An artist and an artisan

A firm grasp of realism as infectious as it is inspiring.

WORDS IMPY PILAPIL

I often chance upon Hans Brumann walking in the business district.  Sharp and impeccably dressed, he is not—at first glance—an approachable man. But nothing can be farther from the truth. Hans, with all his confidence and swagger, is a man with a good head on his shoulders and an even greater heart.

I have worked with him on many occasions and consider myself blessed to have him as a friend.

Quite recently, I discovered that in his youth, Hans worked with renowned London jeweler Andrew Grima, known as as the “doyen of modern jewelry design” and whose daughter Madeleine, I went to school with in Rome. Through her, I was able to order and acquire a ring designed to my specifications by Mr. Grima himself and crafted in his Jermyn St. workshop. Now I cannot help but wonder if Hans had a hand in making it — an interesting subject to bring up when next we meet.

I first met Hans Brumann when we were invited to judge the De Beers Jewelry Competition in the early 1990s. In 1995, he asked if I would be interested in designing jewelry and exhibit with him. It was serendipitous because I already had existing designs for pieces that were simply waiting for the right jeweler. Hans was delighted. There was not much discussion. He understood the drawings like they were his own. Moreover, he already saw the potential of the pieces long before I did. 

Our exhibits soon opened up a new avenue for me to explore. Later on, we became a trio with the addition of Arturo Luz and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hans is a consummate professional with a stellar reputation, thanks to his infallible work ethic and good taste. He handles grueling aspects of his business and his own creative endeavors with a firm grasp of realism that is as infectious as it is inspiring. One can only aspire to reach even a fraction of the man’s discipline and tact.

Born in Switzerland, Hans Brumann has taken on challenges and opportunities all over the world and yet has chosen to make the Philippines his home. Even once had a bit of trouble with travel documents—as many of us can relate to—being a Filipino by choice.

He came here to work with the most prestigious firms at the time but eventually put up Hans Brumann, Inc. in the mid-1970s as his creativity and vision could not be easily contained.

Mr. Brumann’s staff of craftsmen represents some of the best in the industry. His personal training and close supervision have honed them to work and aspire for perfection. “We only use materials of the highest quality. We do not scrimp. When a Hans Brumann piece falls on the ground, it will neither be dented nor deformed,” he said.

Through all these, Mr. Brumann has bloomed as an artist. His keen eye and aesthetic insight led him to harness a challenging medium: mother of pearl.  Forming his compositions for his early art exhibits in the 1990s, the result was a combination of the classic material with a modern minimalistic approach — an artistic innovation that made mother of pearl noticed and appreciated on a higher level. These early creations also became a trademark, thus, inspiring Mr. Brumann to experiment with other natural materials. Locally sourced timber combined with steel formed his larger sculptures ranging from relief to freestanding pieces.

At one point, I told him of a feature published in a local paper that looked very much like his work. Of course that instantly grabbed my attention, thinking he was having another art exhibit. However, upon closer inspection, I saw that they were significantly of lesser quality and poorly designed. He lamented that such was the hazard of the trade as any heartless and greedy thief can and will knock off your original designs and proceed to make “similar” but poor copies.

He was not happy about it but as we predicted, sustaining worthwhile artistic endeavors is a truly trying process innately involving the heart, mind and soul. These are the ingredients for creating pieces of art that speak to the senses—very much akin to the rare and precious stones and metals that Hans Brumann molds into heirlooms and memories. 

(Impy Pilapil is an artist who has collaborated with Hans Brumann on several occasions.)