The firm Metallwarenfabrik Straub & Schweizer, founded in 1853, was the forerunner of the WMF metalware manufacturing company. The majority of the company’s early designs were inspired by historical styles, yet it received early praise for the quality of its products, including a Gold Medal at the 1862 International Exhibition in London. The corporate showroom, which opened in Berlin in 1868, was the company’s first retail shop and signalling the start of a rapid expansion in scale. When the company amalgamated with Ritter & Co. in 1880 to establish the Württembergische Metallwarenfabrik, it had roughly 200 employees and a product line of nearly 1,000 items, many of which were electroplated. The company was also involved in architectural decoration, home ornaments, and replicas of works of art and archaeology in the late nineteenth century, including the reproduction of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous early Italian Renaissance doors from the Baptistry in Florence, which are now on display at the company’s headquarters in Geislingen. The firm opened a crystal and glass studio in 1883.
The corporation continued to grow in the twentieth century, with subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Austria. Whether in terms of Art Nouveau or Art Deco flair, the design was a key component in the company’s success. Between 1895 and 1915, the company’s design studio, led by Albert Mayer, developed most of the company’s Art Nouveau designs, though work by Peter Behrens and Hans Peter was also commissioned. The founding of WMF’s Contemporary Decorative Products Department (NKA) under the guidance of Hugo Debachin provided chances for artists and designers to experiment as an alternative to mass production (1925). NKA commissioned work from a variety of notable designers, including Richard Riemerschmid, to cater to a design-conscious clientele. The NKA was also in charge of glassware design, particularly coloured glass, under the brands Ikora, Myra, and Lavaluna. WMF obtained the rights to use Cromargan, a registered trademark for stainless steel, from Krupp in 1927 and debuted their Cromargan cookware line at the 1927 Leipzig Trade Fair, followed by Cromargan cutlery. In the mid-1930s, a ceramics studio was added to the Contemporary Decorative Products Department (NKA).
Post World War 2
The outbreak of the Second World War created significant difficulties during the early stages of restoration, leading to the closure of the NKA (Contemporary Products Department), but by the early 1950s, the company was back on track. Many of Wilhelm Wagenfeld’s WMF creations date from these years. The most well-known of which is the iconic Max and Moritz salt and pepper pots. In the company’s cutlery and tableware design, such designs displayed the influence of Scandinavian design as well as German Modernism. Kurt Mayer’s naturalistic Stockholm cutlery designs epitomised the period’s work. Over the next few decades, worldwide marketplaces grew more developed, and in 1977, WMF created its computerised Warehouse and Distribution Centre, an effort that, by the late 1990s, allowed retail outlets to order directly from the factory and evaluate stock and orders.
Galleria, a line of home products that include silverplated and stainless steel dinnerware, glassware, ceramics, and kitchen equipment, was introduced in 1985 with a Postmodern aesthetic. Matteo Thun, Pierre Cardin, Garouste & Bonetti (Volute cutlery), Dieter Sieger (coffee machines, kitchen knives), Mario Vivaldi (Esprit, Moda, and Solo cutlery), and Maiko Hasuike (Topstar stacking cookware range and Zeno cafetière) were among the designers who collaborated. Thun’s black and gold Hommage à Madonna, Candy, and Fantasia cutlery collections, as well as Hasuike’s Grand Gourmet all-metal kitchen knives, have been among the company’s more highly appreciated cutlery products in recent decades.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.