Angus Davies of www.escapementmagazine.com interviews Adam ‘Theosone’ Kłodecki, ambassador of Chopin Watches.
In April 2019, Chopin Watches unveiled its inaugural model, the Op.10 No.12 timepiece. The watch was made in collaboration with Swiss Manufacture, Schwarz Etienne. The eye-catching design was undertaken by industry specialist, Antoine Tschumi and his team at NeoDesis. This venerated firm has also worked with Czapek, Greubel Forsey, Harry Winston and Urban Jürgensen, to name but a few. There is no question Antoine is an incredibly talented designer, something his impressive body of work clearly demonstrates.
A challenge facing any designer is that practical considerations impair creativity. An über-thin wristwatch may exude a high quotient of elegance but lack sufficient rigidity, causing it to readily flex. Likewise, an oversized crown may look aesthetically pleasing but impinge on the wearer’s wrist, inhibiting movement and gouging the flesh. A designer has to be a free-thinker while always considering a multitude of practical factors.
Adam Theosone, an ambassador of Chopin Watches, is an industrial designer and no doubt can identify with the challenges facing Antoine Tschumi and his colleagues each day. However, while practical considerations may inhibit creativity, Adam embraces other mediums which allow him to fully express his artistic prowess and inventiveness. Indeed, Adam is a calligrapher, an illustrator, street artist and tattoo artist. Moreover, Adam, a son of Poland, studied fine art and graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in Gdansk with a Master of Arts in product design and visual communication.
While Adam explores the corners of his mind, conceiving new ideas, his free-thinking has attracted some household names such as Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Citroen, DC Shoes, ESPN, Hennessy and even Lego, illustrating that creativity and business are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, he regularly works with various art supply brands, testing and reviewing their products.
Most pertinently, prior to the launch of the Chopin brand and its first model, Adam was diligently working behind the scenes, helping the fledgling Polish company. The Chopin logo, employing cursive black text was conceived by Adam and now sits harmoniously on the dial of the Op.10 No.12 timepiece. The logo was based on a style called English roundhand and was chosen from hundreds of designs. Adam spent much time refining the logo until it met his high standards. However, as any perfectionist knows, excellence is seldom the consequence of haste.
Chopin Watches continue to utilise Adam’s talents with the acclaimed calligrapher hand crafting each ownership certificate that accompanies every one of the brand’s watches. Interestingly, Adam doesn’t use modern-day ‘machine pressed’ paper as it lacks the smoothness he craves, preferring to use period paper, produced some 60 years ago. Each certificate is handwritten with a golden Victorian pen from 1836 and iron gall ink, specially made in London.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Adam and learn more about his work and the influence his adopted city of Berlin has on his work.
In conversation with Adam Theosone
Angus: Having seen some of your work, I am amazed by your talent. At what stage in your life did you realise that you were destined to be a great designer and illustrator?
Theosone: Thank you for those kind words, but I don’t think of it as a talent. I believe I have a lot of passion and curiosity. Moreover, I was lucky to have support from my family, friends and amazing teachers. Ever since I have been able to articulate my thoughts I have always wanted to be either an artist or a pilot. I still want to learn how to fly!
A: I note that you have vast experience working in many domains, including street art. As this genre of art has become increasingly popular, do you think it has acquired greater legitimacy in society? How has the street art scene changed in your lifetime?
T: Graffiti and street art have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up in the east of Poland in the 90s provided a colourful influence on my aesthetic sensitivity. I remain very close to the world of street art which these days is increasingly exhibited in galleries and museums. Also, a benefit of living in Berlin is that I merely have to venture outside to see numerous examples of incredible creativity. I just love to scan the city’s walls and explore the many new trends.
A: As a German resident, living in Berlin, the country’s capital, how has the city influenced your work?
T: Berlin has proved a huge influence on me. Similar to the internet, the city is rich with influences. Indeed, if you look deep enough you will find many fascinating things! I love Berlin’s vibe.
A: One of your passions is calligraphy. You appear to have a strong liking for German Fraktur and Gothic texts. Do you spend much time researching historical scripts used in other cultures?
T: Calligraphy is my greatest passion. I am constantly researching its history, eager to find sources of inspiration. I practise daily and yes, Gothic styles are among my favourites. However, the more I learn, the more I realise how much there is still to discover. I practise historical styles as well as explore new means of expression using calligraphy.
A: Considering all of your work, is there one piece of art, calligraphy or design which you are most proud of.
