how hens are being kept.

Gitta Pielcke portrait

Jewelry designer Gitta Pielcke creates jewelry with a political message

Art Aurea: Do you like eating hens’ eggs?
Gitta Pielcke: I don’t care for the classical breakfast egg, but I appreciate the versatility of eggs when it comes to baking and making desserts. Hens’ eggs are a fantastic type of food that provides not only proteins, but also various vitamins and other important nutrients.

AA: What inspired you to create brooches themed around the way hens are being kept?
GP: I take less and less pleasure in conventional jewelry. The market is saturated, and the sector is dominated by counterfeits and cheap, mass-produced jewelry. It doesn’t motivate me to develop anything “new” that will be saleable and fits in with my line of jewelry. Animals and nature have always been important aspects of my jewelry, but they are also issues that I get involved in when not working creatively. I’ve been a supporting member of the WWF and of Greenpeace for 25 years now. In addition to the general media, their magazines and newsletters have repeatedly featured issues like environmental pollution, industrial livestock farming, overfishing, poaching, etc. So if you repeatedly engage with these problems, it’s not long before you start making jewelry themed around them.

<em>Untragbar</em> brooch
Untragbar brooch
<em>HuhnOderEi</em> brooch series
HuhnOderEi brooch series

AA: That’s quite political, isn’t it?
GP: When aligned in a row, the titles of these four brooches combine to form a sentence with an unmistakable message: Intolerable – Bonebreaking Work – Non-stop – (equals) Caged Hens. But also as an individual, each piece refers to the hopeless situation of a laying hen, whose only purpose and function in life is to quickly and thus cheaply produce eggs. So the product, the egg, is far more important than the producer, the hen. Humans use animals not only as a commodity, but in their position of absolute power over animals, unscrupulously exploit the animal world in many different ways. Large quantities and a wide variety of cheap foodstuffs are what consumers expect as a matter of course, without giving much thought to “how” they are being produced. They simply accept the current conditions in the food industry without reflecting upon them.

Gitta Pielcke portrait

AA: Jewelry as a political medium – can you think of other artists’ creations that have the same intention and which you find exciting?
GP: I like the pieces created by Ruudt Peters, Iris Eichenberg and Hans Stofer, for example. Like many other jewelry artists, they convey meaningful contents through their creations, which the beholder often comprehends only when taking a second look at the pieces concerned. I don’t know whether all their pieces are intended to make people think, but they all evoke associations with themes that have little in common with the mundane term of jewelry.

AA: Do you think that you’ll be able to achieve anything with your brooches?
GP: Of course, I hope that one person or another will take the time to take a closer look at them. And I also hope that they will then stop and think for a moment. But I doubt that you can really achieve anything with creations like these.

<em>Schieflage, Kaninchenmast</em> necklace
Schieflage, Kaninchenmast necklace
<em>Fleischfresser, Fleischkonsum des Menschen</em> brooch
Fleischfresser, Fleischkonsum des Menschen brooch
Back of the <em>Legehenne, die Henne bedauert ihr Schicksal</em> brooch
Back of the Legehenne, die Henne bedauert ihr Schicksal brooch
<em>WunderDerNatur, Formenvielfalt und Symmetrien von Hühnerknochen</em> pendant series
WunderDerNatur, Formenvielfalt und Symmetrien von Hühnerknochen pendant series

AA: Now a very practical question: what about their wearability?
GP: As jewelry materials, eggs and bones had some pleasant surprises in store. When combined with other materials, the eggshells, for example, are much sturdier than anticipated, and the membranes, when peeled-off, are wonderfully delicate after drying. When left to dry inside the shell, they usually form an amorphous rounded tissue with a silky sheen. A hen’s bones can also be combined as desired. So these materials lend themselves perfectly to creating a new kind of aesthetic, which is an important aspect of my work. With a little careful attention, all these brooches are perfectly wearable.

AA: What would you say, what type of woman wears your brooches?
GP: Those who enjoy wearing auteur jewelry can also take pleasure in wearing these pieces. However, you can only develop a true affinity for the brooches if you can also relate to their meaningful contents. In addition, they also call for a certain sense of humor, because their reverses have been designed so as to make the beholder smile. After all, an adornment worn on the body should not be too serious a matter.

Interview Agata Waleczek

Photos Ulrike Myrzik

English translation Sabine Goodman

Gitta Pielcke portrait

Gitta Pielcke and her husband Erich Zimmermann live and work in Augsburg