The Master of the Stars

Michael Hammers' gigantic Christmas Stars

The firmament has a new star.
A real Hammers.

By Hildegard Mathies

The newborn star by Michael Hammers softly shines its light into the night sky above Innsbruck. The artist from Aachen who also created the star for the most famous Christmas tree in the world – in front of the Rockefeller Center in New York –, has regaled the Innsbruck Christkindlmarkt with a new celestial body. The star, which is almost four metres in height, crowns the Swarovski crystal tree, which itself is more than 14 metres tall and forms the radiating centre of the Christmas fair in the city’s market square.

Despite all its brilliance, the star of Innsbruck is to shine just as modestly as the way in which Jesus Christ was born into the world in a stable in Bethlehem. Clearly visible and an eyeturner too, of course. But not loud, intrusive or overpowering. Hence, there is no excited twinkling, and even the famous Swarovski crystals have been built into the inside of the elegant silver giant.

Almost 2500 tiny crystals of 14 millimetres in diameter have been mounted in front of 54 LED spotlights and disperse the light. A total of 36 light-scenarios can be timed and randomly enacted and let the star, which is more than three metres in diameter shine. “The effect is magical”, finds Hammers’ client, former Swarovski boss Gernot Langes-Swarovski, known to this day as the “master of crystals”.

The night of enlightenment

When Michael Hammers talks, it feels almost like being there on the night when the Innsbruck star shone for the very first time. There they are, sitting in their car, a few hundred metres down the road, looking at their star: Hammers, the creator of the filigreed marvel made of glass-pearl-blasted steel, and Florian Kick who is responsible for the light and electric planning. Immaterial are now all the hours and days of planning, refining and constructing as well as the late hour of the day. Hammers is devoted to his projects with all his heart. Clock hands and other nullities do not come into it.

Those who work with him do not only know this, but share it. Voluntarily and gladly. In spite of all his artistic and know-how-based self-confidence, which Hammers exuberates in a down to earth and endearing manner after almost three decades of creative work: he is a team player. And the founder and creative head of Michael Hammers Studios does not only demand full commitment from his co-workers and cooperation partners – he himself gives it too. This makes it easy for him to inspire people.

It is after midnight. Via Wi-Fi Kick steers the lighting programme. And then the star finally gleams exactly as it should. “With the light that I integrated I wanted it to belong to the sky”, says Michael Hammers. With the wonder of a child the 49-year-old finds the light effect “utterly fascinating”. Just as the real stars in the firmament twinkle silently and seem to move, his star appears to be alive. It floats over Innsbruck and lets us forget that it weighs 570 kilograms.

The most beautiful star

“It is exactly where I wanted it”, rejoices the artist. Once again he has succeeded to let something materialise from his power of imagination, bringing it from the realm of ideas into reality. “I am happy that I have got the measurements and proportions just right”, he says. “After all, I did not know the Christkindlmarkt before.”

But he did meet the founder of the fair, Christian Mark. He describes him as someone who just does his own thing. Someone who takes care that his Chistkindlmarkt does not only consist of food and drinks stalls or the usual made-in-China range. This was also why it was clear for Hammers from the start: “I will create an Innsbruck mountain Christmas and not an Innsbruck mountain fun fair.” That he succeeded became evident straight away, on the night the star shone for the first time: “Only moments later somebody from the mountain rang Mr. Mark and told him that he had just seen the most beautiful star.”

Stars form a golden trail through Hammers’ work. “I see stars everywhere”, he says. In nature, in architecture, in everyday life – the man blessed with many gifts also spots stellar shapes in places where others would not even suspect them. And he has been developing new star shapes, 20 or more by now. “This comes to me easily”, the artist recounts.

When eternity breaks into time

The fascination with heavenly entities is rooted in his Christian background. The Christmas star, the star of Bethlehem, which led the Three Wise Men to baby Jesus in his manger, for Hammers it is the star of all stars. “For me that is eternity entering time”, he says without pathos. For him this powerful sign is, however, not attached to any faith community or religion: “It is universal.”

For Michael Hammers stars and comets in particular are also symbols for time and life. “Comets emerge and – like everything – only become visible in the light of the sun”, he explains. “They exist in the dark for a long time, become visible, follow their path and perish. That is what we call time.” That the moving celestial bodies only form their tails when they perish, he finds particularly remarkable. He pauses for a moment. “I can understand why people say: ‘that is my star’, when something good or bad happens to them.”

Humans always look upwards. At all times and in all cultures this has been repeating itself. Even though Hammers himself likes to look at the clouds – he is not an astrologer or an esoteric. “It is not so much that I think that the stars are watching over me”, he says. He rather believes that man “stands where he stands, and orientates himself by what surrounds him”. But he is also sure: “I have always followed a star. I have never consciously decided on anything and never knew where I would end up.” He just starts, begins to walk, just does it – trusting that he will find at the end what inspiration had promised him in the beginning. At least that.

And what does this mean for his Stars, whether in Innsbruck or New York? “When children’s eyes look at them and shine and the children point at the star, then I have done everything right”, says Michael Hammers. For adults stars are symbols of peace, harmony, love and special events and times – not only, but particularly at Christmas. And for many people stars represent their loved ones, the living as well as those who preceded them, with whom they also feel connected eternally. Because of this and not only because of the big radiance of the heavenly stars, it would be beautiful if Michael Hammers’ dream would come true: “Every city in the world needs a star.” And ideally one made by the master of the stars.

Translation: Marion Weisskirchen


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