Tea may be centuries old, but the steps to drinking it are basically the same today as they’ve always been: boil water, steep leaves, and pour. So when Georg Jensen tapped renowned industrial designer Marc Newson to create a silver tea service to mark the 110th anniversary of its first tea set, he kept things simple. “I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel—it’s a teapot,” says the Australian talent. “It’s a practical object, but one that should look good and feel good when you’re using it.”
The project is the first silver collaboration that the designer has done with any brand, but it wasn’t the first time that he has worked with the material. In fact, Newson (who joined Apple last year and helped to create the Apple Watch) trained as a silversmith while attending the Sydney College of the Arts, in the early 1980s. “What first attracted me to it,” he says, “was the ability to learn about how metals react and then to have the wonderful realization that metal is not a rigid, incompliant material but rather very plastic and fluid.”
Newson worked with Georg Jensen’s 49-year-old smithy at its Copenhagen headquarters to create the handmade, solid-sterling-silver set, in a limited edition of ten sets, which was loosely inspired by the Danish company’s bulbous Blossom tea set, from 1905, that originally featured carved ivory handles. “For me, good design is about creating objects that have stood the test of time, that don’t date, and [the Blossom set] easily passes this test,” says Newson. “It’s anachronistic yet still totally contemporary.” His updated version—which the brand’s CEO and creative director David Chu debuted in September at the opening of its Beijing flagship—includes a teapot, coffeepot, sugar bowl, creamer, and a tray lined in rattan (a familiar flourish for the designer, who has previously used it in chairs), plus handle options of Danish oak or eco-sourced mammoth bone.
While in Copenhagen, Newson also combed through the brand’s archives, which highlight the dozens of designers who have created jewelry, tabletop pieces, and other wares under the Georg Jensen hallmark, from its founder to such other Scandinavian luminaries as Johan Rohde and Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe. “I think I relate best to Henning Koppel,” says Newson, referring to Jensen’s mid-century designer whose organic forms and curved lines share an undeniable kinship with Newson’s own tendencies. “But I was also drawn to some of the older, more decorative designs, particularly the tea sets from the Art Nouveau period.” The Blossom set is one of the brand’s best examples of the era.
Though Newson admits that various ancient Japanese and Chinese traditions had an influence on the set, the designer is more concerned with modern-day tea rituals—including his own. “There’s nothing fast about it, which is what I love,” he says. “It’s sort of the antithesis of Starbucks.” $125,000 per set; 800-546-5253; georgjensen.com.