Sam Maloof – Woodworker

Sam Maloof rocking chair. Image by Lynnette Mager-Wynn at Rago Auctions

Born in Chino, California in 1916, Sam Maloof was a furniture designer and considered one of America’s finest woodworkers.

The New York Times describes Sam Maloof as “…a central figure in the postwar American Crafts movement.” The Smithsonian Institution named him as “America’s most renowned contemporary furniture craftsman. People Magazine tagged him “The Hemingway of Hardwood.” He always refused to identify himself as an artist and the title of his autobiography is Sam Maloof Woodworker.

As a child, his interest in woodworking led him to carve dollhouse furniture, cars, and other toys. He took his first woodworking class in high school in Ontario, California. Maloof’s teacher recognized his extraordinary skills in the carving and shaping of wood. Following high school, he worked as a graphic designer and printer.

Drafted into the U.S. Army in World War Two, he served from 1941-1945. Sent to Alaska along with 35,000 other soldiers, the assignment was to defend the territory against an expected Japanese invasion. Although not trained as a photographer, he was one of the few soldiers who had a camera. He developed excellent  skills and took over 1800 photographs which later served well in the role of historic documentation. He also worked on drafting engineering drawings.

After the war, he returned to Southern California and married his wife, Alfreda. They settled in Ontario where Maloof set up a furniture workshop in his garage. He designed and constructed the furniture for his home and worked on a number of commissioned pieces. The Maloof’s relocated to Alta Loma, California in 1953. He added 16 rooms over the years to the original small house, as well as a studio and furniture-making shop.

In 1985, he became the first craftsman to receive a MacArthur fellowship, This is an annual award, referred to as a “genius grant”, given to between 20 and 30 citizens or U.S. residents working in any field who have shown “…extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-directions.”  

The route of the new extension of the 210 Freeway in 2000 bisected his property and, as a result, the home and workshops were moved 3 miles to its present location.

The site, known as the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Compound at 5131 Carnelian Street, Alta Loma, is now the office of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts as well as the Sam Maloof Historic Residence and Woodworking Studio.

In his more than 50-year career as a woodworker, Maloof created more than 5000 pieces of furniture including the iconic rocking chair he crafted for President Carter while in the White House. Jimmy Carter, a longtime friend with a keen interest in woodworking, said of Maloof, “There wouldn’t be more than five or six people in the world who have had a greater direct effect in my self-analysis, my deliberate effort to learn something from them and apply it in my own life.”

Sam Maloof’s Shaker-influenced work combined “the art of design with the necessity of comfort.” In the 1960s, offered 22 million dollars for the rights to mass produce his work, Maloof turned down the offer because he believed in the power of the handmade.

Sam Maloof table. Image by Lynnette Mager-Wynn at Rago Auctions

A leader in the California modern art movement, his designs were “sleek, minimal and organic.” They are considered to have a “sculptural quality but are also ergonomic and austere in their simplicity.” There  were no nails or metal hardware to be found anywhere in his work. His favorite woods were black walnut, cherry, oak, rosewood and yew. He would use poplar on larger pieces in areas that could not be seen during ordinary use.

When his furniture designs appeared in Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times, he found his work in great demand with long waiting lists. But he was dedicated to handcrafted work so produced only about 100 pieces a year. HIs work became not only “appreciated for its functionality, but later became highly collectible for beauty and attention to detail.”

In the years between 1945 and 1966, progressive architects such as Richard Nuetra, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen included his designs in the experimental Case Study  Houses constructed around Los Angeles during those years.

In 2016, a new exhibition entitled Sam Maloof Woodworker: Life l Art l Legacy, part of a year-long celebration of the Maloof Centennial and including more than 60 examples of furniture, drawings, photographs, artworks, documents and other objects opened at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts. This major event was envisioned as the most ambitious effort yet to “chronicle Maloof’s lifelong journey as an artist and craftsperson.”

The new book Sam Maloof: Thirty-six Views of a Master Woodworker by Fred Setterberg accompanied the exhibition and a tour of Maloof’s HIstoric Home and Discovery Garden was offered as part of Palm Springs Modernism Week 2016.

The Sam Maloof Historic Home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is  part of the National Trust’s Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios and is a Smithsonian Affiliate. Docent-led tours of the Historic Home are available on Thursday and Saturday. Detailed information on tours, exhibits and events can be found on the website malooffoundation.org. His home and gardens are well worth a visit.

Sam Maloof’s work is in many private homes and in the collections of major museums and institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Sam Maloof died at the age of 93 in 2009. Sam Maloof Woodworker Inc. continues to carry on his legacy by the three craftsmen who worked closely with him for more than thirty years. They employ “the meticulous craftsmanship, the unique woodworking techniques and finishes that were Sam Maloof’s hallmark carrying on Sam’s legacy by continuing to offer his signature designs to established clients and a new generation of fine woodworking connoisseurs.”

When once asked by a Los Angeles Times reporter why his business card always said woodworker, Maloof replied, “I like the word. It’s an honest word.”

Sources

craftinamerica.org

artsconnectionnetwork.org/news/item/1212-maloof-centennial-exhibitionb

finewoodworking.com  

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Maloof                                                                 

interiordesign.net             

 artsy.net/artist/sam-maloof

Books

The Furniture of Sam Maloof. Jeremy Adamson, W. W. Norton 2006                            

Sam Maloof Woodworker. Sam Maloof, Kodansha International 2013

Sam Maloof: 36 Views of a Master Woodworker. Fred Setterberg, Heyday. 2013

Credits

Images by Lynnette Mager-Wynn, with permission from Rago Auctions

Sam Maloof music stand.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION: Safeguarding Your Home and Valuables Before Disaster Strikes

Wildfires, as we have seen recently in California, are the most destructive force in nature. Nothing can be done to avert the phenomenon of a wall of fire consuming everything in its path. They seem to flare up quickly and spread rapidly in dry and windy conditions.

Wildfire is Coming

In 2016 alone, over 67,000 wildfires were reported across the United States. You can’t outrun a fast-moving firestorm. If you live in a fire-prone area, there are steps you can take to protect your family, home and possessions by at least minimizing some of the risks.

Don’t wait until a wildfire is imminent to prepare. Think ahead because preparation is vitally important. It is recommended that brush and dead branches, undergrowth, leaves and wood piles be cleared a minimum of 30 feet and more around the perimeter of the house. You don’t want to give burning embers additional fuel as they get closer to your home. Make sure you have enough garden hoses.

Store important papers including home inventory, appraisals and insurance policies in a fire-resistant metal box or safe or in another secure location off the property. Assess your possessions and decide which valuables are most important to you. What would you take with you if you had to evacuate? Make certain they are things that can be moved easily and quickly into your car.

Prepare an emergency “go bag” with water, face masks, some type of food and a first-aid kit.  Store it so you have easy access and can grab it on your way out. Have a plan in mind for what to do with your pets.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If you face possible evacuation but have some time, these steps might help protect your property. Move furniture to the center of the room and take down drapes and curtains. Close all windows and doors to prevent drafts. Shut off gas from the source. Turn on all lights so that firefighters can see your house easily through the smoke.

The article How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes onthe website houzz.com advises on what to do immediately following a fire and how to assess damage. The author, Gwendolyn Purdom, particularly stresses before and after documentation. Photograph everything in your home for your records. Afterward take pictures of what has been damaged or destroyed. Disasters are extremely stressful, and photos are a valuable aid for insurance purposes.

Floods and mudslides are often the result of the aftermath of a major fire. Ms. Purdom  discusses fire and flood damage and how and what it is possible to rescue and restore. Check your fire and earthquake insurance policies and make certain they are up-to-date. Flood insurance might also be a consideration.

Earthquakes and wildfires are ever present calamities waiting to happen, particularly in California. Knowing you’ve done all you can do to protect your home and family before a disaster strikes is really all that can be done.

In 2016, records show 19,000 earthquakes, about 52 a day, had occurred all over the United States. Major temblors have struck various areas of the country throughout its history.   

