überlin

Childfree Portrait Project — Call For Subjects

by Zoë Noble

Zoë Noble, Photographer

Hey all!

I am doing an ongoing portrait series about women who choose not to have children, and I would like to invite you to share your story with me.

I’d love to hear from women who have always known they didn’t want kids, and from those of you who have decided more recently. I want to know what brought you to this decision, whether that’s the experiences or events of your life, ethics or beliefs that you hold dear, or just the knowledge that motherhood isn’t for you. I’d like to learn about your life, about how you choose to spend your time, and about the passions you’re free to pursue as a childfree woman. I believe that everyone has a story to tell, and I want to hear yours.

For this project I have three main goals. I want to shine a spotlight on childfree women, who are elsewhere overlooked or judged for their choices. I want to explore the issues faced by these women, and the issues that have led them to their decision. And, in doing so, I want to help to remove the stigma often attached to women who don’t plan to have kids.

As a childfree woman myself, I believe that people who choose not to have children are no different from people who choose to have them. Through my Childfree portrait series, I want to show that women who have made this decision are normal, vital and can lead lives just as fulfilling as any mother’s.Through a sensitive interview, accompanied by flattering photography, I promise to do justice to your story.

How you can help:

  1. If you fit this description, please consider being part of this project. I’m a professional photographer and a sympathetic ear, so trust me — I’ll make you look good! Just apply using this form.
  2. If you know someone who’s decided to remain childfree, and might be interested in talking to me, just forward this to them. If they’re interested, please ask them to apply using this form.

From there, I’ll reach out to schedule a Skype interview and a photoshoot in your home, or wherever you feel most comfortable.

It would be amazing if you could share this far and wide. I know there are lots of women out there who are living their best lives without children, and I appreciate your help in reaching them. This topic is near and dear to me, so thanks for taking the time to read and share this.

Thanks a lot!

Zoë Noble

http://www.zoenoble.com/

Portrait: Pauline Hoch, Our/Berlin

by Guest Blogger

20150916-zoenoble-7788-1

by Emma Robertson

“Is it too early to start drinking?” I ask upon arrival at the Our/Berlin vodka distillery in Treptow. Luckily, Pauline Hoch, one-half of Paul Sanders, the marketing agency at the helm of Our/Berlin, doesn’t think so. Laughing, she fixes me a drink: their new tea-infused vodka, a splash of tonic, ice and a tendril of orange peel. “We were on an inspirational weekend with the team at a house in the countryside when the homeowner suggested we infuse the vodka with tea,” Pauline explains, “It was genius. Then a local tea company called Paper & Tea got in touch with us unexpectedly, and we were able to collaborate. It was an effortless partnership.” Such seems to be the way with Our/Berlin vodka: they emphasise not only a sense of local camaraderie and community, but a simple, homegrown aesthetic that is the very essence of their brand.

Our/Vodka got its start in Stockholm in 2013 when a group working with Pernod Ricard came up with the idea for a global brand with local roots. After looking in the nightclub and gastronomy industry in Berlin, the team met with the Paul Sanders Agency (run by Pauline and her partner Jon Sanders). The first of many effortless partnerships, I guess. With Berlin as its flagship city, the brand has since taken on Detroit, Amsterdam, London, and Seattle as its adoptive homes. Here, the brand has evolved from more than just a simple vodka manufacturer: the team hosts infusion workshops, dinner parties, cooking classes, art exhibitions, and happy hours. After a quick tour of the distillery’s facilities, I sat down with Pauline to talk simplicity, science, space, and of course, vodka.

20150916-zoenoble-7594-2

With wine, there is a very distinct process for evaluating and tasting. Is there a proper way to drink vodka?

Of course the Russians would say you have to drink a lot. (Laughs) Especially when you eat! I think our cultural standards are a little different here in Germany. We try to tell our customers that they should try the vodka pure and at room temperature so they can really appreciate the quality. Of course, it’s also okay to just mix it with a soft drink, Mineralwasser, or tonic. You don’t have to be an experienced bartender to make a nice drink!

And how do you drink it?

In summer, I like a strawberry margarita with vodka. But in the winter, we collaborate with Berliner Winter to make a kind of hot vodka drink with apple cider. It’s similar to a grog, and very delicious. I also really like it after dinner as a digestif, kind of like a grappa… But like I said, drinking it pure is the best way to appreciate it.

The taste is very subtle, which I think is rare for vodka.

Exactly — it’s very mild. I think vodka has a bad reputation because people think of the taste in a certain way…. Our/Vodka is not overpowering, there’s no real “flavour,” so to speak. Some people say it’s a bit lavender-ish, some say there’s a hint of lemon, but there’s nothing that we add in. We use German-local ingredients and purified Berlin Leitungswasser, so the recipe is really as simple as the concept itself. It’s funny because I have a lot of girlfriends that aren’t into drinking vodka, but they drink this vodka because it’s so smooth.

20150916-zoenoble-7720-3

Can you explain the science behind the distilling process? What exactly happens behind closed doors here?

I’ll give you the simplified version: here in the factory, we distill the aromatic fraction that gives the flavour to Our/Vodka. This is then blended together with wheat-based ethanol, which we import from Münster, and purified Leitungswasser. When we were initially sourcing our ethanol, we found that the quality here in Berlin and Brandenburg was too poor, so we ended up importing from Münster, which is working very well for us.

But otherwise, the Our/Vodka aesthetic is very local.

Definitely. We love the sense of community here in Berlin, but we’re also expanding the “global” part of the brand as well. We were the testers, the guinea pigs, the trial. And now, they opened up Our/Detroit and Our/Seattle, and Our/Amsterdam will be opening in October. The global aspect is coming more and more together, which is super nice because we were always feeling a little alone over here — we were the first European city for Our/Vodka, so we’re very much looking forward to having our sibling opening up in Europe.

20150916-zoenoble-7754-4

Is there a strong connection between all of the headquarters, or do you operate exclusively?

We definitely have a strong exchange with the teams all over the world. We have an internal communication tool, we talk about everything, we swap ideas, we review new materials together… We’ve actually become close friends with the team in Detroit. We really got to know them well, we’ve spent holidays over there and they showed us around the city!

