Carl Christian Fjeringstad (1891–1968) was a Norwegian designer born in Kristiansand. He was active in Blaricum (Norway), the Netherlands, and Paris. Despite his birth in Norway, he regarded himself as a Danish silversmith, as is evident from the title of his autobiography, Escapade dans le passé oula vie d’un Danois en France. This was because he was born on the island of Christianso, off the northern coast of Denmark, on 30 April 1891.
He was the eldest child of a local harbour pilot. Fjerdingstad spent the first seven years on the island, where he developed a lifelong affinity for nature. He learned to carve from his father, creating tiny hearts and animals from amber. The act of carving influenced his decision to become a silversmith and jeweller. (Allan, 1994)
So, he went to Jutland on the North Sea and worked as a silversmith there for a few years. Then, one day in 1910, he was shown some jewellery pieces by Georg Jensen, and he decided to move to Copenhagen to work with him. As fate would have it, Jensen was out the day Fjerdingstad called. He was turned away by Jensen’s workshop manager, who (according to Fjerdingstad) disliked his country’s appearance.
Briefly, he was apprenticed to Aage Schou, a Danish jeweller who had visited Paris. But he was unhappy in Copenhagen and soon moved to Skagern, at the northernmost tip of Denmark, where he set up an atelier with two other silversmiths. By the following year, they had expanded to four workers, making jewellery for Swedish and German tourists. The business prospered, but his workers were mobilised in the summer of 1914. Fjerdingstad himself decided to go to France to fight in the Great War. He served with distinction in the Foreign Legion and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
From 1918 to 1921, he worked in the Netherlands at Blaricum near Amsterdam. Towards the end of that time, he met Henry van de Velde, probably through H.P. Bremmer, artistic adviser to the Kréller-Miillers. Van de Velde had entered their service in 1920 to, among other things, build a museum for their already world-famous art collection with its nucleus of works by Vincent Van Gogh.
In 1921, he worked as a designer for Orfèvrerie Christofle in Paris and as a silversmith. Henry van de Velde said he was one of the best silversmiths around then. In 1922, he made van de Velde a tea set for his new Wassenaar, Netherlands home.
His work combined French designs with the hammered surfaces and round shapes of Danish silverware. Based on the circle, he made Christofle’s famous silver-plated Cygne gravy boat in 1933 and its Art Déco tea set in 1933, which were both made again in 1983.
Collaboration with Christofle
In 1924, he started a long-lasting relationship with Maison Christofle, France’s most significant silver and electroplate maker. Electroplated Silver was a method they brought to France in the 1840s. During the 1920s and 1930s, Christofle made traditional and Art Deco vases, trays, tea services, and other items.
His pieces sold well, both to museums and to collectors. At the 1925 Exposition Internationale, he exhibited both on the Danish stand and in the Maison Christofle pavilion. Philanthropist Robert Allerton purchased a sizeable sterling silver compote with ebony handles at the Exposition and gifted it to the Art Institute of Chicago. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs also acquired several Fjerdingstad pieces in Paris.
Between 1924 and 1941, Christofle and Fjerdingstad worked together. In 1940, he was on their list as the head of design. As his style developed, his work became more straightforward and more geometric. One of his heart-shaped tea sets was displayed at the Triennale in Milan in 1936. Since he was a sculptor, first and foremost, he rarely worked from drawings, but his pieces always showed that he paid attention to details and stuck to a single idea. His jewellery, hollowware, and flatware often had sculptures built into them or were sculptures themselves. He loved working with ivory, horn, coral, agate, tortoiseshell, and, of course, amber, which was his first love. Most of his smaller pieces have fish or bird shapes that remind him of his childhood in Denmark. The eider duck and the heart shape were especially popular. (Allan, 1994)
Allan. (1994). Fjerdingstad: A Franco-Danish Silversmith of the Twentieth Century. The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, 1875-1945, 20, 79–83. https://archive.org/details/journalofdecorat0000unse/page/78/mode/1up?q=%22Carl+Christian+Fjerdingstad%22
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL