I think it’s fair to surmise that most parents in the UK would be somewhat surprised if their young son or daughter turned to them and said: “when I grow up I want to be a goldsmith”.
Unless they are fortunate enough to associate with goldsmiths from an early age, children generally are not inclined to find themselves thinking about a future as one, simply because influences such as television, books, pop culture and even school career advice are unlikely to give the career attention to equal that of doctor, scientist or graphic designer.
However, on my recent trip to the current World Design Capital, Finland’s Helsinki, with jewellery brand Lapponia, I learnt that there there is a different story, with young people making an early conscious decision to forge a career as a goldsmith.
Lapponia Jewelry was established in 1960 in Finland by entrepreneur Pekka Anttila and today it’s Helsinki headquarters, Lapponia House, is teaming with talented goldsmiths allowing for every piece of Lapponia jewellery to be made in-house.
“Lapponia goldsmiths have decades of experience,” we were told by Lapponia managing director Laura Lares in her perfect English. “It is quite unusual for a country to keep their jewellery craft within the country but in Finland, many young people aspire to this profession.” And the in-house goldsmiths work closely with the artists who design Lapponia’s jewellery.
The Finnish jewellery brand, which has a confident commitment to high technology, high design and high talent, works with a host of artists, each with their own design philosophy. Lapponia’s relationship with each of the artists is enduring, and the company has worked with many of the artists for decades.
For instance, we were fortunate enough to be invited to an evening reception celebrating the work of sculptor Björn Weckström, who is celebrating almost 50 years having designed for Lapponia. The sculptor and artist started working with Lapponia after deciding that he wanted to design jewellery that was a small-scale form of art and to raise its profile so that it was on a par with modern sculpting.
Weckström explained to us: “This exhibition has been a chance to look back at my older works. I look at those pieces and think I was a very brave young man because the pieces are very different from everything else that you could see in jewellery stores – flowers and grapes and so on.”
As well as inviting skilled artists to work on its designs, Lapponia encourages the talented individuals in its midst to maximise their potential. Recently it asked six of its employees to come up with their own Lapponia design, one of those being a goldsmith who has been with the jewellery company for 30 years. One of these six will go on to be a guest designer for 2013.
Lares said, “It is important for them to make their name and their career and all of their pieces have the Lapponia spirit.”
As well as the artists and goldsmiths involved with Lapponia, the company benefits from the engineering talent that can be found in Finland. Both Lapponia and its sister company Kalevala Jewelery, keenly use the latest technologies at their fingertip. Since 2005, both have invested in and used atomic layer anti-tarnish silver coating technology, which was originally developed for electronics.
This emphasis on using technologies, combined with an excellent education system that encourages youngsters to pursue skills such as metal works, ensures Finland’s is a craft model worth admiring. My first impressions were probably also given additional shine because I was visiting during the year when the city has been named the World Design Capital.
The accolade, an initiative of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design and elected every two years, attracts the attention of the design world and has inspired Finnish brand Lapponia to create a collection for 2012 based on inspiration from Helsinki itself. These are the pieces: