The Wearable Art Movement

Part II

by Marbeth Schon

 


The
3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
1955

 

The 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary jewelry was held at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in the winter of 1955. 

Margaret De Patta, Silver & agate pin
exhibited at the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry

Between 1948 (the year of the 2nd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry at the Walker Art Center) and 1955 (the year of the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry at the Walker Art Center),  interest in American modernist jewelry  grew measurably.  There were eighty-four participants in 1955 compared to only thirty-two in the 1948 exhibit. The realities of the post-war world and the rise in acceptance of abstraction within the other plastic arts directly influenced the transformations taking place in jewelry design and it's acceptance as a major force in the decorative arts.
The changes within all disciplines of modern art which took place in the 1950s were revolutionary.  "Given the upheaval in the intellectual, social, and living conditions, it would indeed be unusual for art to remain unaffected."1
One of the major changes in the 1950s was the shifting of the world's art center from Paris to New York.  The United States emerged from World War II as a supreme power within the world economic order.  The nation's self-confidence was at an all-time high.  Internally, the U.S. was developing a huge market for contemporary art and externally, American forms and images were becoming part of a "global cult."2  


Harry Bertoia,
Silver pins
 from the first page of Design Quarterly #33

American industry responded with an enormous output of modern style refrigerators, toasters, Formica countertops, juicers, microwaves, and appliances of all types in gaudy, lush avocado and hot pink colors with chrome. "These were the rudiments of capitalist paradise, and they carried a strong political message."3

Phillip Fike, Silver & niello cuff link
exhibited at the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry

The most significant change was in mass media.  In the 1950s, television all but took over the life of the average American and was the most powerful advertising medium ever devised. It's content was shaped by the market. Americans began to feel compelled to think and act alike and society became more unified resulting in the  "rapid expansion of an American mass culture."  The 1950s gave birth to the phrase "The American way of life."3
American artist and intellectuals wanted to be part of America,  but the artist had to "enter the stream of common American life without giving up his outsidership, his cherished tradition of critical nonconformity. " 3
A small group of writers began a movement away from the American "establishment." They were called the "Beat Generation" a term reportedly coined by Jack Kerouac in the late 1940s, but in the 1950s it came to mean "exhausted" or "beat down" and provided the generation with a definite label for their personal and social positions and perspectives. "American modernist jewelry, like the writings of the Beat Generation authors, offered art on the most personal level.  It served as emblems for art-loving humanists in an age of alienation."4

 

The market for modernist jewelry expanded in the 1950s along with an increase in the number of studio jewelers. Government programs for returning World War II veterans at many colleges, universities, and vocational schools included classes in jewelry making and sculpture.  Betty Cooke recounted her experience teaching in one of these programs, "..., at that time the Maryland Institute had about 80 students and one of them was a boy and the rest of us were woman. This was during the war. So then all of a sudden (after the war) they had about 300 or so. I had classes of 60 and 70 students and I taught something called design and materials which was how to work with all kinds of materials like leather, wood, gold, steel, and also the basic elements of design that were necessary..... it was very exciting....."5 

 


Jerome E. Gates,
Silver ring
exhibited at the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry

The Walker Art Center's 1955 exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry brought together the work of eight-four American studio jewelers from across the country.  Some of them, such as Harry Bertoia, Margaret De Patta, and Sam Kramer, were already well known, but most of them, such as Betty Cooke, were relatively unknown at that time. Cooke  camped across the country with a box of jewelry,  " It was very exciting to have contact with the Walker Art Center. My friend and I camped across the country and I had a little box of jewelry that I was selling along the way and I went to the Walker Art Center and they were just putting the show together and it just fell in line so they included about six or eight pieces of mine in their show." 5


The Walker Exhibit of 1955

Philip Morton, Cast silver pin with stone
exhibited at the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry

"Observing the jewelry illustrated in this issue of Design Quarterly, one is impressed with the wide range of feeling--the many faceted expressive design characteristics represented--classical, exotic, formal, sensual, and severe."  (Philip Morton, Design Quarterly #33)

The Third Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Walker Art Center sometime in November of 1955.  Unfortunately, there are no records in the archives at the Walker Art Center of how the pieces were exhibited or at what gallery they were shown.  There was an exhibit on "Modern Design" going on at that time at the Walker and, most probably, this exhibit was included in that larger show  but there are no records to substantiate that it was.  We have only the credible evidence left by the photographs and biographies included in issue #33 of Design Quarterly with it's forward by  Sam Kramer, Margaret De Patta, and Philip Morton.

We are indebted to the 1955 Editor of Design Quarterly, Meg Torbet, and her associate Ruth A. Businger for the priceless information included in issue #33,  to Eric Sutherland for photographs of the work of eighty-four contemporary jewelers, and to John Sutherland for the design of the issue. We are also grateful to the present staff of the Walker Art Center for their permission to use the information and photographs from the Design Quarterly.

Margaret De Patta, White gold earrings
exhibited at the 3rd Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Jewelry

"I find work problems as set for myself fall into these main directions: space articulation, movement to a purpose, visual explorations with transparencies, reflective surfaces, negative positive relationships, structures and new materials.  A single piece may incorporate one or many of these ideas.  Problems common to sculpture and architecture are inherent in jewelry design, i.e.--space, form, tension, organic structure, scale, texture, interpenetration, superimposition and economy of means--each necessary element playing its role in a unified entity." (Margaret De Patta, Design Quarterly #33)
"Personally, I' am preoccupied with the emotional context of art.  Jewelry, I feel, should express these same emotional conditions, sometimes subtly and sometimes with powerful impact and often in ways that are difficult to say.  Pieces should make the observer feel and think."  (Sam Kramer, Design Quarterly #33)

Sam Kramer, Silver pin with glass eye

The eighty-four jewelers who participated in the Walker exhibit of 1955 were diverse not only in their design concepts  and use of materials, but also in their backgrounds and origins. They came from several different countries and twenty-eight different states in the U.S. This is certainly a testament to the more ubiquitous quality of modernist jewelry in 1955 than 1948--the thirty-two participants in the previous Walker exhibit of contemporary Jewelry came from only nine different states.  

New York and California continued to enjoy the greatest number of modernist jewelers in 1955.  Of the eighty-four exhibitors, fourteen were from California and eleven from New York.  Pennsylvania had eight participants and Minnesota was not far behind with six.  Other states represented were Massachusetts (one), Ohio (three), Tennessee (one), North Carolina (one), New Jersey (three) Vermont (one), Hawaii (one), Wisconsin (four), Kansas (one), Oregon (four), Maryland (one), Florida (four), Georgia (one), Illinois (three), Michigan (three), Washington (one), Kentucky (one),  Iowa (one), Connecticut (one), Texas (three), Missouri (two),  New Hampshire (one), New Mexico (one), and Indiana (two).


Exhibitors in the 3rd Annual exhibition of Contemporary jewelry
 
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

Images of jewelry in this section  and biographies of the jewelers are from Everyday Art Quarterly #33, 1955.  Photographs were taken from photocopies and are not as clear as if the jewelry itself had been photographed.  All biographies have been put into the past tense and no information regarding the careers of each jeweler after 1955 has been added.  Many of the jewelers mentioned below are still designing and making jewelry.

 If you (the readers of this article) recognize a jeweler from your locality and have information you would like to share, please email us at modernsilver@aol.com

(Participant jewelers A-L are listed below.  For jewelers M-Z, please go to page two)

Harold J. Atwater

Clearwater, Florida

Sterling & pearl shell pin/pendant

Harold J. Atwater attended the University of Florida where he received his Bachelor of Design degree as well as his M.A. He opened a shop in Clearwater, Florida and worked mostly in sterling silver and imported shell.
Gregory Bacopulos

Memphis, Tennessee

 Earrings & necklace set (necklace not shown)

Gregory Bocopulos attended the Memphis Academy of Arts.  He designed and made jewelry in his home and worked chiefly with sterling silver, copper, enamels, wood, and semi-precious stones.
Mildred Lee Ball

Winston-Salem,
North Carolina

 earrings with mobile balls

Mildred Lee Ball attended Columbia University.  She worked with her husband in experiments with various materials and techniques using enamel, ceramics, and sterling silver.
Martha Brennan Barns

Morristown,
New Jersey

Man's ring, silver and green jade
Martha Brennan Barns graduated from Wichita University, Wichita, Kansas.  Her work was heavy and sculptural.  In 1949 she won a scholarship to study silversmithing with Baron Eric Fleming, Court Silversmith to His Majesty, the King of Sweden.  She also studied with Rudolph Bram, Silversmith of Utrecht, Holland, during the summer of 1950.
Jane Beckman

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Silver Collar
Jane Beckman attended Lawrence College, University of Wisconsin and Layton Art School.  She worked principally in silver, but also used gold, copper and wood  like stones for accent and to add dimension to her pieces.  She cut her own cabochon stones, and used agates and clear stones with interior flaws because of the way they refracted the light.
Harry Bertoia

