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 b y    V a n e s s a     P a t e r s o n  

 

Bjorn Weckstrom was born in 1935. At a very young age he discovered a love for working in clay--the way in which he could mold and shape it and the connection between himself and the form. Bjorn longed to be a sculptor, but at the age of 16 was told that he must go to the Goldsmith's school from which he graduated in 1956. Following his graduation, with a loan from his family, Bjorn purchased his first workshop in Helsinki, and set to work making bold clean forms in jewelry.
 

 

WECKSTROM RING  1962
 

In the 1960s there was a radical movement to liberate society--to have the freedom to express one's self. Designers were communicating this freedom through their creations; the strongest movement coming from the Scandinavian countries. By that time, Bjorn was playing with natural forms, uncut gems and broken uneven surfaces, keeping as close to nature as possible.

Graham Hughes, the director of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, decided, with the cooperation of the Victoria and Albert Museum, to launch an international retrospective exhibition in London. The aim of the exhibition was to show the changing direction of jewelry from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. The exhibition, "The International Exhibition of Modern Jewelry," was held in 1961 and Bjorn Weckstrom decided to participate.
 



WECKSTROM RING  1963

As precious metals were hard to come by, especially in the Scandinavian countries, the war years had brought the jewelry trade almost to a stand still.  Some designers, like Georg Jensen in Denmark, turned to using natural materials like wood and replacing precious metals with iron. Even so, from a design standpoint, very little change occurred during these years. By 1945 the war was over but it was a few more years before things began to change and designers began to discover the beauty of uncut stones and jewelry become more fun and less serious.



WECKSTROM BRACELET 1963

The Scandinavian countries were different from most others, producing jewelry representing legends of crusades and of Nordic myths.

Bjorn broke away from the typical Scandinavian traditions by producing simplistic-looking jewelry. His jewelry was smooth, clean, and angular, but impeccably beautiful with a sculptural quality in some areas and broken uneven surfaces in others.

 


Bjorn, and many other Scandinavian designers, exhibited in London at the exhibition in 1961, creating a stir in the press and the public with their graceful and elegant designs. Many pieces were purchased including four of Bjorns' designs that are still on display in the Goldsmiths' Hall today.
On returning home to Finland Bjorn received much praise from the press and the public-- he had become the "new kid on the block", the fashion of the day. Soon Bjorn needed help keeping up with the demand for his designs so he hired four goldsmiths to work for him. At the same time Pekka Antilla was looking for a new designer for his company. He had walked past Bjorn's workshop on many occasions, and finally Pekka Antilla approached Bjorn and a contract was drawn up between the two in 1963. The company changed its name several times over the years, and finally in 1974 became Lapponia.
At the start Bjorn worked hard on his designs and they sold well, even though many companies throughout Europe were going out of business at the same time due to imports of mass-produced jewelry. Pekka Antilla had a sound business head, and advertised in the local magazines. Bjorn felt he needed to go abroad and establish his designs elsewhere. So, in 1965, Bjorn entered a competition in Rio. Over 2,000 items from around the world were submitted to this competition, and the standards for jewelry were very high. When the winners were announced, Bjorn was awarded the first prize, the Grand Prix, for his necklace "Flowering Wall". This win had given Bjorn international impetus, and overnight he had acclaim and recognition overseas for his designs. Orders were coming in thick and fast, and the company was working flat out to keep up with the demand.

 



GALACTIC PEAKS



IKAROS

In 1967 Bjorn was invited to take part in the Lunning Prize awards in New York for 1968. Bjorn chose to accept the invitation, as it was another public platform for him to express his vision of jewelry to the world. Bjorn won the Lunning Prize for the necklace "Living Wall" which had a small watch movement set inside and as you wound the movement up the entire necklace slowly moved like a golden wave. Everything at this exhibition sold, but nothing to buyers from the Scandinavian countries.

While in America, Bjorn visited a museum that was holding an exhibition on the effects of narcotics. Each room in this exhibition gave insight into the effects of drugs on the human body. One room that Bjorn entered had a glass floor that gave the impression of being endless; a view into eternity with stars all round glistening against the blackness of nothing. On his return to Finland, Bjorn sat down and started to design the "Space Silver" series. The first item to be designed was a ring called "Ikaros", and by the time Bjorn had finished he had 50 different designs. Bjorn had designed unknown surfaces from distant thoughts in people's minds. The designs included human figures to which the viewer can relate, but with a touch of the unknown which always engages the human mind.
 



