Artist and Designer Harry Bertoia: Wire was his medium of choice
Harry Bertoia was born in Italy in 1915. Moving to the United States, he became an artist, designer, and teacher. His works include jewelry, sculptures, and furniture.
What was his medium of choice? Wire.
In the 1950s when most chairs were made of rigid wood, Bertoia designed a line of furniture out of welded wire which offered a “springy” feel. Innovative for its time, Bertoia’s line of furniture was first produced by Knoll in 1952 and is still being produced today. Bertoia loved the movement of wire and the way it inhabits a space without heaviness or weight.
Springmaker Emil Burda: The art of springmaking
Emil Burda, the founder of Master Spring & Wire Form, was also an artist in addition to a springmaker. Building his first coiling machine in his garage, Emil viewed spring making like a craftsman. The winding of wire into a coil seems so basic yet numerous variables can make or break a good design. The space between the coils, the spring back of the material, the amount of tension when compressed all have an impact on functionality.
Despite the great demands of one spring within an assembly, there is not one correct or universal set of rules to design or optimize the design of a spring. Considerations have to be made to operating environment, temperature, working loads, life expectancy and even aesthetics. Many of Master Spring’s employees had the privilege of being trained under Emil and understand the intricacies of springmaking.
Their years of experience give them a wisdom and insight into nature of wire itself and how it responds to forming, heating, and movement. They are in fact “craftsmen/women” or “artisans.” Master Spring’s high level of competency fosters an equally high level of confidence in its customers. Similar to Harry Bertoia, the employees of Master Spring don’t view springmaking or wire forming as just bending wire, They see it as an art form.
“I appreciate a slight yield, lightness of weight, some motion if possible, because in moving about, the human body determines… the comfort and the measurements of its environment… the human measure is still the strongest factor. But coming back to the chair, there are certain motions we go through – we like to lean back, like to toss things – and if the chair’s adaptable it responds and it’s almost like wearing a comfortable coat; you really don’t know you have it on.”
– Harry Bertoia