The Story of Bauwerk Colour
In the beginning...
....were just two people on the opposite end of the world. Both had one thing in common: ISOLATION. One lived on a remote farm in Australia with many miles of farmland to the nearest neighbour, the other lived on the communist side of Germany with every restriction in place of seeing the world or choosing his own destiny.
But isolation does have peculiar side effects: one sees the immediate world with greater intensity. The remote rural landscape of Australia, the colours and shapes burned deep into the soul. The overgrown and abandoned vineyards and buildings in Dresden, East Germany and the sensuality of the landscape and tactile hand hewn sandstones of decaying historic structures left life long appreciation for textures and harmonic structures.
Both came together years later, after Andreas left East Germany and migrated to Australia to start a new life. Bronwyn moved from the remote Victorian farm to Melbourne and later Perth, Western Australia, where they finally met and fell in love with each other.
Andreas started a building company that was specialised in the conservation and restoration of historic buildings.
Bronwyn ran her own textile business, producing hand painted fabrics and teaching colour theory.
Starting a paint company (2003)
A work accident meant that Bronwyn needed to recover for several weeks and had time to ponder a future where Andreas and Bronwyn could combine their talents and work in a joint business.
By then Andreas already supplied his own lime paints for the heritage projects he was contracted to do. His research had shown a remarkable resilience of lime wash paints below all sorts of other paint layers on the buildings he worked on. All the paint layers from before the 1950's had survived, whereas more recent layers where peeling off and, due not not being breathable, were doing harm to the fabric of the buildings.
Bronwyn and Andreas found a property from where to start their paint business in South Fremantle, close to the Harbor and only a few steps away from the Indian Ocean. The property was a former bakery with the old bakehouse out the back and a front showroom at street level. While Andreas and building team were busy with an amazing project 1000 km north of Perth, Bronwyn set out to renovate the new found shop.
Today the same area is a bustling shopping strip, but when Bauwerk moved into South Fremantle it had a sad and abandoned feeling. So the idea was born to combine the paint shop with a cafe. That would bring people to the area and it would be more of a destination and discovery to shop for lime paints.
And so a young team was hired to run the cafe, Bronwyn created the menu and Andreas the systems and technical side to the paint business.
Within a year the cafe won Mietta Award, given to only the top 100 best cafes and restaurants in Australia. So it was proven that Bronwyn can come up with excellent recipes - something she also excelled in creating colour recipes for the lime paint range of Bauwerk Colour.
But lime wash paint does require more than colour. Starting with the best available raw material, lime: we had an amazing resource close at hand. The tradition of a wood fired lime kiln was still being carried out by a immigrant family from Yugoslavia, producing the most chemically pure and white lime putty, that Andreas already used for the restoration projects.
The lime putty required ageing, like a good wine, it simply gets better and better the longer it is allowed to hydrate.
A lot of research went into the pigments that create the amazing colour range the Bauwerk can offer today. Only powder pigments should be added, pure and simple. Long term exposure to the very high UV exposure of the Western Australian sun, heat exposure and stability in an alkaline medium, to name just a few of the criteria.
Nobody, it seemed, had taken the effort to elevate the humble whitewash, purified it and strengthened the innately inherent qualities and put it into a modern, fresh context. But when done so consequently and applied with the right brush, nice and thin, the paint became more than a decoration. Something of a more sensuous, dynamic and ever so creative process. What's more, the lime paint form a full ''Alchemists'' cycle:
As a raw material, made from sea shells, it starts as a STONE. Chemically it is calcium carbonate.
It then get heated with FIRE. During that process carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Chemically it is then calcium oxide.
After cooling down the burned limestone rocks get mixed into WATER. that basically liquifies the stone, it becomes lime putty (calcium hydroxide).
The lime putty forms the basis of the paint. It gets mixed up and purified and is being brought (after long storage) to the right consistency. The pigments are added and the paint is shipped to where it is needed.
When it is then finally painted on the wall it completes the full circle back to microscopic stone. It does so with the simple action of combining itself with the previously released CO2 from the AIR.