I love Detroit so much. There’s such a huge sense of community over there… It reminds me a lot of Berlin, actually.

I think so too! There’s a lot of common ground between Detroit and Berlin. The decision to open up there was a huge one. People were like, “What?! Why Detroit?!” It seemed crazy that we would set up there because the economy is so bad but it’s working out so well. If you are actually the one to start something and develop it, you inspire the community and you can create something amazing.

20150916-zoenoble-7670-5

Why do you think Berlin was chosen to be the flagship city for Our/Vodka?

Berlin was the perfect choice for the first city because it’s still so young. It’s vibrant. We also have such a big nightclub and bar scene here…. The city is so attractive for a lot of people! This is where trends are set! I think there’s a preconception that everything that comes out of Berlin is cool. (Laughs)

Our/Vodka has set up shop in Berlin, Detroit, Seattle, London, Amsterdam… What’s the common denominator in all these cities?

I’ve asked the same question! It’s most important that the city is young in terms of its established markets… For example, they didn’t want to go to Portland: they went to Seattle instead. That’s not so obvious a choice but we did that because in Portland, there’s already a strong local community with a local brewery and distillery. It’s easier to cultivate this sense of community when you start it from the ground up. People are very open to new products in these cities — it’s very inspiring.

And what made you decide to open the distillery here in Treptow?

It was admittedly very hard to find the right space. It’s especially hard within the confines of the city because there’s a lot of building code requirements… But we found this place and we love it. It’s still in the city but it’s kind of isolated as well. We have a very vibrant surrounding here, there’s Club der Visionäre and the Badeschiff and White Trash and Arena Club all just around the corner. We’re very lucky.

20150916-zoenoble-7732-6

You mentioned these building code requirements. What kind of restrictions are there?

Have you ever seen a distillery explode? (Laughs) It basically just leaves a big hole in the ground. If the distillery explodes here, the entire area would be wiped out. It would look like Mars. (Laughs) So, we have to be very careful. In New York, they were fighting so hard to get the proper permits, they wanted to open the distillery actually within Manhattan — which they succeeded at, by the way; Our/New York will be the first distillery in Manhattan since prohibition times! So, yes, we’re very happy here, and lucky to be here.

I read that you guys brought on an engineer to customise the space as well.

Exactly. And there were a lot of rules. Of course — we’re in Germany! As it was the first distillery for the Our/Vodka project, it has to be made very properly. The laws are very strict! (Laughs) We had to keep in mind that we needed an area to host events, but also a working office space, and a storage space for the dry goods that we use for packaging and bottling and labels and that kind of thing. The best part is this nice roll gate that you can pull up in the summertime, there’s a nice breeze and so much natural light.

20150916-zoenoble-7610-7

That’s so nice because, for me, space really affects my creativity.

Absolutely. When we have the doors wide open in the summer, there’s no boundary between customers, visitors, and us. It also helps creativity flow, helps us find new ideas… Because it’s so open, you can move around, you can go outside when you get sick of sitting in front of the computer… This area is so full of creative people, too. We spend almost more time chatting with our amazing neighbours than we do inside working! (Laughs)

It definitely doesn’t feel like your typical office here.

It was important for us to have a space where people and also our team feel comfortable. It’s a vodka distillery, but it shouldn’t have the feeling of an office. We want to be very open. We want a space where people feel they can just drop by and have a drink. We want people to be comfortable here. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. Just like we have the name on the bottle, we really want to make this Our Berlin.

20150916-zoenoble-7774-8

20150916-zoenoble-7596-9

20150916-zoenoble-7657-10

20150916-zoenoble-7704-11

20150916-zoenoble-7711-12

20150916-zoenoble-7698-13

20150916-zoenoble-7806-15

Portrait: Recyclemented

by Guest Blogger

jacquie and clement standing against rusty backdrop

by Emma Robertson

For Clement Jeannesson and Jacquie Kappl, furniture construction is a labour of love. Their design company, Recyclemented, is less than a year old; although in many ways it’s still a hobby, the pair is working tirelessly to build it up into a fully-fledged career, one palette at a time. Using found wood, discarded materials and (especially) old EuroPalettes, Clement and Jacquie are giving new life to Berlin’s forsaken and forgotten: the result is strikingly unique furniture, each with its own twist on the traditional.

Clement and Jacquie, originally from France and Germany respectively, started Recyclemented in Melbourne, Australia. “We moved to the Gold Coast and we were pretty poor at the time,” Jacquie explains. “We had an apartment but we had no furniture, so we started building stuff out of bits and pieces we found on the side of the road. At some point, we had like seven tables in our place!”

It’s become something of a Cinderella story since they relocated to Berlin at the beginning of this year; although Clement has a history in mechanics and steelwork, both are self-taught woodworkers, picking up the tricks of the trade through YouTube videos, online tutorials, and good old trial-and-error. We caught up with Clement and Jacquie at their studio in Lichtenberg to talk upcycling, working in Berlin, and how passion drives creativity.

recyclemented banner

What is more important as a designer, form or function?

Clement Jeannesson: Function, for sure! Function is better because if you make a chair that looks beautiful but you can’t sit on it, what’s the point?

Jacquie Kappl: He always lectures me on that one! (Laughs) I have all these ideas, “We have to do this! We can make it like that!” but then Clement comes in, “Nope. It’s not sehr gut.” (Laughs)

CJ: Well, it has to be useful! What are you going to do with it? We’re selling furniture first. It’s an art piece in the end — it’s beautiful, sure, but it’s furniture. It has to serve its purpose. It can be a nice table but it has to work.

JK: I have a lot of ideas. I’m the dreamer of the two of us. For Clement, it’s more about actually putting the ideas to paper.

working on different elements

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

CJ: For me it’s non-stop! Everywhere I go! It’s 24/7 for me. When I’m at work, I get ideas and I can just take them and run with it. I’m a bit obsessed with being creative, trying to come up with more ideas, more and more and more, and then — the best part — actually turning them into something.

