A Cut Above:
The Modern Craft of Max Poglia
By Nancy A. Ruhling
Photographed by Hanna Tveite and Max Poglia
In the packed lobby of New York’s Ace Hotel sits Max Poglia. Just back from his workshop in his native Brazil, he sips coffee to stave off jet lag and reaches for the leather tote at his side. From it, he extracts a plain white cardboard box and places it on his lap. The objects he creates—handcrafted knives, leather bags, and loom-woven blankets—do not require ostentatious presentation. Ruggedly handsome, their charm lies in elegant understatement.
“My products are a combination of ethics and aesthetics,” he says, grasping the handle of a knife and lifting it from the box. With its bruised blade, primal parts, and old-world craftsmanship, it’s a cutting tool for a contemporary cosmopolitan caveman. “I don’t find inspiration from other knives. I don’t research knives,” he explains. “I create objects that I can use every day.”
Poglia’s first knife carved its way into the world six years ago, shortly after he and his wife, model Cecilia Timm, had moved to New York from Milan. Eager to put his degree in advertising to work, he found his job prospects as limited as his English skills. A craving for a picnic led him to make rather than buy the necessary supplies: a bag to carry the meal, a blanket to spread on the grass, and a knife to allow him to be a civilized diner.
He began doing graphic design, which led to his introducing his products in restaurants, first at Buvette and then at Richard Gere’s Bedford Post Inn. His ideas come from his mind or sometimes even his hands: He likes to play with elements in his workshop and put them together like puzzle pieces. “Imperfections are perfection,” he says. “And mistakes are sometimes brilliant. I recently broke a blade and made it into a small knife, which I otherwise would not have thought of doing.”
For The Line, Poglia created a trio chef’s knives, a pocket knife, and a “lucky charm” in the form of a cast-brass dog that stands three inches tall. “I found the original dog in a New York City thrift shop,” he says. “Its legs were broken off, so I made new ones and used it as a mold.” The knives, which feature carbon-steel blades and bone handles subtly set with brass accents, are forged by hand. He gestures to the trio of knives now removed from the box and laid out on the small table near his coffee. “No two are alike,” he says.
I don’t like to label the knives, as it may limit how they are used or perceived. I want people to find their own functions for them. Max Poglia
I like to see New York City by the inch, not the mile. There’s beauty in details. Max Poglia