"Artists from east and west Germany are quite different: artists from the west are philosophers; artists from the east, craftsmen", says Gisbert Baarmann, a wood designer and artist from the Uckermark region, near the Polish border and north of Berlin in what used to be East Germany.
In the communist east, he studied sculpture and design in Berlin, before taking a course in practical drawing, wood turning, wood compositions, surface engineering, modelling and elementary shaping.
In those days, with a mobile band saw, he could have been a wealthy man, he recalls. However, when his studies ended in 1999, he became an artist at the ‘Bau in Berlin’, a building & architecture college. There he met his future wife and together they fulfilled a rural dream. In the town of Dargersdorf they acquired a former agricultural cooperative with seven buildings and 10,000m2 of land on which he founded an enterprise called Zweibaum GmbH together with a joiner from Berlin.
Initially he considered designing his own sawmill but decided to buy a Wood-Mizer LT40 band sawmill with an electric motor which could convert to petrol, if necessary.
Unfortunately, selling ‘conventional’ manufactured products from his sawmill was not a great su
ccess. Four other sawmills already operated in his area. Rainer Blucher, his foreman, knows the land and the people intimately. However, in a local economy where one leading producer can sell finished wooden products cheaper than the round timber from local forests, Gisbert found himself with a handicap that even personal contacts couldn’t overcome. What can one offer that others can’t?
The problem concentrated his mind. Unable to compete with the other sawmills, he obviously had to do something they simply couldn’t.
The answer lays in reversion to his particular talents – art and joinery in wood — and he has successfully done that since 2005. Even so, he doesn’t refuse the odd contract sawing project. Encompassing all this, he founded a new company, ‘Sagefuchs’ and varies his employees from three to seven allowing the rotation of staff.
Landscape architects seeking breathtaking designs soon noticed the fruits of his ideas. Orders flowed. His output includes landscape furniture which would blends with the environment, bizarre eye catching shapes planted into the landscape, tailored theme playgrounds and sepulchral monuments and coffins.
Gisbert Baarmann is an artist whose work has its own, individual character. Some of these idiosyncratic works are not especially profitable because, in the end, they are manufactured by him and his craftsmen with little regard to normal commercial constraints. The ideas, drawings and models Gisbert develops before actual receipt of an order and the hours spent in these efforts are seen as the necessary preliminary work of a true craftsman. Overall, however, his work is financially rewarding and personally fulfilling.
In all this his Wood-Mizer band sawmill performs an essential, fundamental part of the projects which always involve selected wood that needs to be sawn, steamed, bent and transformed into soft or fantastic shapes. Pictures on his Internet site www.gisbertbaarmann.de
illustrate the wonderful extremes to which wood can be turned in an artist’s hands.