JK: Clement is teaching me to come up with my ideas before I come to work, to bring them to the shop and then work on them here instead of wasting time sitting around thinking. It actually really is helpful because at the start, I wasn’t doing that. I’d just come in, sit here, turn around the wood, thinking, looking at everything…

CJ: We don’t have a lot of materials so that affects us creatively. We’re never going to do 12 of the same table, for example, because I’m never going to be able to find 12 of the same kind of wood! So, every time it’s a bit of a challenge because you have to make it work with what you’ve got. But the more we do it, the easier it gets. It’s never boring.

closeup of ruler

Do you ever get tired of that challenge, though?

JK: I don’t know. It’s extra challenging and at the same time, it isn’t. It appeals to a customer that wants something unique. But at the end of the day, there’s a style they’re asking for so you can’t always give them exactly that because you’re tied to the types of wood you find…

CJ: It’s also difficult because you don’t want to do something too unique every time.

It’s a fine balance, I guess. If people wanted cookie-cutter furniture, they’d go to IKEA.

JK: Exactly. Plus, in terms of what we’re doing, we don’t have a lot of competition at the moment. If there’s anyone else doing recycled material furniture with our same style, we haven’t heard of it.

Is it necessary to push boundaries like that when you’re working in a field that is so traditional?

CJ: I have to say, this job has been here forever! Before steel, before everything, woodworking was always here. So, yes, if you don’t do something a little bit different, you don’t exist.

JK: Especially in Berlin where there are so many artists, it’s not just doing something different, but doing something good. You have to be amazing. More than exceptional. People have to recognise you, you have to have a signature where people can see, Oh, this is Recyclemented. It’s good because it challenges us. We like a challenge. It’s on, IKEA!

stacked wood

Where do you find the wood you use? This part of Lichtenberg seems like it would be a good place to find discarded wood. Do you go on missions to find material?

CJ: Not really. It’s just become a natural part of our day-to-day life. If we see something, we stop and pick it up.

JK: We’ve got a big truck! (Laughs) We do buy some materials though, the products that give the finishing touches and hardware that will make the furniture last longer. We want to provide a high quality piece. The idea is to sell products that are quality — that’s really important.

CJ: Like you said, in this area near our studio space, there’s always a lot of scraps and pieces that would go to waste normally. There are a lot of businesses here, a lot of construction areas that produce a lot of waste.

Would your work have as much personality if you were using wood that was brand new?

JK: Well, it wouldn’t be the same fun, that’s for sure. It would definitely lose a lot of the personality if we bought the wood. It wouldn’t be Recyclemented.

CJ: We love this concept, using old to make new. Everything comes from everything, for us. It’s part of the adventure and an important part of the end product. We’ll name the piece after the street corner where we found the palette. (Laughs) You know exactly where it comes from that way. Better than going to IKEA and you have no idea where it comes from.

JK: This was a good initiative for us at the start because we didn’t have money to buy furniture. This was a great way for us to be able to have the things we need and create this new lifestyle for ourselves.

working together

Would you say that Berlin is the right city for this kind of design? Are people responsive to your style?

JK: This whole “upcycling” trend is going really well in Berlin, so yes, people are very responsive to what we make. People are becoming more and more conscious in a way, of living and of the environment. There’s definitely a market for it. You just need to find your spot there, and have a voice. That’s what we’re working on.

Was that eco-friendly nature of Recyclemented something that’s always been important to you?

JK: In the beginning, it was more important to me than to Clement. I’m the hippie in this relationship! (Laughs) But he’s the one who actually got into the knowledge behind it! Certain palettes for example, are treated with toxins. You know how eggs have a serial number to show which is free-range, which is factory farmed and stuff? It’s the same with palettes, they’re stamped in the same way for which ones are treated and which are not. We need to know this stuff because people put our furniture in their living spaces.

Wow, I didn’t know that.

JK: You have to be careful, and not everyone is. I don’t know if it’s a money issue here in Berlin that the eco-friendly thing hasn’t picked up as much, but in Australia, it’s huge already. I think it can only grow from here! We see more and more the effects of what’s happening if we don’t take care of the planet, you know? It sounds cheesy but we have to be behind that if we want to keep this planet together. Small things make a difference!

painting wood closeup

Do you worry that furniture from recycled material will go out of style?

JK: No. It’s still pretty new in Berlin, it’s only starting to become a big trend. I think we’re starting at the right moment. The downside is that because the palettes are becoming trendy… You’ve seen it in front of cafés, they make this simple bench out of bottle crates and a piece of wood, right? They call that recycled or upcycled furniture. And that makes it hard for us, because when people hear about our stuff, they have that pre-existing notion of it as this pile of junk on the sidewalk.

CJ: We do use the palette as the first material but, in the end, it doesn’t look like a palette! That’s the whole point!

closeup of clement

Even with your unique style, would you say there’s a lot of competition? I always see homeware and furniture out at the markets and stuff…

JK: It depends on what kind of markets you go to. There are the design markets, where the people are coming specifically to buy furniture and big pieces for the home… But then there’s Mauerpark where the tourists go, so they don’t buy furniture, obviously.

CJ: They just want to have a look and have a stroll on a Sunday, which is nice — we like to do that too. A lot of people at the markets want to go for a bargain, they want stuff really cheap because they can get it for those prices at Mauer. That’s not such a good location for us.

JK: Five euro for a handmade shelf? (Laughs) Get out!

CJ: They all want vintage! It’s big in Berlin, so everyone wants the vintage at flea markets like Mauerpark… We’re not fans of it at all! Sometimes it’s just old junk that’s labelled vintage, and because it’s so trendy, people really look for it at the flea markets. But at the design markets and some of the other pop-ups, people love to pass by our stall and look at the furniture, take photos and stuff.

soldering in workshop

I love going to the markets, but I never buy furniture there because I have no way of getting it home!

JK: Exactly, we get a lot of requests because of that. People who come by bike or on the Bahn, they have no way to transport a table back to their flat.

CJ: It’s been a good learning experience. The first markets we did, we brought all the big tables and the big shelves but eventually we started to build a few smaller pieces, accessories, and things like the triangle shelves that are easier to transport.

It seems like this has all been a good learning experience for you.

CJ: Of course. We start from scratch with the wood. No one has taught us these techniques, we learn everything from trying, from doing. There’s a lot of pieces and I’m getting prouder and prouder of what I’m doing. We can see ourselves improving, and that’s a good sign I think.

