GERA Interview – face à face

face à face – with Anne Engbert and Christoph Neukötter, two fervent glasses specialists and design marketers from the Münster­land region. Thomas Ritt, freelance designer and product manager for GERA Leuchten conducted the interview.

GERA: Hello Anne, hello Christoph. You have been running a high-quality, design focused glasses and jewellery business in Warendorf for a number of years. I have known you since I bought my first pair of reading glasses (face à face) and as a guest at your fantastic stage. You regularly present art in your displays and also channel your artistic passion into a small private stage in the town centre. How did you become aware of GERA’s light products? And how do you present them in these contexts?

Anne/Christoph: Glasses shops are usually dense forests, in which you can’t see "the wood for the trees". Our idea: To create rooms, in which only a few, well presented pairs of glasses are high­lighted. Complemented by a bar, coffee aroma, harmonious colours, beauti­fully designed furniture.
We began the search and found GERA’s light furniture, without even knowing that this type of furniture existed, we found exactly what we’d been looking for. A light board, supporting lights – light furniture! That was new for us. But once we found it, it became obvious that we should also furnish our theatre rooms and our private rooms with GERA light. The beautiful GERA catalogue also proved extremely helpful and inspiring.

GERA: Your company philosophy positions you as provider of select brand products. You value artists and creative individuals, who take a different approach to creating beautiful products and who show courage for avant-garde. What positive experiences have you had with brands, courage, unconven­tional thinking and concepts, special designs. What does it mean to you personally, what does it mean for your customers and guests?

Anne/Christoph: For us courage means selling not only the established brands in our small town but also unknown, emerging labels. Experimenting, away from the masses, to the really innovative glasses designers, independent labels. We support innovators, producers with a different approach, for whom e.g. fair-trade and sustain­ability are also important. On the surface the market seems to work on the level that most people want what most people want, tried and tested main­stream. But enough exceptions fortu­nately confirm this rule. We there­fore think and operate quite selec­tively – give precedence to quality and origina­lity before quantity. We are interested in that something special – like GERA.
When customers come into our shop, they immediately sense whether it is right for them or not. Some may fall in love with the surprising individual details, such as e.g. the inner workings of Oscar Magnuson frames, which replicates a spring. We like artists and creative individuals, who develop special ideas with lots of imagination, we value those, who then skil­fully bring these ideas to life and in general we feel like part of a cultural family with those, who discover the resulting products for them­selves and embrace them with enthusiasm. As Goethe said: Thou art like the spirit thou canst comprehend.

GERA: The glasses you sell get their "second life on the face" of your customers – you claim on your website. What does this "second life" entail? And how does your GERA light furniture measure up in this most important phase of their existence?

Anne/Christoph: A pair of glasses is initially a pure vision. Shape, colour, size and material, as well as function­ality develop from the idea. Then it’s time for the hand-crafted part. A proto­type is created. Will it work? Will the market accept it or ignore it? A pair of glasses on display is like only half of a ball. Incomplete – Aristophanes sends his regards. When glasses and face fit perfectly a new situation evolves, a symbiosis. When that happens, all those involved notice it.
GERA light furniture has now become a part of our private environment. The light from our GERA wall shelf – a design object in itself – highlights one of our paintings in an unexpected and skilful way. Another example of inter­action. Even the artist is astonished! They help those looking for a product in our sales rooms. GERA makes things appear particularly present and helps to divide the room, to illustrate values and character. Veritable style creating elements for us. And because light, optics and vision are sisters and are mutually dependent on each other, we as opticians were destined to find this light furniture from GERA, don’t you think?

GERA: Sounds logical. You prefer responsibly produced and fair-traded products. In your opinion what is the current status of the market for exclusive design products in your area? Online or face to face? What do your customers expect of you? What do you expect from your producers?

Anne/Christoph: The last question first: We expect exactly the same from our producers, suppliers, crafts­men and designers as we want to give our customers: Proximity, competence, innovative strength, origin­ality and passion. And as an optician brand in our small town we buy and sell, when possible, every­thing from the region, consciously organic. This applies to our consumption, as well as to our products, the jewellery and the glasses, which are for the most part produced and transported in Europe under fair conditions. And if possible, this also applies of course to furniture and design products. Obviously. GERA fulfils these require­ments perfectly as a German manu­facturer with its short delivery routes and short delivery times.

GERA: You are both very involved in the cultural scene. Your little stage on the ground floor of your company regularly entices a number of creative friends and visitors to Warendorf. Design, art, music, theatre – in your opinion what links these disciplines and what poten­tial do they hold for our daily lives?

Anne/Christoph: When I enter a room, it is only a matter of seconds before I decide whether I feel at home or not. Five factors are decisive: Light, temperature, smell, music/volume, and – how I am welcomed? A number of factors work on a subcon­scious level but they have an effect all the same. Rooms are living spaces!
What links the disciplines with each other? It is always the individual. We are the protagonists in our life. We decide which people, thoughts and situations we let into our lives. We are the ones, who design our flow of life, sometimes well other times not so well. We furnish ourselves – literally – develop positions and perspectives. We deepen friend­ships, get a finer feeling for what is good for us. Experiences shape us, people claim us, love and hurt us. This forms person­ality. We ourselves decide in our life­time what direction we take. What we do and how we do it. Design, art, music, literature, theatre, science … it is all a part and expression of our own vibrancy and our particular identity.

GERA: Dear Anne, dear Christoph, thank you so much for your time.

Photos: Matthias Schrumpf