WANDERING YAAL



LOST IN SPACE



MAN FROM MERCURY



MUSTANG

At the end of 1969 Bjorn changed direction again. In a protest against the achievements of man which he admires as well as fears, Bjorn designed a range of jewelry which he named "Flame Bronze".


Made from bronze with wonderful colored patinas in blue and burgundy, the technical difficulties with the patinas made these mini-sculptures of bronze a short-lived series.

21 different designs in total were made. The most sought-after by collectors today are "General Motors" and "Star fighter" (both pendants) and the bracelets "Krupp" and "Maginot".
 



DAYTONA



PETRIFIED  LAKE



KILIMANDJARO



SATELLITE

Following these austere designs Bjorn felt the need to combine acrylic with silver to give silver an almost living quality. The first necklace designed was "Big Drop" in 1970. He designed many different silver and acrylic jewelry items over the years including the pendants "Kilimandjaro", "Monolith", "Creature No. 5" and the rings "Petrified Lake", "Kohoutek", "Ara", and "Microns".



KOHOUTEK



CREATURE'S EYE

In 1974 Bjorn wanted to go and work in Italy, as he now had the chance to be a sculptor and was seeking another designer to work with him at Lapponia. Bjorn asked Poul Havgarrd from Denmark, and this gave Bjorn the freedom he wanted to go and explore his sculptors flare. The first sculpture that Bjorn designed was "Ikarus". Greek mythology had left a very strong impression on Bjorn since his early days in school.

BABY

Also in 1976 the Nuutajarvi glass works managing-director Jorma Tallgren asked Bjorn to design glass. Glass has always been considered a very serious art form in Scandinavian countries, but Bjorn wanted his glass to be fun, exciting, and very different from forms seen previously. This caused some managers to become somewhat rattled, as Bjorn designed glass with a human influence rather than the stiff clean lines of the established modern style of the time. Bjorn designed goblets with little feet and toes peeping out at you. Bowls and cake stands also had little feet. He also designed vases made in 20 different styles from an ice skater to a weightlifter to a vase with boxing gloves.

Glass is a fast medium to work with and is technically a very difficult art form. To get a perfect shape you must think ahead and work fast in tremendous heat. Bjorn also produced some square vases, but very few survived because when the glass was annealing the edges cooled quicker than the sides causing the glass to fracture at the edges. Also the colors used were a complex matter, using materials not normally seen in glass. Bjorn also went on to design glass men about 4 feet tall, each limb blown separately. One shows the skeleton of man, another the heart. Each limb was attached with steel pegs. Bjorn worked for a few years with glass only, but continues to design jewelry for Lapponia today, as well as sculpture in Italy.

WEIGHTLIFTER

UNIK-GOBLETS



LIBIDEL'S NAIL



TRIBU

Bjorn speaks 5 languages, and can converse on many subjects. He is a very warm person who loves his home country with the awesome influences of Nature which surround it, and the calmness and unrushed life of Finland. And yet he loves Italy with it's array of culture and fast life. Bjorn also loves the sea and sailing. He has entered many sailing competitions throughout his life. The freedom one feels and the power of the sea all influence this talented man who has a strong love for life and his work. He is a family man with a wonderful wife Leila, who supports Bjorn in everything he does. Bjorn expresses his own thoughts and fears in his work. He is a designer non-pareil; no one can copy Bjorn's flair in his work. Like us all he shares a common ground, spoken by him through his jewelry and his sculptures.



WINTER'S DAY



THE BEAR

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 Text Copyright © Vanessa Paterson, Nov. 1999.
Photographs Copyright © Modern Silver Magazine, July 2000

Photography by Patrick Kapty
Weckstrom glass photographs by Tim Paterson
Photographs courtesy of Jill Crawford,  Patrick Kapty,  Sandra Russell Clark,  and Marbeth Schon

Special thanks to Jill Crawford for her continued support
web design by Marbeth Schon, www.mschon.com

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