And there you have it: STONE - FIRE - WATER - AIR. Pure, perfect, seemingly simple. Natural. In other words: Bauwerk Colour!
Looking for growth (2005)
A good product needs a good home, for Bronwyn and Andreas the ISOLATION of Western Australia provided a good place to invent, experiment and perfect the product. But Western Australia is vast. It is about the size of ⅓ of Europe. With only about 1 million people calling it their home. Most of them live in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. It is the most isolated capital in the world. The nearest city is 2000km away: Adelaide, even smaller than Perth.
For Bronwyn and Andreas reaching larger markets was a necessity. Within Australia Melbourne was a good market, but 5 hrs flight away. As a small company setting up in other cities was a very cost expensive undertaking.
If you need to travel by plane anyway, what other markets were available both of them thought. Already a website was attracting attention from the Middle East and the decision taken to exhibit in the largest building expo in the Middle East, the BIG5 in Dubai.
Andreas and Bronwyn manned the booth, with only 1.5 meters in width not much could be displayed. But a video loop brought up one amazing image after another, from the previously completed projects in Australia. That was enough and a first project in Saudi Arabia was secured, followed by quite a number more. Realising that some of the homes are on a different scale, some required 2 container loads of paint, it was clear there was potential.
Living Internationally (2008)
Be careful what you wish for. Growing beyond your home confines has many challenges. Living apart is one of them.
Andreas and Bronwyn had started their paint brand in the year they turned 40. Both made a promise to dedicate the next 20 years of their lives to the venture and take it as far as they both could. Their sons Levi and Thomas where finishing school and it was the right time to start something new.
Andreas' supported the sales in the Middle East and realised that the materials used to render the houses was not optimal for the application of their paint. He collected material samples and researched suppliers for better raw materials. Explaining the benefits of including lime into renders and using different types of sand and cement convinced a Saudi customer to finish his building with the suggested render mix. The result was something so new and the application of the paints resulted in such a fascinating finish that a business partner was approaching Andreas with the desire to built a factory in Riyadh to produce such renders commercially.
It took some time to secure the industrial site and the first small scale factory was set up. The goal was to produce sprayable renders, something that never had been attempted in the hot Middle Eastern Desert of Saudi Arabia. Nobody knew if it was even technically possible.
Machines were imported and adapted, trial after trial was run until the recipe was right.
Today, DMC, the company that was set up to produce the sprayable renders is know in Saudi Arabia as the innovator, the company with the most sophisticated range of dry mortar products and the company that revolutionised the render application forever. Spraying renders is now a standard procedure. Part of the range of DMC are wonderful lime renders and and lime coat, a thin coat render specially developed for Bauwerk Lime Paint.
During that time Levi, Bronwyn and Andreas first son, started to work in the company - first to help out, then casual, then in a full time position.
Meanwhile other paint projects took place in Qatar, Kuwait and Dubai and first sales in Europe.
Bronwyn and Andreas thought of ways to reach customers that live far away and don't have a chance to see a physical store. The internet developed, the websites became more sophisticated and being online became more and more possible and widespread. Bronwyn started the social media accounts. Instagram started and with it a very powerful way to share images.
Moving to Europe (2009)
Whilst holidaying in Europe the idea of a place in Europe where the entire family can come together became more and more something that Bronwyn researched. What Bronwyn and Andreas settled on was an abandoned Manor house deep in the country side in North Saxony. The descriptions read: Previous water castle with the largest plane tree in Europe in the front garden. Both travelled to see the tree, since plane trees was something both had been planting wherever they lived or built houses. But sitting on the front steps of the old house and looking at the majestic tree both knew they had found something special. It had been abandoned for more than 20 years and came without water, electricity, heating, internet or a functioning septic system. Now restoring houses was not totally unfamiliar territory, the foundations and the bones of the building were sound, all else would have to come slowly.