Were you aware California averages 19 earthquakes a day?  The entire state of California is riddled with faults, so earthquakes happen more frequently and are usually of greater magnitude. You may not even be aware one has happened, or you might feel a slight jiggle, tremble or even a short, sharp jolt.   You never know when one will strike. The last major quake in California in 2014 struck Napa and the wine country north of San Francisco, resulting in a half-billion dollars in damages.

The possibility of an earthquake may be buried in the back of one’s mind, but there is always an awareness— sooner or later it’s going to happen. Hopefully, not The Big One.

There are hazards in living near an active fault line. If you construct your home on a steep hillside to take advantage of the view, potential landslides must be taken into consideration. An oceanfront home can easily be destroyed by an earthquake-triggered tsunami.  Poor construction, especially in older structures, can cause a building to collapse into a heap of rubble. These are some of the things you must keep in mind if you live in an area prone to earthquakes.

Landslides, tsunami’s and building collapse may be extreme results of a powerful earthquake. But you can protect your possessions in more moderate shaking by earthquake-proofing the furniture and valuable items in your home.

This is a fairly inexpensive and easily accomplished do-it-yourself project. It simply requires properly securing any object that might fall over and be damaged or broken. This not only protects your valuables, but also you and your family.

There are a number of products on the market for this purpose: furniture anchors and wall straps for securing bookcases, hutches and curio cabinets to the wall, safety straps for heavy objects such as wall-mounted TV’s, framed artworks and sculptures and cabinet safety latches to keep doors from flying open.

Quake Hold, a soft, easily removable and non-damaging putty-like substance, keeps breakables and collectibles securely in place during an earthquake. In use by museums everywhere, it is a valuable tool for minimizing damage due to breakage.

A good hardware store, as well as Lowe’s and Home Depot will have all the necessary supplies needed as well as advice from knowledgeable staff. Everything is also available on Amazon and other internet sites.

The Hartford website is a valuable source of information on earthquake safety. Excellent advice on how to secure everything in your home can be found on doityourself.com.

Natural disasters can strike suddenly. They can’t be predicted. You can only be as prepared as possible in order to ensure the safety of your family, home and valuable possessions.

As a personal property appraiser, I am often asked to assist with claims after the fact.  It is much better to have your valuables documented and appraised before a disaster strikes.

Sources

Wildfire and Earthquake Safety

Build a Kit

Securing Appliances, Furniture and Valuables for Earthquakes

How to Save What’s Priceless When Disaster Strikes

How to Prepare for a Wildfire

Pet Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Egyptomania Redux

bust of Egyptian Pharaoh Tuntankhamen

The word redux has its root in the Latin verb reducere meaning to lead back, something brought back, or a resurgence.

Southern California will soon be seeing a “resurgence” giving us a new chance to view some of the greatest artifacts of Ancient Egypt in a major exhibition entitled King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.  The exhibit, the first of a 10-city world tour, will open in Los Angeles on March 24, 2018 at the California Science Center in Exposition Park and will be on view until early January 2019.

This exhibit will be the largest world tour ever, comprising 150 artifacts.  The previous tours had a limit of 50 objects.  Many of these King Tut treasures have never been seen outside of Egypt. It will be the last time to view these artifacts before their return to Egypt to be housed permanently in the new Egyptian Museum.  The purpose of the tour is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

Featuring items owned and used by the “Boy King” (he is thought to have been 19 at the time of his death), the exhibit will include golden jewelry, carvings, sculptures and ritual artifacts. In addition, multimedia displays include how the scientific analysis of the 3000-year old mummy has revealed new information on his health and ancestry.  It also addresses how the latest in archaeology tools are aiding in the discovery of new tombs and in the analyzing of existing ones in new ways.

There have been several waves of Egyptian Revival throughout the last two centuries.  The discovery of the Rosetta Stone during Napoleon’s 1798-99 Egyptian campaign was the key to deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.  The publication of volumes in 1809 cataloging the sights and discoveries of the eventually ill-fated campaign ignited the creation of the field of Egyptology.  A second edition in 1830 elicited further interest in Egyptian art and culture.

