Bronwyn Riedel is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Bauwerk Colour – an amazing range of natural lime paints that are incredible in look and feel, plus environmentally and socially responsible.
Her ability to create a mood-invoking and thought-provoking space is second to none. She’s inspired me for close to two decades, ever since Bauwerk Colour opened its first shop in an old bakery between my childhood home and the beach in South Fremantle.
I used to love visiting your shop! The back courtyard had lavender plants. The café sold yummy cakes (and Rhubarb crumble if I remember correctly!). And the walls – inside and out – were painted in Bauwerk’s incredible lime paints. Visiting there made me conscious of the impact colour and light had on my mood. It made me consider how I wanted to relate to and move within my home. And, very importantly for me, it lit a spark to one day run a heart-driven business of my own. The question that’s been on my mind all these years is: how did you do this – how did you get so good at creating spaces that not only feel amazing but prompt a whole range of emotions and thoughts?
That is such a lovely thing to hear, such great feedback on what we do. I am not really sure how I got good at it, it’s instinctual. I think it’s from growing up in isolation in rural Australia and spending a lot of time looking at everything around me in nature. I seem to have been given a gift for seeing colour and I have always loved creating spaces, even as a child. I cannot really analyse it, it just seems to come naturally. I think it helps to trust your own feelings.
A number of years ago stylist Megan Mortan wrote an article for The Design Files where she called you “the single most colour-conscious authority on colour”. What a fantastic compliment! She attributes your skill in using colour to invoke emotion to your being in tune with yourself and your surroundings. Have you always intrinsically had this connection to yourself and your surroundings?
Yes, as above, very lovely compliment. I do seem to have an innate ability to sense colour and the emotion that comes with it. But not intellectually – I cannot say how I know, I just feel when I walk into a room what the perfect colour would be for the room or space. As a child growing up I had a lot of time doing so-called “nothing” and would amuse myself exploring the farm I grew up on. I looked at every colour and pattern I could see and it just seemed to stay in my mind. I can remember every colour I have ever seen somehow. When making colours, I seem to be able to look inside them to know what they are made up of – how much blue, how much red, etc.
I think this skill is just in me, and it’s been developed from years of interest and from having the courage to make things the way I feel is natural. I don’t wait for someone to tell me I can do something, I just have a try at it. And, when I do this, using my own instincts, it usually goes well.
Being made of clay, minerals and natural pigments, your lime wash paints bring nature literally into and onto our buildings. Why is it so important to you that we live in connection with nature? What do you think this brings us? What do we lose if we don’t?
I think we lose a lot if we don’t. It is important to be connected to nature as it is our partner in life, but we forget that. Using natural and beautiful materials in your home, gives a completely different air quality and feeling that you don’t know your missing until you feel it or see it in a building like our Bauwerk Store and House. Natural materials, like clay, and minerals, like lime, allow your building to breathe. This is an idea we have lost over the years but it’s important – just like your skin needs to breathe, so do the wall surfaces of your home. Moisture and air should be freely exchanged within the house and these natural materials have the capacity, naturally, to hold and release air and moisture in response to the air conditions.
Visually we perceive natural materials in a way we cannot define, but they make us feel better as they reconnect us to our nature and the nature around us. We are ourselves made from nature. Only in the last century have we gone away from using natural materials in our homes, with the use of many new chemicals to make the building industry more efficient and profitable for chemical companies. We have lost our understanding of some of the more innate qualities of nature’s materials. For instance, to make the usual paint you buy in the hardware store, it is made from many chemicals. Not just VOC’s but Biocides and other materials very dangerous for human health, our waterways and our painters. They are very polluting of the air quality and the grounds on which they are made and disposed of.
Nature also seems to play an important role in your design process. This is visible in the colours you develop – I especially love the salty, coastal colours that remind me of South Beach and the South West of WA. You grew up in the Australian countryside and now spend each European Summer in a small German village south of Berlin. How has your relationship with these areas influenced your work?
A lot of what comes to me regarding colours does come while I am out walking and from the different light in different places. I always make our colours a bit moodier than other paint brands. Colour comes from light, and people have trouble seeing that what you see on a small paint chip doesn’t really translate the same to every space or room. I have discovered, by looking around me in nature, the different relationships of colour – how much blue or grey is in a sky. I also colour our paints with over 40 different pigments – they all have their own undertones and personalities as colours. I mix them as an artist would. When I was younger I was a painter and I learnt a lot about mixing colours, and I now use this in making Bauwerk Colours. Other paint companies use a technical industrial colouring process created by an industrial chemist. I use my eye and my understanding of how colours look to make ours. What you see in our colours, I believe, is complexity. So, in a way, I make colour from the heart, not the head. But with a good understanding of how colours work and how they refract light.
What would you consider your most transformative life experience and how has this shaped your approach to your work?
