I admit, I love artisanry and workshops that show their age, that can tell stories. In the WIEN PRODUCTS city map “Qualität ist ein Spaziergang” I find Jarosinski & Vaugoin – DIE Silberschmiede and make my way, full of curiosity, to the 7th district, where the shop and workshop are located at Zieglergasse 24.
I ring at the dark green door and enter the shop. Jean-Paul Vaugoin, who has been running the family silversmith workshop for 14 years, greets me and we quickly get talking. For this craft one often imagines an older boss–the man standing across from me is 35 years old and already an old timer in terms of experience.
It is mainly the holloware–the term for christening and drinking cups, pitchers, jugs, and bowls–that immediately jumps out. Everything is here, from Baroque to Rococo to the most contemporary designs. And then there are 200 different shapes of cutlery from all eras…
I want to know about the customers who shop here–in the age of coffee to go and disposable dishes served with fast food, the product quality seems almost transcendentally luxurious and also a true feast for the eyes.
Jean-Paul Vaugoin laughs and tells me about people who hold on to the family silver and pass it on–naturally the workshop handles repairs, cleaning, and new silvering. Recently they even recreated missing pieces of a cutlery set for a Swiss customer. It was important to the customer to have a complete set of silverware. This is the kind of individual customer service that you don’t find very often. After all, molds have to be made for each piece. Some customers travel long distances to have their own cutlery made or to pick out the right cutlery from Vaugoin’s vast treasury of designs. Classics like the “spade” or “donkey back” can be found from several European producers–Jarosinski & Vaugoin’s particular strength lies in richly decorated cutlery–an absolute niche in the silver business that they know how to benefit from.
The workshop is directly behind the shop on two floors–the sounds of work make their way down to us and I can’t wait to see how such a piece of cutlery is made. We cross a room where ladies in white gloves are carefully preparing the goods for sale and shipping and then arrive in the middle of production. This is where the details are filed and hammered out–in the truest sense of the word. A hammer that presses the basic shape of the cutlery into silver sheets drops 110 tons of weight. Hammers and anvils play an important role in the production of flatware… The blank shapes have excess material that has to be roughly filed off. The grinding wheel is in a box with a cover, so that the excess silver can be collected. It glitters like fairy dust and will be melted later–resources are handled very carefully.
The pieces are filed again by hand and then bent in the right shape–each piece has its own curve–the copper or brass patterns are decisive for the end result. Lead bases are used for this, because the material is softer than silver and the piece is not damaged when the whole thing is worked on with a wooden hammer.
In addition to a sure instinct, you also need to be a heavy hitter–especially when it comes to spoons or ladles. The master silversmith grins mischievously–you should be on good terms with your colleagues when the so-called bowl is struck… And now I understand why… A silversmith sits in front of the anvil holding the spoon by the handle in the correct lower mold with one hand, while the other hand is holding the upper mold made of heavy iron for the bowl. The rest is precision and a feel for the material when the second person strikes the mold with a powerful hammer, giving the spoon its final shape. It is very impressive–especially when you think that 12 completely identical spoons have to be made for one set of cutlery.
I am also interested in how they handle modern design. Jarosinski & Vaugoin is on the cutting edge in this area as well and works with major international designers. In addition to designs by Sebastian Menschhorn and Thomas Feichtner, modern sketches by London-based Torsten Nehland have also been realized. The company is currently planning a project with Martin Mostböck.
Jarosinski & Vaugoin, which is celebrating 170 years of existence this year, is one of the few silversmiths in Austria and Europe where craft, individuality, and the highest quality are the absolute priority. The diverse product range is successfully presented at fairs in Austria and abroad as a member of WIEN PRODUCTS.
I will certainly return to Zieglergasse for the next wedding or christening gift–the quality is absolutely worth the walk.