By then a first branch of Bauwerk Colour had started in the UK, soon to be followed in Holland. Faith would have it that both operators needed to make changes and Bronwyn and Andreas decided it was time to start building a head office in Germany. Both were by then shuttling between Australia, the Middle East and Europe. That is fun for a while, especially when one can seek the warmer months out and skip long cold winters.
However, try to grow veggies AND eat them and satisfying different tax entities makes for a slightly more complicated life!
Setbacks ask for re-set of focus
Setbacks can come out the blue. The first was a complete change of the power structure in Saudi Arabia. Overnight 80% of all building activity stopped and companies started a scramble for survival. DMC, the mortar company in Riyadh, that Andreas had so much effort put into, was no exception. The company was in great difficulties, but thanks to a strong quality focus and orders for the construction of the Metro in Riyadh it survived. Andreas and Bronwyn decided it was time to focus on Europe and both moved into the the Manor house in Germany. Thankfully, by then they had put in place all the services and were completing a modern heating system.
It was time to improve on all the systems, improve packaging, hire more staff, buy adjacent properties that came up for sale and make updates to the website to allow export to all European countries and Northern America. With Brexit came another challenge, the UK has been the strongest market in Europe for Bauwerk Colour and remains so. With persistence a workable solutions was found to make it really easy for customers in the UK to receive their orders.
And then Covid started. Nobody knew how to sail through a pandemic. But locked up people are getting sick of being locked up with nothing to do - except - renovate! BAUWERK's focus on online sales started to be a hell of an advantage. Growth went berserk! Hiring more staff, expanding into newly acquired buildings that needed serious renovation, shuffling stock to and from Australia to make up production shortages of some of the raw materials. Staying in time with the times and listening to the customers - and never wavering to built it all on the principles of sustainability.
Amazingly, both sons of Andreas' and Bronwyn are now working firmly in the business. Levi manages Australia, Thomas lives now in Germany and manages part of the team here. And with that all together are...
On the path to sustainable growth
2023 saw the introduction of a much needed new website. A lot of time went into the design and functionality. A great team from Melbourne was hired who set about to bring ideas to live to create the most advanced online store experience for lime wash paints. It really is a crazy task, millions of data points must be 100% accurate for it to function. Tax rules must be taken account of for literally dozens of tax jurisdictions and all must seamlessly integrate with shipping companies and last, but not least (!) all transactions automatically accurately recorded to the most stringent tax regulations in Germany. Pfffft!!!
With several thousand monthly orders one centrally important rule set out by Bronwyn and Andreas was the guiding principle: Strong growth must be sustainable! That is true for a great team and their stress free processing and fulfilling all orders whilst never compromising customer service quality. And that principle also includes financial prudence, as Bauwerk has never taken on debt - both founders believe in organic growth managed with funds generated from existing revenue.
Growth with real products also needs physical space. A few years ago Andreas and Bronwyn had the opportunity to purchase two great barns adjacent to the Old Manor house that once belonged to the entire estate. Built in successive years starting from 1735 they saw little in way of maintenance or upgrade since. Andreas' expertise with historic buildings helped to plan and execute a complete transformation from a purely agricultural use as horse and sheep stables to that of a sophisticated production and processing manufacture whilst retaining all the charm of the time worn beams, stone walls and amazing roof construction, now filled again with live of a modern age, yet - amazingly, also with lime washed walls again. Work has now started on new, modern extensions that will cater for the next phase. Re-use of neglected, historic structures is part of sustainability and keeps work places within the village boundaries.
Where from here?
The team is working hard to complete the German and Spanish translations.
The new FAQ Section will form the basis for searchable and very detailed information on just bound anything anyone could ask about lime wash paint and the application process.
Also, the marketing team has started to experiment with artificial intelligence for image overlays: Imagine that we will be able to use an existing photo and enhance it with the texture and feel of our lime wash colours. That could aid architects to create visualisations for their clients based on their drawings, for instance.
Artificial Intelligence will also be part of the customer service. Having thought it through we believe that we should incorporate it to enhance, but not eliminate the human customer service. However, wherever we use it it will be clearly marked as AI.
And a few more products will become available in 2024 - but that is for