Monday, June 4, 2012

An Interview with Alvilde David-Andersen

In this month’s issue of Viking, Associate Editor Anya Britzius caught up with Alvilde David-Andersen, a fifth generation goldsmith who is keeping her family business alive. In 2009 she opened a store in Kongsberg, Norway, and her A.D-A jewelry designs have appeared in fashion shows, museum exhibits and even at the Academy Awards.

Viking: How did goldsmithing get passed down through the generations in your family?
Alvilde David-Andersen: My great-, great-grandfather, David Andersen, started his career as an independent goldsmith in London in 1869. He founded the company David-Andersen in Christiania in 1876. My great-grandfather, Arthur David-Andersen, took over the company in 1901. Arthur had six children, amongst them my grandfather. My oldest grand-uncle continued as a goldsmith. He had two children who later continued the family tradition within the field.

V: At what point in life did you want to join the same business? 
AD-A: I knew from young age that I wanted to follow in my family’s footsteps and become a goldsmith. I grew up with stories about goldsmiths and ancestors who gained national and international recognition for their craftsmanship. My biggest dream was created after visiting my dad’s cousin’s workshop when I was a little girl. My family is very close and we all share and enjoy the same interests. My father is particularly interested in silverware, such as cutlery and its designs, and the stories behind them. He shares his passion with me and encourages interesting discussions on a daily basis. I remember our trips visiting antique stores and auctions throughout the years. This has most definitely helped forming the foundation of my interests.

V: Where did you grow up in Norway?
AD-A: I grew up at the estate David Andersen acquired on Ullern in Oslo in 1889. We lived in the timber-house my great-grandfather, Arthur David-Andersen, built in 1903–04.

When I was 10 years old, I went to a summer riding-camp in Kongsberg. At the age of 13, I started traveling back and forth between the old silver-mining city Kongsberg and Oslo, to ride my horse and be coached at the best equestrian centre for dressage in Norway. I went back and forth by express bus five days a week, straight from school located in downtown Oslo. I also worked in the stable. This taught me what responsibility is and showed me that hard work brings motivation and lots of joy.

I went to high school in Oslo until I turned 16. Then I moved into an apartment in Kongsberg where I, living on my own, combined college studies and dressage riding. It is safe to say that Kongsberg played a big role in shaping my future and who I am today. I became very fond of this city and lived there for four years before I returned to Oslo to start the preparations to go to school to become a goldsmith. However, I knew already then that I would be moving back to Kongsberg at some point to start up my own company.  

V: How did you learn your craft?
AD-A: When I moved back to Oslo, I started working full-time at David-Andersen AS. I started at the Plus-School in the fortified city of Fredrikstad in 2005. This school, founded by one of Europe’s most acknowledged artist within the field, Tone Vigeland, is one of Europe’s most recognized goldsmith schools. I continued working at David-Andersen in Oslo both during full-time studies and upon completion. Uni David-Andersen served as a fantastic mentor during this time.

V: How have things been going at your Kongsberg store since it opened in 2009?
AD-A: It has surpassed all expectations! My friend Johannes Aicher, who at the time was an architect student, designed the store in cooperation with me, down to the smallest little detail. It was very important to me that the store and the workshop would have a unique design and atmosphere. The store is almost a mix of a gallery and a store, workshop and a living room.

The customers in Kongsberg have welcomed me with open arms. They have shown great interest in my work and my store and I have many visitors every day. The store, my workshop and the jewelry I have produced has opened many doors and led to great opportunities such as participating in art exhibitions, fashion shows, world travels and speaking at seminars.

V: Any plans to open up more stores?
AD-A: My biggest dream is for my own jewelry collection to be sold in several stores throughout as well as outside of Norway. I will also be launching a web shop in the near future. 

V: How would you describe your jewelry designs?

 My jewelry has a design that plays with nature’s organic shapes—combining the feminine, romantic with tough, architectural and sculptural expression.

V: What inspires your designs? 
 The Nordic heritage most definitely plays a role in my designs. I am very fond of Norway’s magnificent nature, architecture and history. I also find inspiration in the people I meet, in animals and experiences

V: How can jewelry reflect a person’s style and identity?
ADA: Jewelry emphasizes your personality and style! Regardless if you’re a romantic, if you’re playful, sophisticated, and glamorous or a more rock kind of guy/girl, jewelry is about your identity. I like to say that jewelry is about identity, joy, tradition, generosity and love!

V: What is the best part about your job?

AD-A: The best part of my job is the creative aspect where I can play with the ideas I get from experiences that influence me. To be able to shape metal into a result that can bring joy to others as well as myself. I also have great colleagues that encourage me and contribute to a positive environment. Working on projects and cooperating with others within my field also brings joy to my everyday life. Working in the store is a very social job and I am privileged to meet so many different people every day!

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