Follow Recyclemented on Facebook and Instagram, and check out their designs on their website.Use the offer code “Überlin” when you contact them to get 10% off! (offer good through to the end of 2015).

finished recyclemented piece of furniture

Portrait: Layne Mosler, the Taxi Gourmet

by James Glazebrook

portrait Layne Mosler
When you meet Layne Mosler for dinner, chances are that she found out about the place from a taxi driver. Back in 2007, she started a blog called Taxi Gourmet, based on one simple, genius idea: she would get in a taxi, ask the driver to go to to his or her favourite place to eat, and and document the adventure, culinary and otherwise. After years of adventures in New York, Buenos Aires and Berlin, Layne recently turned the blog into a book, Driving Hungry: A Memoir.

We caught Layne on the week of the book’s release, just before she flew back to America for a short promotional tour. It was Eid, at the end of Ramadan, so we asked Layne to take us to her favourite places around Berlin’s “Little Istanbul” in Kreuzberg. We found her at Konyali, an unassuming restaurant directly on Kottbusser Tor, enjoying some of their homemade yoghurt drink, ayran.

portrait kottbusser tor food Layne Mosler

So how did you find out about Konyali?

Funnily enough, it was about this time five years ago, around Ramadan. I got into a taxi with a driver named Eren, who brought me here because this is the only place in Berlin which makes ekmek. Similar to Turkish pizza, it’s baked in a brick oven, and comes from Eren’s home village near Konya. This is one of my favourite places to eat, and it’s cheap!

Were taxi drivers open to sharing their food secrets with you?

Yes! This was my first summer in Berlin, when I didn’t speak any German, and the Turkish taxi drivers were very sympathetic to that. We signed our way, and muddled through with English, and they took me to all these places that I still go back to now.

They were very excited about me wanting to eat where they ate. When you ask someone about food, you’re creating an automatic connection. When you talk about their food, not where they think you want to eat, you can have an intimate conversation in a short period of time. A taxi ride is very fleeting – you have to quickly get to the nitty gritty.

When did you start exploring cities’ food scenes in this way?

The Taxi Gourmet project started when I lived in Buenos Aires – it couldn’t have been born anywhere else. I was dancing tango, so I had to get around town at very odd hours, and the taxis are so cheap.

The drivers there are so forthcoming and so charming, and they have these spectacular stories. You just have to nudge them and they come out with these philosophies and tales – whether they’re true or not, I don’t know, but they’re very entertaining. I was finding that I learnt more about the city during taxi rides than in any other context.

And the Buenos Aires taxi drivers know all the best places to eat?

Some of them. At the time, most of the taxi drivers were Argentinian, so 90% of the time, they would take me to a steak house. And I was running out of adjectives to describe beef!

I also knew that I wasn’t going to be in Buenos Aires forever, so I started thinking about cities that have really well developed taxi and food cultures, and I decided to see what would happen if I transplanted the project to New York.

And how were your New York taxi adventures?

It was difficult at first. Cabbies would be like, “you don’t know where you want to go?!” Most people in New York have an agenda, taxi drivers included. So I ended up having to give the drivers a fake destination, usually a straight shot of 40 blocks or so, and then when we were having a conversation, slip in the question of where to eat.

Then I ended up meeting these two women who drove taxis in New York. One is this fierce Nuyorican woman who wears brass knuckles, drives at night and beats up men who beat up women. But she’s the sweetest thing, who wears her shitzu like a stole around her neck – and she just blew me away. And, not long after that, I met this very petite, purple-clad cab driver who was also going to nursing school part time. We got to talking, and I thought, “If she can drive a cab, I could drive a cab.”

I studied anthropology, and I like the idea participant observation, and realised that I was reaching the upper limit of my understanding from the back seat of a taxi. So I decided to get my cab licence.

How was life as a New York cabbie?

It was terrifying! The first time I drove through the city was in a cab, and I didn’t do it long enough to lose the fear. Plus, because of the taxi lease fee, I walked away from my first shift with two dollars. Pretty early on I realised: this is going to be research.

Within the first three hours, I realised how preposterous it was to ask a New York cab driver where he or she likes to eat on duty. I used to be disappointed when they replied “I eat wherever there’s parking and a bathroom”. But then I found myself eating at Dunkin’ Donuts… because there was parking and a bathroom! Very quickly, I stopped romanticising the job.

But it was really lovely to meet people that I wouldn’t have in my normal day-to-day life. We make assumptions about people within seconds, but there would be at least one person per shift who would just defy my expectations. Being reminded over and over again, that all of our assumptions are absurd, was a good thing.

portrait kottbusser tor food Layne Mosler

After her American experiment, Layne found herself in Berlin for the first time. “I felt an immediate affinity with the city,” she says. “Doors were opening, and people were interested in my project, despite the fact that this isn’t known as a ‘food city’…”

One of those doors opened onto the passenger side of a taxi whose driver would go on to play a big part in Layne’s extended stay in Germany. In fact, our next stop, Leylak on Kottbusser Strasse, was originally the recommendation from this very taxi driver. “I haven’t found better börek in Berlin – it’s my husband’s favourite.”

food portrait borek

How did you meet your husband?

He read about my taxi adventures, and found them really interesting. He got in touch, describing himself as “a little gourmet”, and offered to give me a tour in his taxi, and show me some places he liked – especially because I hadn’t yet tried any German food.

I got a good feeling from his email, so we arranged to meet at his taxi cab. When he turned around I went, (voice quivering) “Oh…” Because he was quite beautiful, and I wasn’t expecting that at all. And then we got to talking about Berlin, about how he had danced on the Wall when it came down, and how the city has changed, and his relationship to it, and about books and philosophy… And I was really quite fascinated from the get-go.

And then I went back to New York, and on a whim invited him out for a visit. So he came out for a week and, among other things, rode along in the cab with me for a shift, which was great. I moved back to Berlin six months later, and have been here ever since.

I’m still very much in love with Berlin, in a way that I haven’t been with any other city I’ve lived in.

Even though this isn’t a “food city”?

Well, whenever I’ve found myself in more upscale restaurants, I’ve been disappointed. So far I’ve never found anything particularly sublime or mind-blowing, and when I’m paying €30 to €50 – and I’m used to paying €10 – I think it should be pretty close to sublime.