Barto, Pennsylvania

Silver pins

Harry Bertoia was a professional sculptor and furniture designer. He was born in Italy in 1915 and came to the U.S. in 1930.  He studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has had varied experience in furniture design, sculpture, jewelry, and graphic art.  (See Part I for additional biographical information)
John & Martha Best

Arcadia, California

Enameled copper link bracelet
John and Martha Best were both self-taught.  They made handmade jewelry under the name of Marsha Best
Marsh Bohr

Burlingame,
California

 

Gold ring set with ruby, diamond, and amethyst

Marsh Bohr was an artist, painter, sculptor, and jewelry designer who worked mostly in gold and precious stones.

 

 

Francis Holmes Boothby

Weston, Vermont

Mobile pendant
Francis Holmes Boothby was a graduate of Iowa State College and an instructor at Emma Willard School, Troy, New York. She worked mainly in sterling silver, ebony, some brass and plastics and had a shop in Weston, Vermont.
M.N. Boyer

Honolulu, Hawaii

Ebony pearl & silver pendant

M.N. Boyer attended Bradley Polytechnical School, Peoria, Illinois and Honolulu Academy of Arts School.  He had his own workshop in Honolulu working mostly is silver and gold, ebony, ivory, native woods, enamels, coral, precious and semi-precious stones and kukui nut.
Michael J. Brandt

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Silver cuff links

Michael J. Brandt taught classes in ceramics and jewelry at Rock Ledge, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin where he also operated a craft studio.  He received his B.S. degree in Art Education at Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee.  He worked in silver alone, ore in combination with ebony and other rare woods.
Howard O. Brown

Rochester, New York

Sterling silver pendant & earrings

Howard O. Brown was an instructor of 3-demensional design at the Department of Art and Design, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York. He attended the University of Illinois and received his M.A. at Michigan State College and his M.F.A. at Cranbrook Academy.  He worked primarily in silver jewelry, but also did raised silver work, silver screen fabrics, enameling on copper, and metal sculpture.
Juanita F. Brown

Rochester, New York

Necklace, mastodon ivory, & sterling silver
Juanita F. Brown  received her B.F.A. from the University of Illinois, her M.A. from Michigan State College.  She studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and worked in ivory, silver, and semi-precious stones.
Irena Bryner

San Francisco, California

Gold, amethyst, silver, and coral earrings

Irena Bryner was born in Vladivostok.  She studied painting and sculpture in Dairen,  in Manchuria, and later in Switzerland. Her workshop was in San Francisco, California where she designed earrings of delicate mobiles using pearls or tiny blocks of ebony with polished and oxidized silver, or gold.
Eleanor Caldwell

Hays, Kansas

Ebony & sterling silver pin
Eleanor Caldwell was an instructor in handcrafts, and jewelry at Fort Hays Kansas State College.  She attended Southwest Missouri State College where she received a B.S. in education in 1948.  She used primarily silver, gold, and ebony as well as enamel, stones, plastic, vermilion, walnut, and amaranth woods.
O.K. Chatt

Eugene, Oregon

Silver pendant
O.K. Chatt graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1931.  He did free lance custom design in fabrics and managed an interior shop in Eugene Oregon.  He worked mainly in sterling silver, but worked in gold.  He combined imported woods, beach pebbles, petrified wood, agate, shell, and semi-precious and precious stones.
Maxwell M. Chayat

Clinton, New Jersey

Silver & stone necklace
Maxwell M.Chayat maintained a studio at Clinton, New Jersey.  He was a graduate of Columbia University.  He began using stones in jewelry in 1948 while living in New Mexico where "one had only to reach down on the ground and pick up anything from agate to turquoise."  He likened his process to mechanical dentistry where "a denture is made with a minimum of metal to hold the porcelain tooth."
Betty Cooke

Baltimore, Maryland

Plexiglas and silver necklace
Betty Cooke received her B.F.A. at Maryland Institute of Arts and Johns Hopkins University.  She maintained a showroom in Baltimore, Maryland.  Aside from making jewelry, she was also a free lance designer and consultant. (see:" Interview with Betty Cooke")
J. Defeo

San Francisco, California

Hammered silver earrings with gold wire & baroque pearls
J. Defeo received her M.A. Degree from the University of California  where she studied mostly painting and sculpture.  She was awarded the Sigmund Martin Heller traveling fellowship and spent eighteen months in Europe studying and traveling in France, England, Spain, Northern Africa, and Italy.  She began making jewelry in 1954.  Her approach to design was more "sculptural" than "decorative."
Margaret De Patta

