The Unparalleled Series
Footscray, VIC, Australia
In approaching his work, Robert continues to reflect on the longevity and tradition of forging, heating and grinding, ensuring honesty and authenticity for his choice in materials and for the process itself, captivating the interests of chefs who know how a knife should perform.
Inspired by Japanese culture and industrial Berlin, Robert Trimarchi likes to keep the design of his knives clean. As the founder of The Nine, Robert started making knives in 2014. “I’m self taught so I spent a lot of time at the beginning researching, watching, reading and then doing. There is so much to learn and you never stop learning.”
In speaking with Robert about hand making knives it’s apparent that his intention is to constantly transform his work. “I am easily bored and if there are only five different shapes of knives I make, it’s going to get familiar fast.” With a drive to learn about the ever evolving possibilities and effects of incorporating new materials, artists and makers he could collaborate with, traditional and modern techniques from cultures around the world and the use different elements, their impurities, and how they mix with steel, Robert in a sense wants to let his knives create themselves.
Steering away from primarily a maker of furniture, Robert has nurtured The Nine with a strong appreciation for the craft of knife making. In approaching his work, Robert continues to reflect on the longevity and tradition of forging, heating and grinding, ensuring honesty and authenticity for his choice in materials and for the process itself, captivating the interests of chefs who know how a knife should perform.
Growing up in Ingleburn, New South Wales, Robert made the move to Melbourne five years ago. His maker space in Footscray, Victoria, is a short drive from his home in Coburg, a pocket of the affluent area Yarraville and short distance from his go-to-spot of choice, Cobb Lane. Robert tells me his initial attraction to his work space was because of its rustic, down to earth feel. The large utilitarian warehouse hosts 50 individual studios for makers doing different things. “It’s not a pretentious space and it suits the individuals within it.” Due to the nature of the work Robert does, the ability to make a lot of noise was a big factor in choosing a studio space. “Knowing I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it, was convenient.”
Robert describes working alone as a process that induces a meditative-like-state. “When you polish a blade on natural stone you get the smell of the stone and it’s repetitive motion. In a way it’s like a form of meditation, I get a sense of release by getting stuck in the moment.” Being in the proximity of other makers also allows him to be a part of a bigger community. “It’s nice having the guys in the space so you can stop and have a chat about what you’re working on. It’s great to feed off the energy of other makers, talk about creative endeavours and throw ideas around. Just today I was speaking to a ceramicist about incorporating some of his work into what I do in the future. Being here allows me to switch off by throwing myself into my work but also take a break and learn from the people around me.”
Growing up with Italian parents, Robert and his brother spent time in spaces that encouraged working with their hands. A large part of Robert’s interest in creating knives is because of the time he spent cooking with his mother. “My father was a builder, my brother built cars and my mother prepared food, all of us took interest in making things. Spaces were meant to be used and for me, buying produce with my mother and helping her prepare it using different culinary tools was a big part of my life.”
When I ask Robert about his brand, The Nine, he tells me he finds it difficult to put a makers mark on the blades he creates. “I would prefer for the knives to remain bare, I want the brand to retain some integrity, to be about the craft and not the bottom line.” Robert doesn’t want The Nine to be loud, his hope is for it to grow organically and for the quality and performance of the knives to speak for themselves. “When you make something by hand you become honest to the process and methodology. You want it’s representation to tell the story of how it’s made and the values it aligns itself by in the truest way it can.”
Citing Berlin and Japan as sources for inspiration, Robert’s fondness for Brunswick falls into the same category of reasons. “I’m attracted to spaces that can incorporate both old and new. I like the run down areas in East Berlin and how the modern areas work well mixed with a grittiness to them. When it comes to design, culture and art, Japan has it sorted in my opinion. Their minimalistic approach is incredibly intricate.” Before becoming interested in making knives, Robert resonated with Japanese culture and their approach to craftsmanship and attention to detail. He cites Dave J. Friesen as a maker whose practice is also a major source of inspiration for his guidance on using reclaimed materials and hand made tools.
When I ask Robert about the future, he tells me smelting steel is something that may be in the works. By choosing elements to melt into steel, impurities are derived from the magnetic properties once they are mixed with other chemicals. Robert describes the effect of New Zealand black sand once it’s polished, “the impurities of the sand come through within the steel, giving a texture and depth to the blade that is entirely unique.”
Although smelting steel extends the time it takes to make a blade and would cost more, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Robert incorporate this process into his practice one day soon. It’s not everyday that you meet a maker who can assure authenticity in every aspect in what they do, with an appetite to create their very best and continue to instil inspiration to ensure their work is never dull. In speaking with Robert it is apparent that he wants to continue to introduce a distinct aesthetic and quality to his knives with the hope that those who use his knives can create their very best culinary work.
Thank you Robert, for the insights into your work and your maker space. It was a pleasure to speak with you.
Robert Trimarchi of The Nine