Kirsten Muenster's Family History
Some background information about my family’s metalworking and creative history…. I’m Austrian, German, Swiss and Irish. I love tracing the roots of my family and following the narrative. Somehow I feel an even stronger connection to the materials I work with, knowing that my Great-Great-Grandparents worked with them before me.
My Great-Great-Grandfather, Ferdinand Muenster was a coppersmith in Mannersdorf, Austria. This first picture was taken in front of the guild, he is the white bearded man in the bottom row, second from the right. His son, my Great Grandfather Rudolph Muenster, made boilers, copper stills, distilling equipment and brewery vats. The second image captures him with one of his boilers.
I had the good fortune of knowing my Grandfather, Alexander Muenster for most of my life. He had a great design sense, loved beautiful cars, suits, hats and women. (but that’s another story) He was a coppersmith and stainless steel worker, designing and constructing industrial kitchen equipment. He was extremely active and the oldest living member of the sheet metalworker’s union in NJ and when he died at age 96 1/2, I was incredibly moved by the number of union members that attended his funeral. One of the men said that he was not just a gifted metalworker, but a true artist. I still use some of his old tools in my studio today.
My Grandfather, Herbert Muench was a painter, potter, enameler and photographer and was involved in the motion picture industry. I grew up surrounded by his ceramic figures and boxes. Today I’m happy to have one of his paintings in my studio.
My Great-Grandparents, the Bodenmann’s, owned and operated a Swiss embroidery and lace making shop. They made high end lace until WWII. Wanting to contribute to the war effort, they reworked their shop and started making patches for the military. Bags of vintage buttons and belt buckles that they collected were among the coveted playthings I had for rainy days. I’d be entertained for hours with these treasures dumped out on the dining room table. Sorting, filing and arranging…. now I use them in my jewelry.
My Grandmother Anna Bodenmann worked as a seamstress in the garment industry in NY, sewing lingerie. Later she was a knitter, making blankets, ponchos, sweaters and hats for the family.
My Grandmother, Anne Daily sang with big bands in NY and NJ. She was also a dressmaker. She taught my mother how to sew and they both made a lot of my clothing.
My father is very creative. He’s the kind of person that can fix and build anything… Growing up, he encouraged me to use tools, and to start making jewelry. He showed me how to cut a sheet of metal and hammer a band around a pipe (I believe we used a rubber mallet!). I’m inspired by the beautiful stone walls that he builds on our property. He uses found stone and hides little tiles in secret spots that you discover while meandering through the paths.
My mother is an antiques dealer and when I was very young, she gave me a vintage silver ring that looked like a garland of flowers. That ring was the start of my first collection, and I realized that I didn’t just want to collect jewelry, I wanted to make it. My mother also taught me a lot about local and organic food and nutrition. We grew our own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. She knows every flower and tree by name.
I feel incredibly humbled and honored to continue the metalworking and craft traditions that make up my family’s history. The influences and examples, whether they were consciously or unconsciously absorbed in my childhood, really did shape me and instill a love of nature, craft, handwork, recycling, reusing, collecting, repurposing and creating.xoxx