This year Danish design brand Georg Jensen celebrates 50 years of collaboration with master silversmith Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe. During #scandidesigntour2017, a group of bloggers and I got a sneak peek behind the scenes in their silversmith workshop in Copenhagen to see how her famous Torun bangle is made. It was a fascinating insight into the world of Georg Jensen, learning about their dedication to craftsmanship and their timeless design aesthetic.
Georg Jensen was founded by the man himself in Copenhagen in 1904. He desired to create democratic design that was both beautiful and functional. Inspired by nature, the first pieces were in the Art Nouveau style popular at the time – ornate brooches and exquisite jewellery with delicate florals and lush bunches of fruit with amber gems. Today, Georg Jensen aims to keep his design philosophy alive, producing jewellery and silverware for the home.
The Georg Jensen smithy is a relatively small, intimately-sized workshop, with 27 silversmiths working there. Pieces are formed by hand and expertly hammered into shape, giving the silver a tactile quality and luminescence without being overly shiny and too bling.
It takes apprentices four years to learn the silversmith’s specialist skills, then two to three years to make a Georg Jensen piece themselves. One silver pitcher, for example, can take one and half months to make once they know what they’re doing. Pieces have a heritage and sense of permanence, with skills being passed down from one silversmith to the next.
Georg Jensen first started working with Swedish-born silversmith Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (d. 2004) in 1967. Often known simply as Torun, she was born in 1927 to a creative family – her mother was a sculptor, who taught her how to use nature as a source of inspiration, and her father painted. She travelled around the world, living in France, meeting artists such as Picasso and Matisse, Germany and Indonesia, before settling in back in Scandinavia. She staged her first exhibition aged just 21 and set up her own studio, making her the first female silversmith in Sweden to have her own workshop.
Her design philosophy was that jewellery should be timeless and follow you through life’s moments as you age and grow old, being passed down through generations. Torun believed that you shouldn’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not – her pieces should feel comfortable and natural to wear everyday.
She also designed her pieces to have symbolic meanings, using the same shapes and reinterpreting them over time. For Torun, the double vortex spiral was a symbol of eternal love, as was a spoon.
Torun’s pieces were mainly formed by bending silver into beautiful forms using one single piece of metal, such as her famous Torun bangle. The bangle wraps around the wrist and locks together, symbolising that two people are stronger together than apart.
It takes 10 hours to make a Torun bangle. The strand of silver is first cut down to size using a small saw. It’s then filed smooth, to define the slender shape. The piece of silver can then be clamped and bent using a special mould forms the distinctive hook and loop that it slots into.
We had a go at cutting and filing our own bangles, but as they would normally have 7-8 years experience before they even got to this point, I think it’s safe to leave it to the experts!
We then took a look in the archives, where the original drawings and designs are kept. Since Torun passed away in 2004, they’ve revived some archive pieces with approval of her family.
After a brilliant day discovering the world of Georg Jensen, we were each given a beautiful Torun bangle of our own to take home. What a stunning momento from a wonderful trip, something I will treasure for years and years to come – thank you Georg Jensen!
All images: Cate St Hill. Thank you to Fredericia and Georg Jensen for hosting us in Copenhagen for the #scandidesigntour2017