But what’s interesting is that are all these young chefs are coming to Berlin, not only because it’s cheaper to open a restaurant, but also because there’s room for experimentation and the public isn’t quite as demanding.

Just this year, a handful of young experimental cooks have come to the city to try their luck, and we’re starting to see the development of a food consciousness. However, they are going up against the mentality that the most important thing is to be full for very little money.

james and Layne Mosler at kottbusser tor

So what are your favourite places to eat in Berlin?

Well there’s this place, Leylak. I love how there are always people sitting around here and shooting the breeze. It’s nice, too, that a corner place has such good food.

My very first taxi adventure in Berlin was with a woman who moonlighted as a naturopath, and she loves Italian food. She told me about this place in Schöneberg called Muntagnola which looks really kitschy and touristy, with a menu in four languages and a sculpture of a fat chef by the door. But it’s owned by this family from Basilicata, who specialise in authentic dishes from that region.

Another taxi driver, who’s a part-time techno musician, took me to Balikci Ergun under the Tiergarten S-Bahn tracks. It started out a fish store, where the owner would make lunch for his family – until someone persuaded him to open a restaurant. It’s just like being at a fish bazaar in Istanbul – it’s really warm, and a lovely place to hang out. It’s a great, great place.

Then there’s the next place we’re going to, the Adana Grill-Haus, a tip from a taxi driver from that part of Turkey. Turkish cuisine is very complex, and every region has it’s own thing going on. I never would have discovered that on my own.

food meat turkish portrait

You’re about to go on a short tour of the US to promote your book, Driving Hungry. Do you plan to incorporate some taxi adventures into your trip?

Oh, absolutely. When I land somewhere, I feel overwhelmed. This is a way to cut through everything, and get to something democratic; something that someone has a relationship with.

I don’t feel really grounded in a place until I’ve had a conversation with a cab driver.

Portrait of Layne Mosler

Portrait: Eva Langhorst, Mr. Whippy’s Frozen Yogurt Truck

by Guest Blogger

Eva Langhorst, Mr. Whippy's Frozen Yogurt Truck

by Emma Robertson

You’ve probably seen Eva Langhorst driving around Berlin. After all, her pink and white sixties-style Mr. Whippy ice cream truck is hard to miss. “Freshly made just for you,” it declares in bright blue lettering, and it’s true. Every morning, Eva gathers fresh ingredients – milk, yogurt, fruit – from the local markets in Berlin, and spends the day driving around in her truck, a realisation of a childhood fantasy and an enduring love of ice cream. Her dedication to her craft is made all the more impressive, I find out, because right now Eva is pregnant with a baby girl. When I ask if she’s going to continue running the truck when the baby comes, she smiles. “My parents want to build a custom baby seat for the truck,” she laughs, “So, I can take her with me! We’ll be fine!”

Eva started her business in 2012, and since then, she and her Mr. Whippy truck have travelled all over Germany, selling homemade frozen yogurt. “There’s a lot of risk that you take with a job like this. It’s hard,” she continues, “And when you have a baby, it’s harder. But I don’t really see it as a job. It’s just fun.” It’s no wonder, then, that the end result is so sweet.

iPhone shot Eva Langhorst

In his book The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter wrote, “Forget art. Put your trust in ice cream.”

(Laughs) I definitely agree. I eat ice cream every day! No lie, I can’t get enough of it! I spend all winter actually looking forward to putting on the ice cream machine again! Even if I work all day, my boyfriend and I come home very late at night, we park the car, and we walk to the kiosk to buy an ice cream! (Laughs)

Have you always been this passionate about ice cream?

I was actually quite into ice cream even from childhood! (Laughs) I’ve loved frozen yogurt since I was a girl – that’s where it all started. My mom told me that when I was growing up, I wanted to become an ice cream seller! So there must be something about it! (Laughs)

Do you think that kind of nostalgia plays a certain role in making Mr. Whippy so popular here in Berlin?

Yeah, I think it definitely plays a role! For me, I’ve searched for it for frozen yogurt for years because when I was ten, I tasted it for the first time and I just loved it. With Mr. Whippy, it’s not only the product, it’s also the van that attracts people. Everyone recognises it, it’s like a giant toy! Everyone remembers these kinds of trucks from their childhood, so of course it generates those lovely nostalgic feelings in some way.

Mr Whippy Frozen Yoghurt truck Berlin Tempelhof

Can food, ice cream especially, ever really be as good as the memories or feelings associated with it?

In our case… Yes! My mother makes the best elderflower sauce. It’s one of the syrups that we stock in the truck. Even though, like you said, the associations are a strong influence… I think it really is that good!

Has Mr. Whippy always been a part of your life? Do you have a special connection to the brand?

I actually didn’t know the Mr Whippy trucks because we didn’t have them in Germany. I first wanted to start selling frozen yogurt and only later came the idea of the truck. In 2012, we found the Mr. Whippy truck and imported it from England. It was already a Mr Whippy truck, but I thought, “I can’t change the name!” (Laughs) There was no copyright in Germany, so I just kept it. Then I started to restore the car basically from the inside…

I read that your father helped you re-design the truck.

Right! My dad is really good with cars, luckily. He used to be a racecar driver when he was young! So he’s my helping hand. Without him, it would have been difficult, with all these technical tasks and mechanical problems. It took us four months to restore the truck, and get it decorated. On the side, I work as an illustrator, so that came in handy when we were designing the inside and the signs. I like to work really creatively… I kept all these elements from the sixties and added my own twist, so that was a great project!

Mr Whippy Frozen Yoghurt truck Berlin Tempelhof

It sounds like a family affair. You said your mom makes the sauces, right?

Yes! She’s really sweet. She lives in the countryside and she has this whole garden with all the berries and the elderflowers. So, she does the bases for the sauces for me, and then we have fresh fruits by season as well. I wouldn’t know what to do without my family’s help. My mom helps a lot. And she even comes sometimes to help me with the selling! My dad and I have gone on some trips together with Mr. Whippy. (Laughs) He drives the truck! My cousin helps me as well – she lives in Berlin, too.

Is that homegrown aspect of Mr. Whippy very important to you?