Egyptian inspired chairs

Egyptian inspired buildings were erected in Paris during the decade after Napoleon’s campaign.  Ancient Egyptian art and architecture provided designers in France and England with a wide range of motifs.  Winged sun-disks, hawks and crocodiles were all incorporated into decorative arts and architecture.  An Egyptian dining room was created (1802-1806) at Goodwood House in Sussex for the Duke of Richmond.  It was the first interior in England that had its origin from the illustrations of ancient Egyptian monuments by the artist who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt.  A number of motifs were applied architecturally and to the design of the furniture in the room.  The dining chairs had bronze crocodile figures inserted into their backs.

In America, Egyptian influence during these early years was primarily architectural.  Egyptian revival architecture in America can be seen in Benjamin Latrobe’s original design (not built) for the Library of Congress Room in the new Capitol (1808), the 4th Precinct Police Station in New Orleans (1836), The Tombs in New York City (1838), and the Washington Monument (1850) as well as in many other public and private buildings in cities and towns across America. There is a 3500-year old Egyptian obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle, in New York City’s Central Park.  Egyptian themes, however, didn’t begin to be evident in the decorative arts until the end of the 19th century.

After the Civil War, Americans became interested in other cultures.  Designers and artists looked to Japan, the Middle East and Africa for new ideas.  Egyptian motifs were combined with more traditional western styles and the result incorporated details such as gilt-bronze sphinxes, textiles woven with Egyptian themes, geometric depictions of palm fronds, lotus blossoms and reeds.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi’s 1871 opera Aida and continued archaeological discoveries, particularly the excavation at Tel El-Amarna in 1887, kept the public’s awareness and interest focused on Egypt.

Medallion with Egyptian Scarab motif

Egyptian symbols and images translated well into the decorative arts and this aesthetic found its way into jewelry and silver designs.  At the turn of the 20th century as the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles became popular, Egyptian motifs appeared in jewelry, textiles, wallpaper and other decorative arts, providing an exotic alternative to the conventional and traditional styles of the time.

Scholars refer to these periods as Egyptomania – an obsession with Egyptian antiquities and design.  However, there would not be another major one until the discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922.  Egyptian motifs began to be seen everywhere in modern culture and became an essential element in Art Deco design and architecture, carrying on into the 1930’s and early 1940’s.

The phenomenon continued to grip the world fueled by the rumors of a curse related to the death of Lord Caernarvon, who had financed Carter’s search for the tomb.  According to Robert Nemeth, an English architectural historian and conservationist:

“The discovery was still in the early days for Art Deco which took its name from the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries held in Paris in 1925.  Designers of the time were enamored by the brilliant colors, angular shapes, hieroglyphics and mysterious symbols prevalent in ancient Egypt. These design features were incorporated into Art Deco furniture, art, clothing, jewelry and architecture.”

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming King Tut Exhibition will be the catalyst for a new wave of Egyptomania in design and the decorative arts.  As an appraiser, it is important for us to understand the forces in the marketplace that affect value.  An event like this may cause an increase in demand for items with these motifs.

SOURCES

Egyptian Revival. Sara Jakow, Institute of Fine Arts. N.Y., 2012

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Experience “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at California Science Center

Victoria and Albert Museum

Treasures of Tutankhamen. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition Catalogue. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1976

Pinterest – Egyptian Revival Jewelry – 412 Images

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry, An Identification and Value Guide.  Lillian Baker. Collector Books. Paducah, Kentucky, 1981.

Gilt bronze figure of an Egyptian cat

There Will Be Art – PST: LA/LA

This exploration of Latin American and Latino art, led by the Getty Museum, includes more than 70 exhibitions across Southern California. Art and cultural institutions from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, and from San Diego to Santa Barbara are taking part in “thematically linked exhibitions and program highlighting different aspects of Latin American and Latino art from the ancient world to the present day.”

