Passers-by the leafy Boxhagener Street in Berlin-Friedrichshain may find themselves doing a double take when strolling past Aufschnitt Berlin, a small boutique stocking a brightly colored array of sausages and cold cuts.
Those who enter the store – the world’s first textile butchery – may be further surprised to discover that Wald is a vegetarian.What appears to be meat is in fact a collection of pillows, lifestyle products and home accessories, concepted and created by owner Silvia Wald. Those who enter the store – the world’s first textile butchery – may be further surprised to discover that Wald is a vegetarian, a fact which lies at the heart of Aufschnitt’s philosophy of representation, humor and tactility. We dropped in to speak with Silvia about her background in clothing engineering, her love for home textile fairs, and how the philosophy of essentialism underpins her creations. To find your favorite cushy faux-meat product, take a look at Aufschnitt’s range here.
What can visitors expect when they visit the Aufschnitt Berlin studio and concept boutique?
“We offer a complete concept: a textile butchery that’s one of a kind in the world. Every single product we create can be purchased in our store.”Silvia Wald: “We offer a complete concept: a textile butchery that’s one of a kind in the world. Every single product we create can be purchased in our store. The counter isn’t shielded with glass as it usually is at a butcher’s. Everyone can reach in and touch the products. They’re wonderful to touch – soft, and varying in texture. We produce on a very small scale – there are no computer grids and vectors guiding the products’ designs. They’re all made individually by hand – each one is totally unique. Visitors can take home their favorite product. Everyone has different tastes, and likes a different kind of sausage.
“Everyone has different tastes, and likes a different kind of sausage.”Take the sausage in the net behind us – the pepper salami. This is a salami that’s really finely processed – the meat and the fat are all mixed in together, resulting in a homogenous texture. It was by coincidence that we found the perfect fabric to represent that, and then we wrapped it in a pepper skin and packaged it in a brown net that we got from a real butcher. Our meat grinder is an original model that’s used in butcheries. Oh, and our wrapping paper the same that old-fashioned butchers use too. I grew up in East Germany, and I can still remember seeing that paper as a child. It’ hard to find nowadays, as butcher’s paper is usually waxed on one side. The one we have is very old fashioned.”
‘Aufschnitt’ can be translated as ‘cold sliced meats’. Can you explain the story behind the name?
Silvia Wald: “Aufschnitt is the meeting point of several different tenets of my life. First, contained in the name is the word ‘Schnitt’ (German for ‘cut’). I originally studied clothing technology, specializing in pattern cutting. So the name is a play on words: Aufschnitt is pattern construction. It also means meat in German – of course it can also be used in relation to cheese, but mostly it refers to cold cuts of meat. And I don’t eat meat – I’m a vegetarian. This paradox reveals my sense of humor – I work with something I actually don’t like. It’s ironic, a bit sarcastic even. So the name has to do with cutting, with meat, and with my dislike for meat.”
"I originally studied clothing technology, specializing in pattern cutting. So the name is a play on words: Aufschnitt is pattern construction."
You originally studied clothing technology before establishing a studio dedicated to pattern construction. How did your background lead to the establishment of Aufschnitt?
“Take this sweet little sausage – if 10 clients call me and say we each need 50 sausages, I can’t make them anymore – I have to outsource them.”Silvia Wald: “My background lies in clothing engineering – the meat thing and the concept for the store came a lot later. I used to make mini sausage flyers for the clients I made clothing for, and eventually I came to realize that I actually wanted to make meat instead of clothing. I still work in clothing technology, and at the start I thought I had to do everything myself, as I love making things by hand, and I’m used to doing things by myself. But of course when it comes to making clothing, the production is often divided into stages, and finished elsewhere. So you work closely with the factories, and let them do the finishing touches. That prompted me to think differently about how I produce my meat products. Take this sweet little sausage – if 10 clients call me and say we each need 50 sausages, I can’t make them anymore – I have to outsource them. And that brings us back to my background in pattern cutting and clothing technology.”
What does the simple form of the sausage represent for you?