Very important. It makes it so that you can put a lot of love in it. Everyone helps. That’s another reason why I want to keep the company small. It’s important that I’m always present with the truck, I want to keep it close to my heart. We also try to keep the business local… Like I said, we use seasonal fruits from local vendors, and everything is fresh.

That’s what makes Mr. Whippy so different to the kind of ice cream trucks I know from my childhood in Canada, which seemed like a franchise. Everything was mass-produced.

Yeah, actually that happened also a little bit with the Mr. Whippy company itself. It goes back to what we were talking about before with the childhood memories. Sometimes I actually have problems with the name for people who know it from England and associate it with that kind of food franchise. But different people, different connections.

What has the reaction been like from Berliners when they see you driving around?

There’s the English crowd that really knows Mr. Whippy! We used to have ice cream trucks driving around here in Germany when I was a kid, but more in the countryside, so I don’t think Berliners know it that much. They didn’t have that this ice cream culture of the van driving around. For the most part, it’s not the brand that’s the attraction, it’s the look of the big pink truck!

Let’s talk about the product, which is so delicious. What can you tell me about the recipe, or is that top secret?

(Laughs) The secret is actually to keep it simple. It’s important to find a good quality for the base. There are some bases that are just mixes that you stir in with water, and that’s… Well, not so nice. I use fresh yogurt and milk and a bit of lemon, blended with a sugar mix made by another Berliner. He has a frozen yogurt shop and he works as a food developer, studying some kind of gastronomic chemistry. We buy the milk from a local farm as well. So the produce is all from Berlin, and we all work together. We just try to keep it simple and use fresh products.

Close up frozen yoghurt

As for keeping it simple, I imagine it’s been quite a task getting a food truck business up and running in Berlin, the capital of making things complicated.

(Laughs) There’s a lot of rules in Berlin! There are infinite rules about where you can park and sell. When I first started, I thought I could park anywhere in the street, but it turns out it’s very difficult. Of course, the city makes it kind of impossible to park and stay and sell just anywhere. You are bound to the festival places and food markets. It’s also an electricity problem – the machine needs electricity to run, so it’s hard to be self-sufficient. There’s also the problem that because you’re on the road, things can break down! Luckily this has only happened once, but I got towed to the Bread and Butter trade show because I just had to make it there! (Laughs) It’s the same with any job though – you can never foresee what’s going to happen.

Running a truck does have its perks, though, I’m sure.

Of course. This gives me freedom! I can park the car when I don’t want to work anymore. And it waits! I can drive around if I’m not selling well. We’ve driven to Hamburg, Munich, all over Germany on these little adventures in the truck. I don’t think we’d have the same experience if we were rooted in Berlin with a shop or a cafe.

Food trucks are becoming more and more of a trend these days, especially here in Berlin.

Yeah! Definitely. It’s getting really bad for that! When we started, I was one of the first trucks driving around. I got lucky – I was there before the big competition really started. Currently, there’s not really any other frozen yogurt trucks though, so there’s no direct competition for me. There are a lot of people who do ice cream, but the ones that I’ve met, I’ve become friends with. We give each other jobs. It’s a very friendly environment.

I was going to ask… Are you guys out there racing around in your trucks to beat the other vendors to the best spots?

(Laughs) Fortunately, this doesn’t happen, no. We support each other! Sometimes we even park next to each other! You have to live with it.

Do you ever worry that the food truck trend is going to go out of style?

I’m not so scared! I know that actually a lot of frozen yogurt and ice cream shops around Berlin already had to close, and maybe that’s a little bit of a pressure but I don’t think it will ever really go out of style. I think if you have the right product, it doesn’t really matter so much what’s trendy. You create the whole environment. And people will always eat ice cream!

It’s my number one weakness.

I read an article that Germans are the number two highest consumers of ice cream in the world. So why should I worry?! (Laughs) You can have ten burgers but there’s always room for ice cream.

Eva Langhorst Mr Whippy Berlin

Frozen yoghurt flags

Frozen yoghurt homemade sauces

Frozen yoghurt toppings sign

Frozen yoghurt toppings

Wr Whippy Freshly made just for you

Eva Langhorst Mr Whippy's frozen yoghurt truck service with a smile

Portrait: Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery

by James Glazebrook

Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery, Berlin

Meet Matthew Gordon, the co-owner of Taiko Gallery, a new tattoo studio and art space on Schönleinstrasse in our beloved Graefekiez.

Originally from Sydney, Matthew first landed in Berlin two years ago, after travelling to Europe with his Taiko partner Wendy Pham. They visited fellow tattoo artist Uncle Allan in Denmark, who mentioned plans to open a German outpost, and invited the Aussies to join him. Already half a world away from home, they were unphased by the last leg of a journey to a city they’d never even planned to visit. As Matthew says of his fellow countrymen, “we’re all crazy anyway!”

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Moving to Berlin was just the latest in a series of risky but rewarding moves for the young artist. At 19, he quit a promising career as a 3D animator, designing levels for video games and fly-throughs of skyscrapers in Dubai, and persuaded the guy who had started covering his body with ink to train him as an apprentice. Then Gordon cut his apprenticeship short to move to Melbourne, where he opened up a private studio with Wendy.

Inspired by Grime of San Francisco’s Skull and Sword, Shige of Yellow Blaze in Yokohama and local hero Owen Williams of TAMA, Matthew started carving out a niche in the tattoo world: “I don’t look at any other work or references. I draw from my head, and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It’s the only way to give yourself a style”. That style, which Matthew calls “open illustrated Japanese”, renders Eastern-inspired imagery in vibrant colour and (not surprisingly) perfect 3D, with dragons and snakes covered in intricate, interlocked scales that pulsate from the subject’s skin. He conservatively estimates that his forthcoming art book contains over 5,000 hand-drawn scales.

Matthew Gordon Medusa snakes sketch

The desire to be different that informs Matthew’s work is also shaping the shopfront that he single-handedly renovated from a water-damaged, nicotine-stained Fahrschule into a beautiful, white-walled, multidisciplinary space. “We’re trying to create something different, that’s not just a little hole-in-the-wall studio,” Matthew explains. Taiko Gallery  is “more about the art, and less about making a million dollars,” serving as an exhibition space for the founders’ paintings, and a venue for life drawing classes and other creative events. Above all, it is “a positive place”.

