Although his background is law and economics, there’s no doubt Dr. Friedrich Wille has the soul of an artist. Wille is the visionary behind FREYWILLE, the jewelry brand known for giving art lovers the ability to wear gilt and enameled interpretations of famous paintings on their wrists and near their hearts.
“Art widens our horizon and challenges us to envision the world differently,” he explains. “At FREYWILLE, our entire focus is to create pieces imbued with meaning and true artistic value.”
Wearable fine art
Inspiration for FREYWILLE jewelry grows from sources like humanistic philosophies, Mother Nature and the beauty inherent in world cultures, giving its artistry as much range as a symphony orchestra. The “Spirit of Africa, Kilimanjaro” collection is emblazoned with geometric shapes and colours that invoke tribal shields, while the “Venice” collection, with its ornate, crimson and gold columns and flourishes, speaks of Renaissance architecture.
FREYWILLE is, according to Wille, the only company in the world that incorporates representations of the works of renowned European painters into its jewelry. The collection “Hommage à Gustav Klimt” has remained a mainstay and become one of the company’s most treasured since it was first launched in 1998.
“This is not only a tribute to the exceptional Austrian-born artist, but also to Vienna and its role in Art Nouveau,” Wille says. “Its ongoing, huge success proves that true artistic work has a place in our hearts forever.”
He’s quick to stress, however, that FREYWILLE never merely duplicates great art but rather brings a fusion between artistic verve and authentic, contemporary outlook.
“Klimt’s style was revolutionary and aesthetically pleasing at the same time, so he is frequently copied,” Wille says. “We did not want to be lumped together with those who just ‘steal’ his work. So we ensure our designs don’t simply copy Klimt but actually interpret significant elements and bring them to a completely new life that honours this exceptional artist.”
The artistic process
The journey from a glimmer of an idea to a new FREYWILLE collection is lengthy — sometimes taking many years. All of the company’s artists are given time not only for contemplation and research, but also for the exchange of thoughts and philosophies with other artists.
“It’s all about artistic synergy,” Wille says. “This means creating space for the arts, for intellectual discussions, and for translating these freedoms into concrete expressions. The resulting collections have a deeper meaning and are filled with passion and energy.”
Creation, too, is an unhurried, hands-on process that typically requires 80 to 100 steps — sometimes even more — and begins with liquid glass, also known as precious enamel. Three individual types of glass are mill-ground by porcelain balls and water into a thick slurry. The dazzling, luminescent colours are then created by mixing in metal oxides augmented with quartz sand. Each colour has its own precise recipe, and each recipe is a well-guarded company secret.
Four layers of neutral-coloured enamel are applied to a metal foundation and then each colour is sequentially applied according to the artist’s historical sources, personal vision, respect for a particular era or a famous painter’s masterpiece. The numerous layers of enamel are then fused together with FREYWILLE’s proprietary firing process. Each piece is polished, coated by hand with another enamel, and fired one last time. The now paper-thin enamel plate is hand-mounted into a gold- or rhodium-plated setting and is finally ready to be worn by a patron of “Passionate Art.”
FREYWILLE’s rise to prominence began in the early 1980s when Wille hired Simone Grünberger, an aspiring young artist who would later become his wife and partner. Under her creative leadership, the distinctive style of enamel ornamentation that revolutionized FREYWILLE’s image emerged.
Thirty years later, Wille remains adamant in his belief that jewelry, like all forms of artistic expression, should be an integral part of everyday life, a synthesis of shapes, finishes, and precious materials all resonating in perfect harmony.