Working with a new material requires gaining a familiarity with it from an experienced designer. For Sarpaneva, steel posed a new sort of challenge: products would be made from steel plate. He spent long periods of time at foundries and glassworks, where the material being produced was molten and plastic. The products were primarily formed in moulds. Moulding techniques in and of themselves often played a key role in designing a one-of-a-kind production. But this required a different approach.
Sarpaneva began his new design work as he normally did – by acquainting himself with the factory’s machine stock, materials and staff. Then, based on his sketches, he picked the brains of the factory’s technical experts: What is possible? What are the material’s limitations? How much will the material stretch and tolerate rounding? What about surface treatments? Matte? Glossy? His questions sometimes inspired more careful consideration, but there was still a solution for everything. The design work got off to a flying start.
The experienced “man of steel”, Onni Tuominen, guided Sarpaneva. He committed details and semi-finished blank form to memory. The factory manufactured, among other things, machine wheels, which were, in Sarpaneva’s opinion, beautifully dimensioned. The completed steel saucers and plates, with their polished finishes and softly turned edges, were hardly reminiscent of the austere machine parts that had inspired the artist.
Within a few years, this work resulted in an extensive collection of household steelware for use at home and even commercial kitchens. Sarpaneva gave the mirror blank of the steel a soft, sensual form.
In order to protect the easily-scratched metal surface, he designed wooden serving and cutting boards that fit into two of the plate sizes. The carefully selected wood and finished details make the wood inserts, on their own, practical and stylish utensils. When combined with the steel plate, the end result was elegant and festive.