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased about the latest development of this small Kreuzberg side-street, where old school Berliner haunts like the 24-hour bar Bei Schlawinchen rub up against the internationally-owned curiosity shop The Cheese Mountain Tragedy. The subject of thoughtless protests against the perceived gentrification of long-gentrified Graefekiez, Matthew finds himself cleaning spit off the gallery’s window almost every day.

But far from feeling threatened by such low-level hostility – “I’ve got a scythe in the back; I’d like to see them try” – he has been surprised by the extent to which foreigners are tolerated, if not always embraced, in Berlin. “Most of my time is spent in my own little bubble. I feel like an alien sometimes, but that’s OK. I’m in my own little world, no one really pays attention to me, and that’s fine.”

Matthew Gordon at work tattooing

“It’s definitely opened my eyes to the way that Australians deal with foreigners. If you go to Australia, and you have trouble speaking English, it’s horrible for you. People are abused to their face, and it’s just shit. If I ever go back and see that, those racists are getting told to shut the fuck up.”

Provincial attitudes aside, Matthew is optimistic about the future of Taiko Gallery and his adopted home: “Even in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed more art going on and I’ve met lots of interesting people. Berlin is a great city. It’s a good place to have a new thing, one that doesn’t really exist yet. In five years, you’ll have built a reputation, with expats and Germans alike.” Put simply: “Being able to see Berlin grow is cool.”

Matthew’s book of snake illustrations, the Compendium Vipera, is now available via Illustrated Monthly.

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Tattoo ink bottles

Matthew Gordon leg tattoo

Matthew Gordon tattoo sketch skull snake

Matthew Gordon Taiko Gallery paintings

Matthew Gordon animal skull painting

Matthew Gordon painting close up

Matthew Gordon self portrait close up

Matthew Gordon, co-owner Taiko Gallery in Berlin

Portrait: Mike Shannon, Cynosure Recordings

by Guest Blogger

Mike Shannon Berlin rooftop

by Emma Robertson

Mike Shannon hates interviews. A DJ, producer and label boss for over 15 years, Mike is the kind of artist that prefers to let the music do the talking. When I ask him about it over coffee at his flat in Kreuzberg, he laughs. “Sometimes when art is over-conceptualised,” he says, “It takes away from the actual art itself.” Luckily for us, his music speaks volumes on its own.

It’s not that Mike is shy — in a city like Berlin where everything is in excess, there’s no room for timidity. Mike chooses to stand out in a different way. His particular brand of music doesn’t jump on trends or ride the bandwagon. A pioneer in the Canadian techno scene, his career has seen a steady upwards trajectory over the years and much of that has to do with the authenticity of his music: “For me, what I’ve been doing… I haven’t really moved around. I’ve stuck with it, and in a city like this, people appreciate that. Even if it doesn’t make you stand out, it earns you a different kind of recognition: respect.” It’s for that reason that when people write about Mike Shannon, they call him a DJ’s DJ. His technique, creativity, and understanding of music are very special. The art of performance is something he will never compromise.

Mike Shannon Berlin studio

As a DJ and a live act, you must experience a lot of pressure in your life: creatively, on stage, in the studio, in the office… What’s your favourite kind of pressure?

Favourite pressure? I don’t know if I like pressure at all! (Laughs) My favourite would have to be the way we’ve been doing things lately with my live act with David DeWalta! We only know more or less half of what we’re gonna do… Maybe less! The other half is wide open territory! There is a certain amount of pressure when you’re improvising like that that creates the best possible situations. When you’re in unknown territory, it’s amazing what can happen.

At the same time, though, you’ve talked previously about your move to Berlin lending you a sense of calm, particularly when you’re DJing.

Sure. That’s an example of a pressure that I’ve felt very relieved from playing in Berlin. There’s a big difference to the way things are here, as far as DJing is concerned. You play six, seven, eight hour sets. You pace things very differently. You take your time. There’s a different school here for that sort of thing. You play a whole lot differently than you would in an hour-long timeslot, for example.

Does that sort of energy affect you?

Totally. When you’re playing an hour-long DJ set, you have to get to the same point in a fraction of the time. There’s less time to tell the same story. I always prefer the sessions where you have time to build up to those explosive moments.

Is it difficult to maintain an element of surprise with your sets?

Digital culture has kind of exploded, so it’s definitely hard to pull out tracks that no one’s heard before. People are just generally way more aware of things than ever before. It’s easier to get access, which is kind of cool but it also means that the only way I truly surprise anyone these days is when I play my own things that no one’s heard before.

We talked about improvising earlier… Does that play into your DJ sets as well?

Yeah! I think there are certain combinations of records that I always somehow go back to putting together. They’re two things that fit together like a glove so it’s hard to separate them, but otherwise, even my DJ sets are pretty much entirely improvised.

I know you love to just get the gear on stage and see how things go on the fly, particularly with the live act with DeWalta that you mentioned earlier.

It’s funny, once we were playing at this Arma17 event in Moscow and we were on after this really amazing experimental jazz band. We changed the plan last minute and just did half an hour of ambient stuff and we had this really long droney intro. The transition that happened there was really amazing. We did it all on the fly, right then and there. It’s funny how those things just work out sometimes.

Mike Shannon Kreuzberg studio

Born and raised in the suburbs of Ontario, Canada, Mike’s career has taken him everywhere from Montreal to Santiago. He fell under Berlin’s spell in the mid 2000s: he’s happily made a home here with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, and likewise carved out a niche for the distinct type of techno that he creates, collects, and shares through his labels Cynosure Recordings and Haunt Music. He hasn’t forgotten his roots, though. His days in Kitchener-Waterloo throwing parties, booking his idols from across the river in Detroit, and cultivating a music community with like-minded friends has done a lot to propel him to where he’s at now.

The view from Mike Shannon's flat

Do you feel at home here in Berlin?

I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else really. I’ve planted a lot of roots here. I can’t imagine having the same kind of quality, even in Canadian cities like Toronto or Montreal. There’s no way I would have the culmination that I have here anywhere else.

Why not?