T: Surprisingly, after I have completed a project, I never feel fully satisfied. I always see those areas that could have been done better. I hope I never lose this capacity to critique my own work, because it proves I am continuing to learn throughout the creation process. I am very happy to have ‘written’ for Lech Walesa, Elton John, Peter Greenaway, etc. I am also delighted to have had the chance to paint letters on buildings in the centre of Gdansk Old Town and work for leading brands such as Audi, Hennessy, Montblanc and Rolex.
A: I always think of art facilitating freedom of expression. One area of expertise for which you are known is industrial design. Clearly your clients have needs and with some products there will be practical requirements to consider. Can this prove restrictive? How do you reconcile creative freedom with your clients’ needs?
T: As an industrial designer I have worked with maradDesign on big projects such as the interiors of high speed Pendolino trains. Coincidentally, the exterior was designed by esteemed firm Giugiaro Design.
In the field of industrial design there is not room for freedom of expression. You always have restrictions like time, money, technology, ergonomics, client needs, legislation and design standards but, if you are lucky, there may be a small part left for your creativity. One of the reasons I turned away from industrial design to focus more on fine art, logotype design and calligraphy is it allows me to express my passion for manual and expressive work, providing a welcome escape from a computer screen.
A: Looking at the images you have posted on Instagram and your company website Scriptorium Berlin, I see you have a love of tattooing. Similar to working on a high-end watch, there must be little margin for error. Do you have any techniques to control your nerves, steady your hands and maintain your concentration?
T: Yes, tattooing is another passion of mine. It facilitates contact with many different people, each one with their own unique story, something they often choose to share during the intimate process of tattooing. There is no place for error, but yet we are all human. Imperfection is a big part of our lives and I don’t consider it a bad thing. As Salvadore Dali once said, ‘have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it’. I love to approach my tattooing sessions in the same way I approach a design job, with careful and thorough preparation together with professional and honest research. This ensures that I am prepared for all potential problems.
To remain focused and up for the task, I practise every day, exercise my hands and try to stay healthy. Certainly, I cannot live a ‘party’ lifestyle. I derive much pleasure from work and enjoy building my reputation.
A: In the past, we have seen some watch brands release watches incorporating tattoo art. Is this something you have ever considered? Are we likely to see an artistic / design collaboration with Chopin Watch? For example, a limited edition.
T: I love it when a brand reaches out to an artist. The relationship often proves mutually beneficial. I felt very honoured when Chopin Watches reached out to me and tasked me with designing its logo.
A: When I read about your past experience, I was surprised to see that you have a fondness for fine art. Which artists, past or present, inspire you? Which subjects interest you and provide a source of inspiration for your paintings?
T: I was, and still am, an admirer of Zdzislaw Beksinski and I feel very lucky to have had the chance to meet him in person at his home, where we discussed his paintings and techniques. His sudden, tragic death was a shock to me. Another artist I have always loved is Franciszek Starowieyski, a great poster artist and calligrapher. I also have a fondness for all of the artists from the Polish School of Posters movement. They all inspire me.
In my paintings you can see the influence of Roman Opałka, another great Polish painter. Lastly, I have a profound love of former German calligraphers like Rudolf Koch, Emil Rudolf Weiss and Hermann Zapf.
A: Art often provides a means for many people to relax, however, it is at the heart of what you do for a living. What do you do to relax away from work?
T: I love to spend time with my family, my amazing wife and my gorgeous daughter. I also like to play numerous instruments just for fun.
Chatting to Adam Theosone, my suspicions proved to be well founded. As an industrial designer he has to work within set parameters. The design of a product has to pay due consideration to a multitude of requirements. In particular, considering the commercial narrative of any product, the design has to meet budgetary constraints. And yet, despite all the inhibitory factors at play, the industrial designer still has to express creativity and imbue a product with aesthetic appeal and peerless functionality. Having looked at several examples of his work, this is a domain Adam Theosone knows well.
However, Adam is clearly a man with an innate passion for colour, form and line. He enjoys exploring the limits of his creativity, embracing ideas not only in his midst, but also visionary concepts occupying the periphery of his thoughts, yet to be developed. His love of calligraphy, fine art, street art and tattooing is influenced by several factors, however, most pertinently, they allow Adam to demonstrate his visions without inhibition.
This interview has taken me into a world hitherto, I knew nothing about. However, having entered Adam’s world, I have gained a fresh understanding about art and design. It is field which not only influences the products we use each day but showcases creative thought and deft use of hand. Indeed, it is the work of Adam Theosone and his peers which enriches life’s vibrant tapestry and motivates new generations to pursue similar interests.