A Fine Gleam:
Lustrous Objects in Brass and Glass
What do we really need? When do things lead to a superfluous character? Carl Auböck II (1900-1957) asked himself these questions before beginning any new design. The son of a skilled bronzesmith, Auböck returned from studies at the Bauhaus eager to experiment with another alloy: brass. More malleable than its constituent metals—copper and zinc—it is distinguished by a luster that deepens with time and use. Hard and bright, brass is gold’s worldly, honest cousin.
The most popular surviving form of brassware is the domestic candlestick, which evolved over centuries from a domed, circular base to a tall stem. Designers Alexandra Burr and Allen Slamic of Brooklyn-based AlexAllen Studio take this timeless object as the starting point for their trio of hexagonal candle holders, which contrast a geometric form with the sheen of solid milled brass.
Ranging from golden to coppery, the glow of brass also adds warmth to the graphic lines favored by Trine Andersen, founder of Ferm Living. The Copenhagen-based company uses “honest materials” such as brass, organic cotton, recycled paper, leather, and wood to create objects that look modern yet also feel destined for daily use, an approach rooted firmly in Scandinavian design traditions.
Meanwhile, back in Vienna, Auböck found brass to be an ideal material for bringing new uses to familiar forms, including a ribbon-like letter opener that doubles as a bookmark and an egg-shaped paperweight that found a fan in Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. The Auböck workshop still operates from its original home, with Carl Auböck IV now at the helm. “We don’t distinguish between old and new pieces at the workshop, except to say that the old ones are old,” he says. “Such artifacts develop a soul over time, a certain patina."