Artisanal precision is at the core of the ‘Arched’ centrepiece

Artisanal precision is at the core of the ‘Arched’ centrepiece

For Wallpaper* Handmade X, Norwegian silver manufacturer Arven and Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Guglielmo Poletti design a seemingly simple ‘conversation piece’

Italian designer Guglielmo Poletti creates furniture from charming compositions of elemental forms. Using simple rubber, wood and steel shapes, either fastened with ropes or elegantly balanced, the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate gives new meaning to mundane objects, instilling them with grace and lightness.

Playing matchmaker, we introduced him to the refined skills of Norwegian silver manufacturer Arven. Established in 1868, originally as Theodor Olsen Silversmiths, the Bergen-based company has produced silverware by local icons such as Trygve Eriksen and Birger Saastad, as well as pieces by contemporary Norwegian designers such as Lars Beller Fjetland.

Guglielmo Poletti at Arven’s workshop
Italian designer Guglielmo Poletti at Arven’s workshop. Photography: Ivar Kvaal

When Lilli-Anne Alver acquired the company (by now comprising three different workshops and factories, which Olsen and his heirs had incorporated over time) in 2015, she wanted to instil new life into the traditional outfit. It was a move that resonated with Poletti. ‘She renamed the company Arven, “legacy” in Norwegian,’ explains Poletti. ‘I found it a beautiful choice, to pay tribute to the heritage of the factories.’ Alver and Poletti hit it off immediately, bonding over their shared passion for design and craftsmanship, as well as seafood and winter sports.

Poletti was keen to test the potential of silver and started experimenting in his Milan studio. ‘My love for metals goes hand in hand with my way of working,’ he says. ‘I am fascinated by the fact that by adjusting micro thicknesses and proportions, a structure can change completely. For me, this is proof that “God is in the details”.’ It’s a vision he shares with Alver, who was keen for her workshop to push the boundaries of silverworking. ‘Guglielmo approaches his work based on a “thinking by doing” philosophy and combines this with a good deal of intuition,’ she adds. ‘I like that, and wanted to create a space for him without limitations.’

’Arched’ Centrepiece bars
Dipping the silver bars in acid to cleanse them. Photography: Ivar Kvaal

To kick off the project, the designer created some models by hand, letting the materials guide him. He then took these abstract, small-scale studies to Bergen, to develop the project with Alver and her team of craftsmen. One model stood out from the rest, and Alver dedicated a workshop to the project, leaving it in the hands of master silversmith Janne Moinichen Brandtzaeg, who worked closely with Poletti throughout the process. Poletti’s initial steel model was recreated in silver – a transition that required clever adaptations to suit the material’s different structural behaviour.

Titled ‘Arched’, the result of their collaboration is a seemingly simple composition of silver rods held by two brass supports, suspended to create a centrepiece – or a ‘conversation piece’ to gather people around the table, as Poletti describes it – that is both functional and poetic in its purity of form.

Custom tools used to make the ’Arched’ Centrepiece
The bars were bent by hand with custom tools to create a perfect curve, then welded to brass supports. ‘Getting the exact same gap between the bars was essential to the look we wanted,’ explains Arven’s owner Lilli-Anne Alver. ‘The bars could not be forced into another shape after the welding process was done.’ Photography: Ivar Kvaal

‘I see the pureness of the outcome as an ode to silver, a tribute to the material itself,’ says Poletti. ‘We spent most of the time trying to understand the material’s behaviour. The shape emerged from the material itself, its geometry being a pure consequence of the structure.’ The pair kept experimenting up until the moment the very last finishing touches were applied using a glass-blasting technique that gives the silver a subtle texture.

The finished product merges artisanal precision and creative intuition, a fitting synthesis of the two collaborators. ‘For us, the piece has both duality and harmony,’ says Alver. ‘Just as love should.’ §

As originally featured in the August 2019 issue of Wallpaper* (W*245)

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