Torun Bülow-Hübe

Torun Bulow-Hube [Vivianna]

Torun Bulow-Hube [Vivianna] (1927 – 2004) Born in Malmo, the southern Swedish capital, Torun –as she is often called, is now known as the world’s first internationally recognized, female silversmith. She grew up in a lively artistic environment that combined the arts with hunting, sowing fields, fishing, and living off the land. At first perceived as a tomboy because of her desire to playing football and ice skate, it was not until her teen years that she decided that working with silver was what she wanted to do.

Because Torun’s sister, Gunlog, often worked at Malmo Museum’s Natural History Department, she invited Torun to visit the silversmith Wiven Nilsson. It was here that Torun first glimpsed the wonder and potential of working with silver.

With silver one could form curves that reminded her of ice skating. Reinforcing Torun’s decision about her life’s work was a visit to another sister’s friend, the silversmith, Sigurd Persson. Not long after, she used a room at her mother’s house and began her first designs with a small blowlamp and a bit of silver. She sold her pieces and bought more silver.

For a time, Torun studied at Konstfack, the School of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. Some of her summers were spent in Paris where she met Picasso, Braque, Matisse and other great artists.

Torun furthered her craft and learned the trade at Konstfack where she worked under Erik Fleming who headed the silver department. It was during this time that she began to experiment with cane, wire, and silver. Among her first creations were necklaces inspired by African styles. Her first workshop in Sweden was in a small laundry room she rented out and outfitted with a lathe.

In 1956, and now in a third marriage, Torun moved from Stockholm to Paris where she offered the first examples of her jewelry. The pieces, made both in Sweden and France, bear hallmarks from each country.

From at least 1956 to 1968, Torun had a permanent display on the Boulevard St. Germain. This time in Paris was among the most creative of her life. She created pebble necklaces from collected stones and designed jewelry sets for many of her famous friends.

Torun’s jewelry has been criticized for going against the high culture of her times. Her pieces were not extravagant gold and silver encrusted with gems. Torun’s jewelry was designed for young women who could wear the jewelry both during the day and at night.

Rather than the jewelry being the center of attention, Torun’s jewelry accentuated the woman with inexpensive or found materials, like quartz or freshwater pearls.

Torun’s jewelry often has a sculptural aspect like necklaces that twirl like a mobile when suspended by their highest point. Her fluid designs are said to “pour” and flow around the curves of a woman’s body. It was primarily for this mobile necklace that, in 1961, she received The Lunning prize, called the “Nobel Prize” of arts and crafts. It was also for this necklace that she won a Gold Medal at the Triennial in Milan.

Torun is also famous for the bangle watches she created for an exhibition at the Louvre’s Musee des Arts Decoratifs where the theme was an “object you hate”. Torun created a simple watch with no numbers, only a second hand. Its mirrored face was meant to simply reflect back the wearer’s face, reminding them of the preciousness of every second.

When, in 1967, Georg Jensen produced the watch with the hour and minute hands added, it became one of Torun’s most notable designs. Later, another version was created with a detachable leather strap.

Many of Torun’s designs were never produced. Some seemed too strong or severe for contemporary tastes. Also, many of her pieces were often stolen from exhibitions or customs offices in countries she visited.

Because of family difficulties, it is fortunate that Georg Jensen started to handle production of Torun’s designs from 1967 onward. In 1968 she moved to Germany, where, around 1975, started an artist group with Argentinian sculptor Rainer Anz to focus on her art.

It was during this “German Period” she was most productive. In addition to jewelry produced by Georg Jensen, her handbag designs were produced in Florence, chinaware by Hutschenruether in Germany, and a flatware pattern for Dansk.

In the late 70’s, she moved to Indonesia and continued her silver work, setting up shop and helping locals create beautiful objects and jewelry that supported the local economy. This experience added to Torun’s understanding and awareness of materials in their natural forms.

In 1989, she designed a gold necklace for Georg Jensen, made from locally panned gold, drawn and cut into individual rings, filed, soldered, and linked into a yard long chain. This was an intensely time consuming process used by ancient civilizations but not done in the modern world.

In 1992, Torun returned to Sweden for a retrospective of her life’s work and was awarded the Prince Eugen medal for outstanding artistic achievement. Even into her later years, Torun continued to design using the concept of spirals and fluidity of form. In 1997, she designed the “anatomically correct” flatware pattern, Vivianna, for Georg Jensen. It employed a fork designed much similar to a spoon, and the first knife able to rest on its cutting edge.

In her 1993 book on Torun, Ann Westin writes, “It is a search for the source, the simple and natural, that impels Torun’s creative work. Inspired by the art of primitive cultures. African, Oceanic, Egyptian, she creates her forms not for the sake of beauty alone; but carefully considers both the form and function of each piece of jewelry she makes. A practical detail such as the fastening is not concealed but … accentuated. She subscribes to the philosophy that what is functional is also beautiful”.

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