On the introduction page of a small booklet, billed as a travel guide to the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA experience, is an overview of the exhibition’s purpose: “With topics as varied as luxury arts in the Pre-Colombian Americas, 20th-century Afro-Brazilian art, alternative spaces in Mexico City, the mural tradition, and the boundary-crossing practices of Latino artists, exhibitions range from mono graphic studies of individual artists to broad surveys involving countries throughout Latin America.”

This wide-ranging exhibition opened at the end of September 2017 and dates for closing vary by institution. Some events close at the end of January and others continue on into the spring of 2018.

Ancient Aztec calendar

Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas

Showcasing spectacular luxury arts from the Royal courts of the Maya, Incas and Aztecs.  The Getty Center – through January 28, 2018.

 

Merged Flag of USA and Mexico painted on concrete.

Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico 1915-1985

This is the first exhibition to examine design trends between California and Mexico that shaped the architecture and material culture of each place.  LACMA – until April 1, 2018

 

Mexican mural painting, California

California Mexicana: Missions to Murals 1820-1930

Exploration of how part of Mexico became California and the role of the visual arts in creating distinct pictorial motifs and symbols that helped define the new California.  Laguna Art Museum – until January 14, 2018.

 

Kukuli Velardi – Artist

Personal and confrontational ceramic sculptures based on traditional forms and surface decorations of Pre-Colombian ceramics.  American Museum of Ceramic Art Pomona –  until January 28, 2018.

Kinesthesia Latin American Kinetic Art, 1954-1969

Palm Springs Art Museum – until January 18, 2018.

A Search for Living Architecture: Albert Frey and Lina LoBardi

Explores the visionary building and design of two mid-century architects who shared a belief that architecture is a way to connect people, nature, building and living.  Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center – until January 7, 2018.

Everyone is encouraged to visit familiar as well as new institutions. As the introduction states “Wherever your journey takes you, there will be art.”

The website pacificstandardtime.org has a full and up-to-date list of all the exhibitions, events and locations.

As a result of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, more than 60 new illustrated exhibition catalogues have been published and are available from Southern California bookstores and individual museums. The publications are “…a permanent legacy of the ground-breaking scholarship on Latin American and Latin art generated through more than five years of planning, research and collaborative work among hundreds of curators, artists and scholars.”  A complete list can be viewed at assets.contentful.com. Additional details and descriptions of selected catalogs can be found on the website artfixdaily.com.

As a personal property appraiser, it is important to be aware of major exhibitions.  They may have an impact on the collecting community, influence trends and affect values.

Print Source

There Will Be 70+ Exhibitions Across Southern California.  There Will Be Art.

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA.  Latin American and Latino Art in LA.

Presenting Sponsors:  The Getty Museum and Bank of America

Contains complete list of sites, events and themes including a location map.  Available from the Getty Museum.

 

Palm Springs and Mid-Century Modernism

Mid-century modern room

As early as the 1920s, the Coachella Valley, and particularly Palm Springs, became known for the dry clear climate and mild warm winters which were so helpful to those recuperating from serious respiratory conditions. Wealthy people from all over the country, wishing to escape the winter snows and cold, soon began to value the area for relaxation and fun and as a place to enjoy the stark beauty and contrast of the scenic wonders the desert offered.

Soon the area became a get-away playground for the Hollywood elite and the stars created their own burgeoning movie colony here in the desert. Palm Springs became a safe retreat from the prying eyes of the “paparazzi” of those days. The stars could stroll down the main streets and enjoy themselves in the restaurants and watering holes in relative comfort confident in being fairly anonymous.

Even though numerous spas and resorts sprung up to accommodate the visitors, many of the “snowbirds” and movie stars began to build second homes. Because these homes were not the primary residences of the occupants, the owners felt that they had more freedom to take architectural risks in the designs. The uniqueness of the desert landscape and environment and the luminous, rich, clear and strong light required an architecture that was sophisticated and understated – one that would blend with the spectacular austereness and palette of the desert.

The desert was a blank canvas to the architect, open to creative and innovative approaches in new lines, angles, and textures that worked with the environment. It inspired artists to work with, blending and contrasting, the natural materials in abundance around them.