Napa, California


White gold & silver pin with mobile crystals & stainless steel screen

Sterling silver ring

Silver & white gold crystal & black onyx pin

 

Margaret De Patta studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, San Diego, California; California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California; and the Art Students League, New York, New York.  She also took courses at the Institute of Design, Chicago, Illinois where she studied Metal and jewelry design with Maholy-Nagy.  She pioneered the field of modern structural design in jewelry beginning in 1929.  Her main directions of exploration included structural forms in metal, new visual-optical effects in transparent stones, new types of stone cuts, movement, projection of space concepts in jewelry, and the use of new materials.  (see Part I for additional biographical information)
Andrew & Muriel Dey

Deland, Florida
 

Sterling silver pendant

The Deys maintained their own shop in Deland, Florida.  Andrew got an A.B. from Wittenberg College  an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and a C.P.A. from New York State.  Muriel majored in Art at Ohio Wesleyan University and studied Art History at Ohio State University. She was Associate Editor of "The Art Digest" until her marriage after which they both moved to Florida and worked full time making jewelry.  They both worked in sterling silver only, believing that this metal offered great challenges to the craftsman to exploit fully it's qualities without use of stones or added elements.
Robert Dhaemers

Oakland, California

Silver ring set with stones
Robert Dhaemers was Assistant Professor in Crafts, California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California.  He received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. at California College of Arts and Crafts.
Virginia Dudley

Rising Fawn, Georgia

Free form bracelets

Virginia Dudley attended the University of Chattanooga, Art Students League, the New School for Social Research in New York, and at Stanley William Hayter's "Atelier 17." She received her Master of Fine Arts degree at the Claremont Graduate School and was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship on the basis of her painting and printmaking.  She maintained her own workshop in Rising Fawn, Georgia, which was built near the edge of a high ledge on Lookout Mountain.  She fashioned hand-made jewelry from silver, copper, enamels, rare woods, and semi-precious stones.
D. Lee & Mary Dussell

Aurora, Illinois

Earrings, silver with rosewood

Silver wire pin

D. Lee and Mary Dussell were a husband and wife team whose philosophy was to achieve in jewelry, a harmony of creative, individual expression with a design that related to the raw materials and considered the ultimate function of the piece. D. Lee was a furniture designer who utilized cast aluminum forms.  Both preferred to work in gold and silver used with simplicity and honesty.  They also used gem stones, rare woods, and ivory, incorporated for occasional textural variety and color.  They received their training at Cranbrook Academy of Art and lived in Aurora, Illinois.
Roger D. Easton

Cortland, New York

Silver pin
Roger D. Easton was Assistant Professor of the Art Department at the University of New York Teachers College at Cortland, new York. He attended Albright Art School in Buffalo, New York and took graduate courses at Harvard University and the University of Rochester.  He studied in Scandinavia and France in 1948.  He frequently combined silver with exotic woods and semi-precious stones.
Audrey & Robert Engstrom

Sparta, Michigan
 

Bracelet, enamel on copper

Walnut with stone & sterling silver pendant
( not shown)

Robert and Audrey Engstrom were a husband and wife team, although they worked independently on their own pieces. They maintained a studio in their home at Sparta, Michigan.  Robert took graduate credits at Alfred University, New York, and Michigan State College.  Audrey studied ceramics as an undergraduate at Michigan State.  They worked in silver, copper and enamel.
George Faddis

New Castle, Pennsylvania

Enameled pin

George Faddis received both his B.A. and M.A. in art history at the Pennsylvania State College.  He studied with Hobson Pittman, Henry Varnum Poor, Jose de Creeft, and Charles B. Jeffery.  He taught painting, enameling, and children's ceramics at Butler Institute of American art and elementary painting at Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania.
Lester Fader

Highland Park, Michigan

Silver cuff links with transparent yellow enamel
Lester Fader graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1938.  He was an associate architectural designer with no formal training in metal work.
Philip Fike

Detroit, Michigan

 

Cuff links, silver and
ebony

Cuff links, silver, niello

Philip Fike graduated from the University of Wisconsin and was a member of the faculty in the Art Department at Wayne University.  He used gold, silver, copper, base alloys, stainless steel, wood, plastics, and resin laminates.  He frequently incorporated a non-structural mixture of silver, copper, lead, and sulfur  called "Niello" which polished to a blue-black color and has good wear resistant properties.

