AN INTERVIEW WITH GEORG JENSEN DESIGNER ALLAN SCHARFF
1. Where were you born? What did your parents do?
In JÊgersborg, North of Copenhagen. My father played Clarinet in the Danish Symphony and for the last 10 years of his life was a Professor at the National Classic Conservatory. My mother worked for an accountant.
2. Often, Georg Jensen would talk about his childhood in the country town of Raadvad as the source of his inspiration from nature. You've also talked about how nature inspires your work. Where and how did this inspiration begin and how is it renewed?
When I was 10, a dear aunt took me to Austria. I saw mountains for the first time. (Denmark is a very flat country.) I met a boy who was four years older than me who was beginning his career as a mountain guide. We formed a friendship that has lasted to today and has included many climbing expeditions. Through him I learned to see the great wonders of nature and the high mountains which have been a wonderful source of inspiration. For the first time in my life I found something I enjoyed doing and was good at.
3. You became an apprentice at 17 so you must have known at a very early age that you wanted to be a silversmith. When did that happen and what and/or who influenced that decision?
Actually no ... my parents got divorced when I was very young. I lived alone with my mother. I was a very shy and near sighted boy and I had dyslexia. The school never discovered that I had problems. To them I was just a "dummy". It was only 5 years later in another school, that they start treating my learning disabilities. All 11 years of school I felt out of place. The last 3 years I spent in a special school for difficult boys.
In those days there was an aptitude test given in Copenhagen that was quite successful in helping young people determine their abilities. The test lasted for 8 hours and included many different parts. A week after the test when I came for the results, they said:
”It’s very simple. You can be a draftsman or a silversmith.” I didn't want to be a draftsman and I didn't actually know what a silversmith did, but my uncle was a friend of the director of Georg Jensen, so he arranged for me try out at the workshop.
For the second time in my life I was doing something that I was good at and made me feel good.
4. Tell me about your family. Are you married? Do you have children? Where do you live? Do you still work full time as a designer/silversmith? How do they feel about your work?
I live alone now but have been married 2 times !! I have 2 lovely daughters from my first marriage. They are now 25 & 23 years old and live close to me. The younger, Vibe, helps me in the workshop and the older, Inger, has given me a granddaughter who is 4 years now and a great joy for me.
5. After you create a design for Georg Jensen what is the process through which that design is actualised and becomes a 3 dimensional object?
I deliver a full 3D model in silver with drawings. Sometimes I also produce computer tool drawings. For the last piece, to prove that it would work, I even made the first tool on my CNC cutter. This is a 3 axle computer controlled machine that cuts exactly the shape I draw out of a solid piece of hard material. It cuts an over and under part to create a tool that I can stamp a plate of silver into and get the design I have drawn in the 3D computer program. In the way you can say that a part of me ended up working as a draftsman after all!!!
6. Your last project when you finished your apprenticeship was to execute a design of Henning Koppel's. Was Koppel a significant influence on your work?
Henning Koppel used me as his hands the last year of my apprenticeship. He was trained to do sculpture but couldn't shape the silver himself at that point. So he directed me, sometimes coming to the workshop every day when we were developing new ideas. He made the shape in plaster and I made a copy in silver. Then he would direct me and I would move the silver, forcing it back and forth until we achieved the form he was seeking.
Those early design lessons meant a lot to my professional life.
7. Who and/or what were significant influences on your work?
Henning Koppel who added Art to silverware design!!!
8. What was the most difficult piece you created? Why?
The Centerpiece I made for the Museum at Koldinghus last year .... It would take too long to tell why ...
9. What is your favourite piece? Why?
Actually, my shoehorn created in 1979 as a gift for a close friend., It is a daily joy to use and at the same time is a sculpture on the table.
10. What was the impetus to create Danish Silversmiths? How has this organization changed over the years?
To make exhibitions of silver to help the young silversmiths to grow. I was one of the young ones when the group started in 1976 and it helped me a lot. Now we do the same for the new ones. We are preparing an exhibition in China now. Each member has to do 2 new works inspired by Hans Christian Andersen fairytales.
11. Do you love what you do? Did you ever think of doing something else? Are there new challenges you now face in your work?
Yes I do. I feel great when I get an idea. I forget time and place making this idea visual so that it finds its own artistic way to appear in life.
Doing it just the way I feel and seeing the response from customers.
I am preparing a long row of new big silver pieces to be shown next year at the Danish Museum of Decorative Art in Copenhagen and I feel more inspired and free than ever.
12. If you were being interviewed by Playboy magazine they would ask you if you sleep in the nude ....
But I Do ...
An email interview conducted with Alice Kossoff in April, 2005.
More about Allan Scharff HERE