Silvia Wald: “The product plays with humor, perception, culture, the ‘Zeitgeist’, texture, abstraction, and with fantasy – the imitation disappoints. I often see people crossing the road from the other side at five minutes to eight in the morning, wanting a sausage – a real one. And then they open the door and say, ‘Oh, ok!’ I find it so striking that you can you take a piece of fabric and it can become a sausage. The fabric is almost a square – you roll it up, fill it with stuffing, sew it together. It’s smooth and slippery, like the real thing, and you have a sausage. Everyone thinks it is – it’s nothing other than a sausage. That’s crazy. I like how much the product is polarizing. It’s just a pillow, and it inspires lots of people – some love it, others hate it – both vegetarians and meat eaters.”
"The product plays with humor, perception, culture, the ‘Zeitgeist’, texture, abstraction, and with fantasy - the imitation disappoints."
How does your team work together when coming up with new ideas or approaching a new brief?
“If the product is good and the customer reacts well to it, then I consider how to best to develop it – whether it’s worth making here, or instead better to outsource the product”Silvia Wald: “Usually clients actually buy what you can see behind the counter. We work closely with retailers who buy and resell our products. I often visit textile fairs to scope out new fabric collections. Because we only produce in small quantities, I’m always on the lookout for fabrics that replicate the look and feel of real produce. Take a look at the Black Forest ham, for example – I found a fabric that reminded me of this kind of meat at a fair once. When that happens, then I buy a bit, prototype the product until I’m happy with it, put it behind the counter, price it, and watch how the customer reacts.
If the product is good and the customer reacts well to it, then I consider how to best to develop it – whether it’s worth making here, or instead better to outsource the production. The shop is a testing ground to see what customers are willing to pay for products. The mortadella, for example, has a foam core – it’s the 30 caliber one. Caliber is the industry standard measurement. We work with the German Butcher’s Association, who keeps me updated with the latest industry developments.”
Visitors to the open studio and concept boutique may be surprised to learn that you’re a vegetarian. How does this play into the way you approach to your work?
Silvia Wald: “Very much. The Aufschnitt idea began in 2008, and by 2009 the concept was ready to be launched. I’ve almost always been a vegetarian, and as I said I grew up in East Germany in the countryside with my parents and my grandmother, who lived through the war. Of course during the war, meat was a luxury. And I don’t eat it, don’t want to eat it. At home I was constantly questioned as to why not. I didn’t want to talk about it, and that was always problematic for my grandma.
Today in Germany only 12% of the population is vegetarian. You don’t really notice that in Berlin, where that percentage is a lot higher. But in the countryside, people pride themselves on eating meat. Imagine if it were otherwise – if vegetarianism were the norm, and people prided themselves on eating a plant-based diet. There would be such a different mentality. Ultimately, my stance is that I don’t like meat, and my body can’t digest it anymore – the body adapts itself to vegetarianism, so I no longer have the enzymes for it. I believe that everyone should just eat what they want.”
"Imagine if it were otherwise - if vegetarianism were the norm, and people prided themselves on eating a plant-based diet. There would be such a different mentality."
Do you take custom orders? What has been one of your favorites so far?
Silvia Wald: “Yes, one customer called me up and said he’d seen that we do a ham chair, and wanted to know whether we could also make chairs in the shape of breasts for a book reading. Artist and musician, Annika Line Trost wrote a book where she described living with a 75F cup size. She described how she always needed to cover herself up with a leather coat, as no-one could keep their eyes off her decolte. So she wanted breast chairs for the reading of the book. We made them with an areola and a nipple and gave everyone miniature breast key rings.”
Can you tell us about a project you’re currently working on?
Silvia Wald: “We’re currently making little organs – hearts and smokers’ lungs, for example – as key rings to sell at the deli. It’s a nice quick idea to get your head around, and I’d like mock some up using faux leather. With these objects, we’re moving away from cushions and into more abstract territory. What I really appreciate here is the collaborative effort of our team. One of us will begin by researching our most popular anatomical products, and then we work on simplifying the diagrams so the organs are stripped down to their essence, and instantly recognizable. You can see the veins, the arteries…This process is fascinating to me – interrogating the essential characteristics of each product. We’re also playing with a few different kinds of fruit at the moment – there’s a green coconut, and a Pink Lady apple.”
"We’re currently making little organs - hearts and smokers’ lungs, for example - as key rings to sell at the deli."
Boxhagener Straße 32, 10245 Berlin
Monday – Friday: 12:00 – 20:00
Saturday: 12:00 – 18:00
Photography by Ana Santl