Dolly Faibyshev states in her book Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern, that Palm Springs has one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture in the country. Many of the most famous architects of the period were inspired by the desert environment. With commissions from film stars, private wealthy patrons, and corporations, architects of the caliber of Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, John Lautner, Paul Williams, William Krisel, and A. Quincy Jones, among many other notables, were able to envision, design and play with new and innovative architectural features.

The style emphasized creating structures with broad generous windows and open floor plans, all to the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outside in. The novel post and beam design eliminated the need for heavy and bulky support walls in favor of walls that seemed to be made of glass. The idea was one of “clean simplicity and integration with nature”. In mid-century designs, function did not follow form, it was as important as form.

The mid-century modern movement in the United States was an American reflection of the International Style and the Bauhas movements which had held sway in early 20th century modern architecture. In the 1940’s, the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with the prevalent styles in modern architecture and a reaction to the lack of variety of Mies van der Rohe and LeCorbusier. Surface ornament and historical references began to re-emerge and influence decorative forms. The International Style’s architectural orthodoxy was challenged by these new approaches. Mid-century design was used in residential structures with the “goal of bringing modernism to post-war American communities.”

The deserts of Palm Springs offered architects and designers fertile and virtually untouched ground for their experimentation with and development of fresh and innovative forms of design. An outstanding example is the work of A. Quincy Jones, the architect and designer of the Walter Annenberg estate, Sunnylands.

mid-century modern chair, style of Bertoia

Palm Springs celebrates its heritage with Modernism Week, February 15-25, 2018, a very popular and always sold-out event. Fortunately, there is a Fall Preview from October 19-22, 2017. Although also a popular event, it gives a brief overview of the full two-weeks taking place in February. The Mission of Modernism Week is to celebrate and foster appreciation of mid-century architecture, design, art, fashion, and culture. A list of events and tours can be found on the site modernismweekly.com. Tickets can be purchased online and are for sale now. The online store also offers many books, prints, photographs and objects relating to the event and to all aspects of mid-century modernism.

As a personal property appraiser, it’s important to recognize mid-century modern furniture and decorative art.  Many of the important designers are highly collectible, and the values for those items have increased over the last several years.

In other events this month, a four-month long showcase of Latin-American and Latino Art entitled Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is being launched on September 17, 2017. Fifty museums in Southern California will offer free admission on that day. According to the website pacificstandardtime.org, the exhibit is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Led by the Getty, it is a collaborative effort from Arts institutions across Southern California. Further information can be found on the website as well as on laist.com.

SOURCES

Julius Shulman: Palm Springs; Michael Stern and Alan Hess, Rizzoli 2008

Desert Modernists: The Architects Who Envisioned Mid-Century Modern Palm Springs, published in collaboration with Modernism Week and Palm Springs Life 2017

Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern; Dolly Faibyshev, Schiffer Publishing, 2010

LA Times Article on Fall Preview: August 1, 2017

moderrnismweekly.com

pacificstandardtime.org

Mid-century modern furniture on 1stdibs

Links to mid-century modern in Palm Springs at Swank Modern Design

 

Modern Italian blown glass vase, style of Venini

Art Deco 1925-1940 …. Looking to the Future.

Radio with art deco streamlined styling.

The predominant motif in Art Deco design was the appearance of “Speed”. Streamlined sweeping curves based on aerodynamic principles – a symbol of forward movement.

The pessimism – some critics considered it decadence – that pervaded society at the end of the 19th century was replaced with a sense of optimism and excitement. People looked ahead to the new century witnessing the industrial progress that was giving them hope for an economic and social revival.

The term “Art Deco” derived from the 1925 Paris L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The purpose of the exhibition was to “unite art with industry”. The concept was to embody the ideas of this modern age with a complete break from the past. The work of designers was not to imitate earlier historical periods. They could, however, draw on ancient designs for inspiration, as long as the artisans adapted the designs in the modern style.

Gathering from diverse sources, we see motifs from Mayan and Aztec cultures; Egyptian themes that coincided with the discovery and worldwide interest in King Tut’s tomb, and interest in the striking patterns and colors inherent in African and Japanese art.

