Bronwyn Riedel, one of the brains behind Fremantle-based paint company Bauwerk Colour, was once described by stylist Megan Morton as the ‘Rain Man’ of colour, in reference to the 1988 movie starring Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man with superb recall.
“When I look at a colour or pigment, I can see how much red or blue or brown a colour has, and whether that brown has a yellow base, a blue base or a mix of both,” says Bronwyn. “It’s not something I studied. It just comes to me naturally… as a gift from somewhere.”
This unique ability is at the heart of each range of the gorgeous lime paints that Bauwerk produces each year, often in collaboration with other creatives. For example, a recent collection was devised with Perth stylist and photographer Meghan Plowman.
Bronwyn is a self-taught textile designer who made her own colours as part of her work. She started Bauwerk in 2000 with her husband, Andreas, a stonemason. “Andreas was making beautiful lime paints for the buildings he built and restored, and we wanted to offer an eco-friendly paint which works in harmony with the building,” she says. “Our paint – made from clay, minerals and natural pigments – means you can paint without fumes, and wash-up and disposal are also safe.”
Seventeen years later, Bauwerk exports paint all over the globe from its Western Australian base, yet the business remains a family affair. Bronwyn is the creative director, responsible for developing new colours.
Andreas runs the technical side and their eldest son, Levi, handles production and logistics. Operating in many countries – the couple also have an abode in Andreas’s native Germany – means Bronwyn can set aside a chunk of time each year to hide herself away in the studio of their German home, devising the next Bauwerk range. “I collect images and take photos of colour combinations,” she says.
A large part of this craft comes from understanding the pigments and minerals that make the colour, their underlining tones and characteristics. “One of the reasons our paint looks so beautiful on the wall is because of the mineral structure,” she says. “The light hits the calcine nature of the limestone – the paint’s main ingredient – and it refracts like a crystal, with light bouncing off in millions of waves.”
Currently, Bronwyn believes there is a trend towards warmer colours such as amber, pink and warm brown. “Bauwerk’s new range has earthy names such as Oak, Clay and Wild Stag, as well as greens from nature like Angelica, Forest and Fir,” she says. “These colours ground us. Perhaps we are looking for more of that these days.”
She cites the natural world as her main inspiration, having grown up on a merino farm in Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges. Living in such isolation profoundly shaped how she sees life today. “We simply had to entertain ourselves,” says Bronwyn. “It was beautiful. I loved it.”
Nowadays she gets her nature fix restoring the couple’s manor house in the German countryside, close to Dresden where Andreas was raised. “There are 21 rooms – they’re all a work in progress, a blank canvas,” she says. “Our dream is for it to become a Bauwerk destination store, where people can explore how we make our colours and experience everything we are about. It will be a total representation of our style.”
For more information, visit bauwerk.com.au.