Franz Koster’s forge is situated in the middle of the picturesque hilly landscape of Appenzell Innerrhoden. Together with his three daughters, the skilled metalworker continues a rare craft here: artistic creations made of metal. The projects include staircases, tailor-made fireplaces and wine cellars, ornate chandeliers and sculptures.

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A man stands in a blacksmith’s shop playing an alphorn.
A man stands in a blacksmith’s shop playing an alphorn.

Black is the predominant colour in the forge. The smell of metal hangs in the air. Countless hammers hang on the wall, anvils weighing kilos stand around. This is where the welding, grinding and drilling takes place.

At the centre of the forge is an oven with an open fire. Franz Koster likes to play a small alphorn or trumpet music interlude here. This is how he signals the start of work for the business, which in family jargon is often referred to as the “shop”

What makes your work so special?

Larissa Koster: “We are a kind of dying species. There are only a few of us who still practise the traditional metalsmith’s trade. And we are going one step further, because we combine the old with the new and are integrating new innovations into the art of forging.” 

Alexandra Koster: “We know metal inside and out; it takes years to get a feel for it.”

Melinda Koster: “There's hardly anything we haven't done yet. Like a new kitchen in a chalet in the mountains of Graubünden. The kitchen design was based on historical kitchens, combining state-of-the-art kitchen appliances. Another highlight is the Alphorn sculpture that we forged for Hotel Five in Zurich which proudly welcomes guests in the driveway. A pure brass fireplace, which has an exceptionally beautiful shape, was also a masterpiece of craftsmanship.”

Was it always clear that the three daughters would join the company?

Franz Koster: “Not at all. I always encouraged my three daughters to go their own way and to follow their individual passions. That's what they did. Of course, I'm delighted that they chose to join me in the family business.”

Three sisters in the family business

Melinda Koster joined the company in 2014  and supports the business with her Bachelor’s degree in international management in the back office. She is in charge of the administrative and organisational aspects. 

Woman standing and working in a forge.
Woman standing and working in a forge.

Alexandra is the first woman in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden to complete her apprenticeship as a machine and equipment builder.

The youngest daughter Alexandra initially did a trial period as a hairdresser working for her mother. However, after just a short time she completed an apprenticeship at a mechanical engineering company. She is the first woman in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden to complete her apprenticeship as a machine and equipment builder. In 2016, she started producing and finishing the metal crafted products as a metalsmith and demonstrated outstanding forging skills. 

Three years ago, the third daughter joined the team: while studying industrial design in Basel, Larissa Koster noticed that her education was a great fit for her father's business. Her passion is drawing. She complements the family business with her designs and sketches. The three daughters will take over the management in the coming years.

A woman working with a grinding machine.
I think this came about because our dad never forced us to join. He didn't interfere with our career plans, so we all just did our thing and just realised that metal crafts were what we were born to do.

What's it like for you to work as sisters in a forge?

Alexandra Koster: “I and my two older sisters always used to help dad in the forge.” 

Larissa Koster: “We always cause a stir on the construction site. When we show up there, the tradesmen think that we are “just” doing an apprenticeship or are there for a trial. They don't believe that we are in charge. But as soon as we explain, we gain their allegiance.”

What is a challenge in your industry? 

Alexandra Koster: “Being able to take some time off! (laughs) I've been working here for over six years now and haven't ever been forced to take holidays. We never have too little work, quite the opposite.”

Larissa Koster: “The challenge is to see that the metal products we make fit. We’re not always able to measure the construction sites in advance, sometimes we accept orders from Ticino or even from the south of France. Then we work “blindly”, without measuring in advance, and rely on the blueprints. It can happen that something doesn't fit. And if that happens, it's at our expense. Fortunately, that rarely happens!”

Sketch of a chandelier on the wall.
We produce everything here in Appenzell and don't make any run-of-the-mill things.

The Franz Koster forge has its pension fund with Swiss Life – why? 

Franz Koster: “I’ve had my pension fund with Swiss Life since I was 23. At that time, Swiss Life was still called Swiss Life Insurance and Pension Company. It was recommended to me by a good friend I knew from music.”

Larissa Koster: “We’re satisfied – why should we change that? We’re currently considering taking money out of our pension fund in order to facilitate the financial aspect of the company acquisition. We'll have to seek advice on that.”

How self-determined are you in your profession?

Alexandra Koster: “We’re very self-determined. Because I do exactly what I enjoy in life. I was able to choose my dream job and I am totally committed to it.”

Melinda Koster: “We often receive our orders with rough ideas. We then make these ideas specific and feasible. We never take the easy path but try to get the maximum out of it. In this way we’re very self-determined, as we’re given free rein. Our customers place their trust in us, as evidenced by our countless references.”

A man standing in a forge.
It’s very important in our creative profession to be able to work in a self-determined manner. We make sure that the projects suit us, because this is the only way we can create something unique. And ultimately, every project we work on is a new calling card for us.
A workshop with screwdrivers, wrenches and other tools

Koster Schmiede

Franz Koster Schmiede und Gestaltung GmbH is an Appenzell artisanal enterprise for metal art. The basis of the work is the traditional metalsmith’s craft. With 30 years of professional experience, Franz Koster, his three daughters and other employees serve clients in Switzerland and beyond. Franz Koster is currently responsible for management, and Alexandra, Larissa and Melinda will take over in the coming years.

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