Walnut art deco dining table

The cost of fine handcrafted objects was out of the reach of many. Exotic woods, and other expensive materials made this new design form available only to the very wealthy. A need was created for production of machine-made objects in quantity, cost-efficient, modern looking and affordable to all; items that were not only functional, but beautiful in their simplicity.

Streamlined designs were applied to cars, trains, ships, and objects whose purpose was certainly not forward movement. Buildings, gas pumps, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, radios and gramophones, kitchen utensils, toasters, ceramics, pottery and glassware, clocks and wall sconces, and other everyday items all displayed this new form of design. Striking geometric patterns, bold and contrasting use of color, symmetry, lack of frills and of anything faintly romantic defined the style.

Art Deco concepts permeated all things in the 1920s and 1930s – architecture, fine art, cinema, graphics and advertising posters, and in fashion design for both men and women.

Bakelite and other new synthetic materials were particularly well-suited to the mass production of Art Deco jewelry. Now anyone regardless of their social position could afford the trendy and decorative pieces that were now available to all.

Sleek-looking metals, stainless steel, aluminum and chrome appeared in even the most common household items. The cocktail shaker became the symbol of fashionable sophistication in many middle-class homes. If you enjoy the “Thin Man” movies or any movie from the 1930’s, spot the cocktail service that was always present as part of the set decoration.

Walk into a home department at Macy’s, and you will most likely see a display of Fiesta Ware. Still popular with its simple, streamlined forms in brilliant colors, it was introduced by the Homer Laughlin China Co. of West Virginia in 1936.The line was noted for its Art Deco styling which featured concentric circles and a variety of bright colors and shapes. It was discontinued in 1972 due to changing tastes in dinnerware styles, but was reintroduced in 1984 with new glazes and colors. Popular again, Fiesta Ware is considered to be the most collected brand of china in the United States.

An organization devoted to the preservation of Art Deco in all its forms is the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. They are sponsoring a festival aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California from August 18-20. It will be a weekend of total immersion in the Art Deco era. They are also planning their annual Avalon Ball in January in the Casino on Catalina Island. The Catalina Casino on Avalon Bay, built in 1929, is a remarkable example of Art Deco design. Information and many interesting articles on preservation as well as other topics and events can be found on their website.

The theme of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair – “A Century of Progress” sums up the underlying ideas of the period known as Art Deco:  Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts.

Art Deco survived into the early 1940’s when it evolved to mid-century modernism.

One of the most interesting assignments I’ve had was to appraise a large collection of Art Deco period furniture and posters for insurance purposes.   Identifying the exotic veneers was a challenge.

Sources

Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s. Alastair Duncan.

Harry N. Abrams New York, 2009.

Art Deco 1910-1939. Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton, Ghislaine Wood, Editors

V & A Publications. London, 2003. (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Art Deco Society of Los Angeles. www.adsla.org

Art Deco. Young Mi Kim. Friedman/Fairfax. Architecture and Design Library

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Jewelry. Lillian Baker. Collector Books Paducah, Kentucky, 1981.

Websites

History of Art Deco. Bryan Mawr College. www. brynmawr.edu

Art Deco. The Art Story – Modern Art Insight. www.theartstory.org

Art Deco. Wikipedia.

Art Deco perfume bottle

“The Art that is Life” American Art Pottery

Arts & Crafts period tile mural for the Santa Fe train at Union Station, San Diego.

The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, spanning the years from 1875-1930, saw its beginnings as a rebellion against the fussiness and excesses of the Victorian age and the terrible economic and environmental conditions fostered by the industrial revolution. It had its origins in expressing the ideas of the Movement as stated in this quote from an exhibition catalog published by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts:

“Convinced that industrialization had caused the degradation of work and the destruction of the environment, Arts and Crafts reformers created works with deliberate social messages. Their designs conveyed strong convictions about what was wrong with society and reflected prescriptions for living. The aim was to incorporate art into everyday activities and thus, to democratize it”.