It was always a struggle for me to make a living as an artist in Canada. The sound that I was playing, that wasn’t really happening enough to sustain myself the way that I can here. In terms of success, of course it depends on how you gauge those things. But it’s funny, the grass is always greener on the other side, you know? You become a bigger artist in Canada when you’re away from it. People get excited about something that’s from somewhere else. You’re never famous where you’re from! (Laughs)

Do you think that your hometown, Kitchener, Ontario, had any influence on you, creatively or musically?

It’s a small town, so there were many moments where you had a lot of time on your hands! We built the scene there. We really built that ourselves! We had our headquarters downtown in a record shop… It was a meeting point for so many people. It became a community. And that was something that really influenced us. You realise how important it is all these years later, to have that kind of community around.

Can you tell me about the parties you used to throw back then?

We threw all kinds of parties, from warehouse events to art scene kind of nights. We were very lucky in terms of where we were geographically, we had connections with those artists that were just south of our border in Detroit, and they weren’t huge artists at the time either: Theo Parrish, Mike Huckabee, D-Wynn, Boo Williams, Robert Hood… Those guys would drive up sometimes, you know what I mean? I remember a party way back when Dan Bell played and he was cool with, like, a case of beer basically! (Laughs)

Wow. Times have changed!

Way different times. Those were the days! We were able to bring in high-calibre people. That’s what made it special, too, just having those deep connections and having those DJs come up and play what they wanted to play. We just kept plugging in the things that we loved and our heroes that we wanted to have play there. Every time we had the opportunity to take advantage of that, we would.

Mike Shannon modular synth

Like most music producers, Mike is a nerd at heart. His studio space recently relocated to a small room in his home in Kreuzberg, and when he brings me downstairs for the grand tour, his face lights up. He can barely keep his hands off the gear: even when he’s talking to me, he’s tinkering around on his self-built modular system or on his laptop.

MIke Shannon modular synth

Tell me about your studio set-up. What’s going on here?

Sure, yeah! Everything is based around my computer. I do a lot of sequencing and sound design with computer editing. Next to it, I’ve got this modular system that I’ve been building for years. I add a little bit to it over time, and recently I’ve gotten into building some of those elements from scratch, which is really interesting. I’m getting even deeper into the nerd thing! (Laughs) More than ever before!

Is this where you feel most at home?

Probably! I love being in the studio. For me, when things are getting stressful, or when things are getting to be too much, I disappear in there. It’s the best way to relieve some of my daily stresses. It’s my escape. For the moments that I’m in there, it’s an escape.

Mike Shannon studio nerd

You just moved your studio back here, right? How important is it to have this space in your home?

It’s been a big change for me. There’s certain moments where you have an idea and you can bounce on it right away! Whereas before, the time it would take me to go down the street to the studio, I’d lose the momentum or get completely distracted… It’s perfect to have this ability to wake up in the middle of the night and work on something right away if I want to. It’s easier to act on creativity in this environment.

In another interview of yours from years ago, you said that, “My goal is to make a track that won’t be forgotten after one play, a record that you could put on years from now and still get the same feeling.” Do you think your productions so far have accomplished that?

Not everything has been timeless, no. There are certain things that I slightly regret that definitely sound like they’re from a very specific time. I think if you can put a date on it, then it’s not timeless. It’s not so easy! But I do think I’ve made some tracks that are timeless. I hope there’s one at least!

Space Hall records close up

Mike is a vinylphile. His record collection spans multiple walls in his office, and it’s not uncommon to leave his place with a stack of CDs or records that he just has to have you listen to. He grew up in a musical household — a tradition that he carries on in his own home. There’s always some kind of melody floating around, whether it’s a Bohren & der Club of Gore track, a tune he’s working on with his daughter, or the latest release from his label. Ever since buying his first record (Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two”) when he was young, Mike was hooked on vinyl. He’s become a regular at Space Hall in Kreuzberg, so he takes us on a quick tour of his favourite sections. Flipping through the house and techno crates, he’s completely in his own world.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records Kreuzberg Berlin

I read that you used to listen to Thomas Dolby’s The Golden Age of Wireless. You said something funny, which was that it was “a record that would fuel your little world.”

It really was! I still have that record in my office! (Laughs) I still listen to it. I put on “Windpower” and it changes everything! I’m moving in the office when I put that on!

Is there a record that kind of accomplishes the same thing for you today?

I think probably the coolest record that that I listen to endlessly is The Hearts of Empty from these guys called Dakota Suite. It’s on a label called Karaoke Kalk, which is by far my favourite German label. I’m rarely disappointed with the records they put out.

Let’s talk about Space Hall for a bit —

This is my favourite record store in the world! I buy all kinds of different records here — you can buy just about any genre here. That’s the best thing about this place is that they have a massive backstock that really expands all the way through every genre. Their techno and house section is particularly good, which is what I like to buy mostly. The guys that work here are crazy as hell! It’s a very relaxed atmosphere.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records

It’s my first time here and I feel very welcomed. I’m always secretly a bit intimidated coming into record shops for some reason.

I’ve totally been there. People get really scared! Some people get really intimidated in record stores, especially these famous shops; you walk in and your tension goes up and you’re scared to talk to anybody. There are definitely certain shops in Berlin that are like that but at Space Hall, it’s way more relaxed. I can light up a smoke in the shop and be completely at ease with what I’m doing there. I can almost always find what I want to find, too.

When you’re shopping, where do you start? Do you know what you’re looking for?

No, no, no. I almost never know exactly what I’m looking for in there. I start by looking at everything that’s new in house and techno, I look through and listen to all of them. I skip through and I like to shop maybe twice or three times a week. I start there in the morning and go through as much as I can. I could spend days at Space Hall and not get bored.

Cynosure records Space Hall

There’s definitely a certain romance about wax. Those who love it really love it.

There’s something about flipping through records in my bag or at the shop, something about that whole process that I find way more comfortable than scanning through CDs or files. I try to do that! I’ve had a couple of situations where my records didn’t come and I had to try to play with just burning some CDs… I couldn’t do it well at all. Totally lost on how I organise myself. With vinyl, you’re touching it and feeling it. There’s something really special about that.

Mike Shannon Space Hall records Berlin