High Silversmithing

WHO: Emilie Martin, a master silversmith for Christofle Paris and the sole female in the 10-artist workshop AREA OF EXPERTISE: Chasing, the art of elaborately detailing each piece to heighten its realism INSPIRATION: A teenage visit to École Boulle, France’s leading school for applied arts ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT: Recreating Christofle’s 125-year-old tea-service set, Service Courge

Does working in a factory full of men present advantages, disadvantages or both?
I have heard that the men are better behaved and more productive with a female presence, so I see my unique position as an advantage to the team. I truly enjoy working with each of these talented artists, regardless of the fact that I am outnumbered by men. Funny enough, I’ve also been told that there’s a lot less swearing, so that’s another plus to my presence as a woman!

How has your work on the Service Courge furthered your skills as a master silversmith?
To create a full tea service with a tea fountain takes approximately 400 hours, so continuing this tradition is extremely labor-intensive. I have made four since joining Christofle as a silversmith, and they have each been incredibly challenging, exciting and rewarding to work on. This particular pattern requires supreme strength and finesse in embossing, chasing and polishing to create the perfect rounded forms and details along the courge’s shape.

What struck your inner chord when you toured École Boulle?

After seeing the school and the people there, I knew immediately that I wanted to pursue a career in metal work. Acceptance to this school is quite competitive, and they only extend offers to 24 of the 200 candidates that apply. I was thrilled to be accepted and earn my degree from such a revered institution.


When does chasing play a more important role in silversmithing than other crafts?
Chasing raises the detail and emphasizes all of the decorative accents, which is essential to the creation of high-quality, detailed pieces. For instance, I might use chasing to bring out the texture of the hide on an elephant sculpture or to enhance the weaving organic lines of the historic courge tea service.


Which of the five human senses do you use more dominantly in your craft?
Touch and sound. Feeling the lines and details on the metal is essential, and I listen to hear each of the steel tools as they interact with the silver. Their sounds tell me when I’ve reached completion of a certain detail, while touch confirms it.


Explain the secret to your success as an orfèvre.

The keys to success as a silversmith are patience, attention to detail and passion for beautiful craftsmanship.


How did you spend your leisure time in Palm Beach?
I loved the feel of Palm Beach. It’s such a beautiful place. I enjoyed a long stroll on the beach and a walk on Worth Avenue to take in the energy of the city.


How do you spend your leisure time in France?

Currently, I’m working on renovating my new house, which is an exciting undertaking. I also like to draw and make my own jewelry, and I spend much of my leisure time pursuing these creative passions.

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