An apprenticeship at the Nymphenburg Masterworkshops
People are often surprised when the apprentices Lotte and Caroline tell them that they are learning the arts of porcelain painting and embossing at the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg. They tell us what it’s like to enjoy an apprenticeship in such a rare craft.
Which handicrafts are you learning in the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg, and what qualifications will you achieve afterwards?
CAROLINE: I’m doing an apprenticeship as a ceramic figure moulder, learning how figures are put together from individual parts and then finalised.
LOTTE: I’m learning to paint glazed porcelain. I will gain a qualification as a manufactory porcelain painter. I’m gradually working on getting better at the individual decorations.
How did you get the idea to do this particular apprenticeship? When did you decide on it?
LOTTE: When I was 12, my father took me to the Bavarian National Museum. He is an architect and had designed the exhibit on the historical Bustelli figures there. Even back then I was fascinated by painting and I knew that I wanted to do something artistic when I was older. Then in Year 9 I did an internship in the Manufactory’s product development department.
CAROLINE: For me it was a very spontaneous decision. I had previous worked as a dental assistant for several years. I found out about the Manufactory on a guided tour of Nymphenburg Palace and at home I read on their website that they were looking for apprentices. The way of working is surprisingly similar – you have to be patient and have a steady hand.
What are you working on right now?
CAROLINE: I’m making a rider with a falcon. It’s made up of 18 separate parts, which I mould myself beforehand. The difficult thing about this figure is modelling the reins freely by hand.
LOTTE: I’m working on a flower decoration.
At the beginning of the apprenticeship I learned colour application, sweeps, and simple flower shapes. The first thing we painted was the tulips from the "Antique Flowers" decoration. Then we did various bouquets and landscapes.
What did the acceptance process involve?
CAROLINE: I had an interview and then I was asked to do a sample piece. My very first piece was a small lion.
LOTTE: You had to submit a portfolio. There was a huge number of applicants. In the acceptance test, we had to draw for six hours, half of the time still life, the other half a figure by Bustelli – I painted the Scaramouche.
How long does your apprenticeship last?
CAROLINE: The apprenticeship normally lasts three years. But your training is never over in this job; it takes a few years before you can mould some figures. You increase your speed and gain experience.
LOTTE: The apprenticeship as a manufactory porcelain painter lasts three and a half years. Then it’s often still 10 to 15 years before you can paint the most elaborate decorations.
You are learning the practice of porcelain manufacturing in the Nymphenburg master workshops. Where are you doing the theoretical side of your apprenticeship?
LOTTE: Our school is in Selb, a town in Upper Franconia that’s known as a centre of competence for ceramics. The teaching is done in blocks and we live in a residential home there. The theory also encompasses materials engineering and science.
What would you like to immortalise in porcelain and what would your piece be called?
CAROLINE: I would like to create an edition that is released every year. I think perfume bottles would be fantastic.
LOTTE: I like skulls and have drawn two decorations for them. One with ivy and one with laurel leaves. Hopefully they will be used for real one day.
Imagine you could design a film set with the pieces you’ve designed, which film would it be?
CAROLINE: A true classic: Romeo and Juliette.
LOTTE: Definitely Harry Potter. The four tables in the great hall at Hogwarts would be laid with different services.
At Nymphenburg, porcelain objects and works of art are made following designs by world-famous contemporary designers and artists. Who would you like to work with?
CAROLINE: With Karl Lagerfeld. He has already designed a commedia dell’arte figure for Nymphenburg.
LOTTE: Preferably with Gerhard Richter. I’m a big fan.
When you need creative input, where do you seek inspiration?
LOTTE: I like going to art exhibitions, like the Kunsthalle of the Hypo Cultural Foundation or the Pinakotheken.
CAROLINE: I prefer to search for images on the internet.
You have to be very focussed when you work and often listen to music so you don’t get distracted. Which song should no playlist be without?
CAROLINE: Definitely “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.
LOTTE: I really like listening to audio books; at the moment I’m listening to “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin. There’s actually a big stock of audiobooks at the manufactory because many colleagues find it the best way to engross themselves in their work.
Nymphenburg Palace is probably one of the most beautiful places to work in the whole city. What else should people see in Munich?
LOTTE: When friends come to visit, I show them Marienplatz and the old town. Our walk ends with a visit to the beer garden at the Chinese Tower.
CAROLINE: The view from the Olympic Tower is absolutely not to be missed. From up there you have the most beautiful view over the city and you can see all the way to the mountains. And, of course, Nymphenburg Castle…
Which famous person would you like to have dinner with and which service would the table be laid with?
LOTTE: With Gerhard Richter. Then we could plan a possible collaboration. The coffee would be served with Empire Golden Age.
CAROLINE: I’d like to cook with Angela Merkel. The table would be laid with Rococo Cumberland.
If you had your own home, which piece of Nymphenburg porcelain would absolutely have to have in it?
CAROLINE: The hippo made from black glazed bisque porcelain would have a place on honour.
LOTTE: Something with a great decoration of course. I’d really like the panther with the Flowers of Life decoration by Sebastian Menschhorn.
After a day of working at the master workshop, where do you go out for the evening when you get off work?
LOTTE: I like to go into the city, for example to Café Glockenspiel. I regularly perform with my dance group at balls and big events.
CAROLINE: Running really helps me switch off. At the weekend I like to go for brunch with my family and friends.