Imagine being born, growing up, living, raising a family, working, growing old, and dying all within a 25-acre area. That was part of the idea behind the Leipzig Baumwoll Spinnerei (cotton mill) in its heyday. There were apartments for the workers, schools, hospitals, stores, factories, and even a cemetery all within the complex (or immediately nearby). There were even small garden plots (more about these later) across the street if you needed a little fresh air or a space for your children to run around. In the height of its production, 4,000 people lived and worked in the Spinnerei (pronounced “schpinn-ehr-eye”).*
The developers of this piece of land began in 1884 and built the largest cotton mill in Europe by its 25th birthday.** After German reunification, however, the East German textile industry was outsourced to other parts of the world (as had been the West German textile industry years earlier), making the Leipzig Baumwoll Spinnerei obsolete, and so it closed its doors in 1993.
“So what?” you ask, I’m not really into cotton mills or industrial history.
Well, my friends, after several years in private ownership for one reason or another, the entire complex was sold in 2001 to a few individuals, and in the last thirteen years has become a cultural hub of artists’ studios and galleries. There are ceramicists, painters, graphic designers, etc. from all over the world who come to the Spinnerei to work and meet other artists, and (I’ve heard) the area was voted one of the best tourist attractions in Europe in 2011.
We went on a tour of the area on Friday, and it was awesome. We visited the art house cinema on site, wandered through some artists’ studios, and stepped inside a gallery or two. (The photo above is Claudia Biehne, whose medium is porcelain. She makes beautiful pieces (as you can see above) and says it’s a shame that such a wonderful material is used “only for dishes.”)
This is Kata Lips, who is doing some really neat paintings that encourage viewer interaction. For example, these paintings (white on white) below, that can only be seen with black lights:
…or the painting of the florescent trees (2 photos above) that show up in really cool ways when you look at them through 3-D glasses:
Overall, the tour was awesome and (as all things like this) made me want to be an artist. I’m looking forward to our last weekend in Leipzig because they have an open house of sorts where the public can wander through all of the studios and galleries, so if anyone’s in the area on May 3-4, come check it out!
Also, if you’d like to read more about the history of the place or see some more old pictures, the Spinnerei website is really well done (and has an entire English version).
*I only tell you this because it’s fun to say.
**Here’s where that little tidbit came from: http://www.spinnerei.de/the-heady-early-days.html