Design is composed of Bertoia’s “functional” works intended for use in daily life. This category includes his early jewelry and tea sets, along with his famed furniture designs for the Knoll company.
Bertoia produced most of his jewelry in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His organically shaped brooches, bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings and pendants were made from whatever materials he could afford: gold was a favorite, but silver, plastic, aluminum, copper, ebony, and even cotton thread also made their way into the biomorphic shapes. He specialized in forging, chasing, and combining materials to produce unusual modernist pieces.
Once Bertoia began designing chairs, his jewelry creations fell off dramatically. In 1950 the artist was invited by Hans and Florence Knoll to work for their furniture and design company. Knoll established a metalworking studio and model shop for Bertoia in Bally, Pennsylvania: here Bertoia created the iconic, airy design of his wire grid chairs. The artist only worked for Knoll from 1950-1952, thereafter shifting his attention primarily to sculpture, but his chairs have been in continuous production since they were introduced in 1952.