I have had many experiences which bring me to where am now, some very difficult, some fantastic. I began Bauwerk after having an accident in which I couldn’t walk for six months – so this gave time for a new idea to come to me. After I healed I opened Bauwerk. I think the most important thing I learned as a child and a young adult is that I can completely rely on myself, and that going my own way is really the only way I would be able to live my life. That’s sounds very romantic, and it does offer lots of interesting life choices, but it’s not without difficulty. Sometimes I dream of a more conventional life without some of the unknowns I sometimes have to face, but I know it’s not possible for me to live that kind of life. I cannot live without projects and challenges and creating things – I am just not me if cannot create. I think all my life experiences, and of course my partner in business and life Andreas, lead us to start Bauwerk. And I think that we have made a unique product based on the principles we embody ourselves as people. This is what makes us different to other paint companies. We are also very lucky to have our son also work in our business in Australia. Both of our children also live this ethos. Our other son is passionate about the welfare and rescue of animals, and has made his own career with that.
For me personally, your paints have a very healing quality to them. Do you get this feedback from many people?
Perhaps not in so many words but our paint is something people really fall in love with. And anything you love must be healing, I guess. We get so many lovely comments about our paint, and for me that is the best thing about what we do.
Before starting Bauwerk, you taught colour therapy. How important do you think colour, light, mood and the space we inhabit is in the healing process?
It’s everything, as this is where our senses begin. What we see when we walk into a room, then how it smells, are the first thing we take in, even if it’s subconscious. I have been to many massages and other therapies where the air quality is toxic from the smell of fresh paint, and I believe many people don’t think about the use of paints in their spaces.
What does healing mean to you? And what healing do you think is needed in the world right now?
I think healing comes from love – for yourself, for your fellow man, for your environment and for the world at large. Love is what is needed in the world right now, especially for our environment.
Who, what or where inspires you?
I love Germany. I get very inspired here by trips to Berlin, long walks in the countryside, working at our castle in North Saxony. I love the beaches of Western Australia, and the light of both countries. I am inspired by people I work with – I love all our colour collaborators, our customers and my husband Andreas, who sees life differently to me in some ways and whom I have shared most of my adult life with. But most of my inspirational ideas come from being alone and while I am doing nothing specific. They need times when you are not looking for ideas, then they just flow into my mind. Like on a big country walk or out and about on my bike – I am still very much the girl from a farm in rural Australia.
I love that your business is a family business. Your husband Andreas is the other half of the Bauwerk Colour team – the other Co-Founder and the technical expert when it comes to making lime paint. What has been the biggest blessing and the biggest challenge of running a family business?
The biggest blessing is that our son Levi, works with us, and that when our children were growing up we could be flexible and do the family work and life together. The biggest challenge is that it’s all up to you. And it takes a lot of work. Sometimes we are in different countries for months on end. What I love the most is that we share it all – we both love our work and we love having that as a shared life experience.
Andreas is a trained stonemason and worked in building restoration. You were a textile designer and taught colour therapy. How did you end up creating a lime paint business together?
As a textile designer, I had to use smelly inks and I didn't think they were doing me any good. I had a work accident while on the print table, which put me off work for six months. As a stone mason, Andreas had lots of experience making paint suitable for stone buildings – limewash – and he made his own for each project. We were renovating our home at that time also and used limewash paint throughout our house, and I thought it would be great to offer it to others. I thought I could make the colours and he the base – and so we did and Bauwerk started a few months later.
How did you turn your idea into reality? What are some practical tips you have for getting a business idea off the ground?
Just begin it. Plan as much as you can. Don’t worry about it too much. Create systems so your business can grow and others can work with you. Have some financial room while you make it work. We did all these things. We kept our stone mason business going for a while to help fund it. We just began and tried things out. We created this business with the mindset and vision that we will grow it as far as possible, and we let others in to help us. We did forward planning every year and still do. And some things work and some things don’t – keep flexible in your approach, be prepared to change things that don’t work and realise that you cannot control everything. Have fun doing it all!
You’ve business has long since outgrown the old bakery on South Terrace. Your paints are now available across Australia, the Middle East and Europe. How did you develop it into such a success?
What I said above. Also by working really hard, but hopefully also smartly, always leveraging our financial and business resources and having a go, with a plan. It isn't easy and we do sacrifice some things to do it, but we love it and think that’s really important. We are a team, including our son Levi who manages our Australian distribution and sales.
What has been the most rewarding feedback you’ve received about your work?
That our customers love our paint – that is the best!
What would you like us to know about you?
This is very personal – but I like to be real. Even though I can sound very confident and capable, I am sometimes not at all, and worry and second guess my decisions and how I am perceived by others. But what I like about myself is that I am brave – even if I am unsure, I still give it a go.
What is the next challenge you are taking on in life?
Growing our business in Europe and my most exciting project is to create an inspiration destination for our paints in our castle in Germany.
If you could leave us with just one message what would it be?
Be brave, love lots, and do your best!!
Thank you so much for your time! xx