 

Robert A. Gabriel

Meadville, Pennsylvania

Wedding ring, yellow gold and emeralds

Robert A. Gabriel was an instructor at Allegheny college, Meadville, Pennsylvania where he taught jewelry, ceramics, design, and sculpture.  He was a graduate of Cleveland Institute of Art and studied painting and sculpture at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He worked in silver and enamel.
Robert E. Gardner

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Agate and sterling silver pin

Robert E. Gardner attended John Herron Art School in Indianapolis, Indiana and Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  He was an instructor at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He worked with sterling silver and semi-precious stones which he cut and polished himself.
Jerome E. Gates

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Silver pendant

Silver bracelet

Jerome E. Gates was  Instructor of Art at the University of Minnesota.  He was educated in Minneapolis schools, received his B.S. in Art Education and Master of Education at the University of Minnesota. He worked in silver, gold, copper, bronze, and enamel.
Marilyn Zirkel Goodman

Portland, Oregon

Necklace, silver with ivory

Marilyn Zirkel Goodman was a graduate of Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. She worked predominantly in silver, but also in gold, copper, and brass.  She did all of her design work on paper before touching the metal.  She liked simple, clear-cut, mainly angular forms with the silhouette being of primary importance.
Wiltz Harrison

El Paso, Texas

Gold & silver cuff links
Wiltz Harrison was Assistant Professor of Art at Texas Western College of the University of Texas, El Paso.  He started out as manager for a steel company and  turned to jewelry making as a relaxation in 1947.  He maintained his own workshop where he did custom jewelry, silversmith, enameling, and lapidary work.  He worked in silver, gold, platinum, and cut and polished all his own gem stones.
Lee Haslam

Merion, Pennsylvania

Sterling & ebony pins
Lee Haslam studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art.  He was Instructor in the Dimensional Design Department at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art.  He had an intense interest in nature and biology and much of his work is based on natural forms.  He used silver, gold, enamel, and wood.
David P. Hatch

Eugene, Oregon

Sterling oxidized pin
David P. Hatch was Instructor in Jewelry Design at the University of Oregon and for the State Extension Service.  He studied jewelry under Warren Carter at U.C.L.A.  He maintained a complete jewelry studio in his home.
Adda Husted-Anderson

New York, 
New York

Silver necklace with moss agate
Adda Husted-Anderson was born in Denmark and studied in Copenhagen. where she was awarded a medal by the Gold and Silversmith Guild.  She studied also at Badische Kunstgewerbeschule  in Pforzheim, Germany and with Jean Dunand in Paris.  She maintained her own workshop in New York City.  (See Part I for additional biographical information)
Sam Kramer

New York,
New York

 

 

 

Silver & glass eye pin

Silver & stone necklace

 

Sam Kramer attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Journalism and graduated from the University of Southern California in 1936.  He began making jewelry for personal satisfaction while working as a reporter in Los Angeles and Hollywood.  He opened his own studio, Studio of Sam Kramer, in Greenwich Village in New York, in 1939.  He perfected a particular process of lost wax casting, invented a method of fusing pieces, fragments and granules of silver, using the flame itself as a creative tool.  He developed an approach to sand casting so that it could be used creatively.  His jewelry was built with strong and heavy individual parts and an unexpected and psychological use of stones. (see Part I for additional biographical information)
Mary Krestsinger

Emporia, Kansas

Silver pin
Mary Kretsinger was Instructor in jewelry, Ceramics, Design, Art Exploration, and Weaving at Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kansas.  She attended Kansas University and received her M.A. at State University of Iowa in 1941.  She worked mainly in silver and brass combined with enamel.  She liked using enamels in small areas so that their "preciousness" was not lost.
James S. Lanham

Gainesville, Florida

Silver pendant with California wonderstone
James S. Lanham was Head Professor of Accounting at the University of Florida.  He studied architecture at the University of Texas and art at the University of Florida.  He usually used copper and silver for metal parts of his designs with settings of hand polished semi-precious stones, shells, various woods, and ivory.  He designed and made jewelry for "fun" and had few inhibitions as to materials.
Frederik Lauritzen

Carbondale, Illinois

Sterling silver wire earrings with moonstones
Frederick Lauritzen was Instructor in the Art Department of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.  He received his M.F.A. at Cranbrook Academy of Art.  He attended Southern Illinois University and Wayne University, Detroit, Michigan.  While still continuing to paint, he became primarily concerned with the area of jewelry and silversmithing.

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