A Silver Lining

by Design Days Dubai

A Silver Lining

The renaissance of a rare craft has encouraged some of the biggest names in design to truly shine

‘Preserving the old to create the new’ is the philosophy at the heart of Austrian silversmiths Wiener Silber Manufactur, creator of some of the world’s finest silverware since 1882. From its earliest days (when the company was named for its founder Alexander Sturm) collaborations with the avant-garde designers of the day including renowned 19th Century architect Josef Hoffman, cemented its reputation as the creators of luxury silver objets and tableware. Over 130 years later, that reputation remains, quite literally, untarnished.

At Design Days Dubai, Wiener Silber Manufactur will again present pieces from some of the world’s leading contemporary designers: Wolfgang Joop (Magic Mushrooms); Thomas Bastide (Ikra Ice); BIG-GAME (HAMMER Lamp) and Ermin Wurm (Fat-Car Zuccheriera) “Our relationship with these designers is so familiar now – just as if we are part of a large family,” says Wiener Silber Art Director Dr. Barbara Kamler-Wild. “They only ever work with the world’s best-known lifestyle and fashion brands and we are very proud that they appreciate our craft and understand that what we do is so rare.”

The company’s latest collaboration might just be its most high profile yet.  The designs of Zaha Hadid and crafted by Wiener Silber will be debut at Design Days Dubai 2015 for the first time. Hadid has created a duo of vases  “Loa“ and “Vesu“ handcrafted from pure silver (940/000.) Although a pair, they are available individually and in a limited edition of just 25 of each. 

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Barbara explains how the designer/crafter relationship evolved: “Zaha worked extremely quickly. Within minutes of our first meeting she knew what she wanted to design, what the style and size should be.  Following that, she sent us her computer-generated renderings to be adapted for manufacturing in silver.”

Then came the difficult part. Working full-time it took two silversmiths – with the company’s master silversmith Antonio Umani at the helm - three months of full-time work and three and a half kilograms of silver to produce the first two vases. The languid lines of Hadid’s designs featuring undulating waves that ebb and flow towards the vase’s tapered top required the highest levels of precision, with every wave chiselled by hand.

“As with most of our design collaborations there was no mould, “ explains Barbara. Antonio simply had a plastic version of the vase to enable him to view the design in three-dimensional form.” The result from using this method ensures that every design crafted by Wiener Silber’s team is entirely unique.

Although the company enjoys the same renown today as in its halcyon days of the late 19th and early 20th century, it was not always so. The political turmoil in Austria in the 1930s caused the factory to close its gates with just a small band of silversmiths keeping the craft alive until it finally closed in 1988. It took 20 years before current owner George Stradiot resurrected the company as Wiener Silber Manufactur, taking over the workshop and over 11,000 original designs from the archives.

“It took a great deal of investment to reposition the brand and encourage the best designers to work with us but it has not been too difficult,” says Barbara,  “They see we are unique and understand the responsibility we have to keep this wonderful partnership between designer and craft alive.”

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