Groups of like-minded artisans formed guilds and collectives to produce handcrafted wares including tall vases, tiles, utilitarian shapes for daily use, original designs with simplified shapes, experimental glazes and painting techniques, many with incised and raised decorations. From the 1880’s to post World War 1, highly decorated Japanese porcelain and artifacts inspired American pottery artists and designers.

Many pottery-making collectives sprang up across America during these years, and especially in California, incorporating new ideas about design, philanthropy, and social consciousness. The Arequipa Pottery located in Marin county in Northern California, was established as part of a tuberculosis sanatorium for young working-class women who were taught the craft as part of their recovery program and produced wares for sale in stores across the country, as well as being displayed at the Pan Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915.

The popularity of the Arts and Crafts movement began to decline after World War 1 as newer design forms began to evolve. The design aesthetic of the movement continued to influence modernism in the 1930’s and 1940’s and into the post-modernism period of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sunnylands, the Walter Annenberg estate in Palm Springs, is a fine example of post-modernism architecture as it echoes the idealism, beauty, grace, form in nature, and simplicity of the earlier movement.

There are a few Arts and Crafts potteries still producing today, but almost all of them were out of business by 1930. There was a resurgence of handcrafted pottery and objects late in the 20th century and there are many artisans producing fine handcrafted works today. American Art Pottery can be found in antique stores, auctions, and on line. There are collections in many museums around the country. There are walking and home tours in San Diego and Pasadena focusing on arts and crafts design and architecture at various times of the year and many websites, books, publications, organizations and dealers can be found on line relating to the Arts and Crafts movement and, specifically, art pottery.

A worthwhile show for those who are interested in handcrafted art pottery, old and new, is the upcoming Los Angeles Pottery Show at the Pasadena Convention Center on May 20-21, 2017. It is the largest pottery and tile show in America.

FURTHER RESEARCH

General Books on the Arts and Crafts Movement:

The Art That is Life – Arts and Crafts Movement in America 1875-1920, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Wendy Kaplan   1987

The Arts and Crafts Companion, Pamela Todd, 2004, Bullfinch

The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America: Design for the Modern World 1880-1920, Wendy Kaplan, 2005, Thames & Hudson

The Arts and Crafts Movement (World of Art), 1991, Thames & Hudson

Arts and Crafts in Britain and America, Isabel Anscombe and Charlotte Gere, 1978, Rizzoli

General Books on American Art Pottery and Tile:

American Art Tile 1876-1941, Norman Karlson, 1998, Rizzoli

American Art Pottery, David Rago , 1997, Knickerbocker Press

California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism, Book Published  in Conjunction with Exhibition at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 2003-2004

Journal of the American Pottery Association – bi-monthly magazine with fully researched and in-depth articles and information on all aspects of art pottery

www.AmArtPot.org/

justartpottery.com         Newsletter and Blog

Museum Collections

LACMA

Oakland Museum    Oakland, CA

Kirkland Museum    Denver, Colorado

Everson Museum    Syracuse, New York

American Arts and Crafts Collection of Alexander and Sidney Sheldon (exhibition publication)

Palm Springs Art Museum

Art Pottery collections displayed in many Museums around the US.

The Arts and Crafts Society – aggregate of resources, books, collections and museums worldwide

Arts & Crafts pottery compote

ANTIQUE and PERSONAL PROPERTY APPRAISALS

Antiques and Personal Property Appraisals

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a full time Certified Appraiser of Personal Property.  Designated with the International Society of Appraisers in Antiques, Furnishings + Decorative Art.  Twenty years of personal property appraisal experience, since 1999.  Generalist appraiser with a specialty in art glass.   Member of the Desert Estate Planning Council, Decorative Arts Trust, Foundation For Appraisal Education, ArtTable and Art Alliance For Contemporary Glass.

760-205-2582 (Palm Desert); 619-670-4455 (San Diego)

Serving the Palm Desert/ Palm Springs and San Diego, California regions.  Willing to travel for large projects.

STRENGTH OF THE CALIFORNIA ART MARKET

Artfix Daily ran a good article titled “Four Reasons Why Historic Art Remains Important To The California Market” written by the editorial staff at William A. Karges Fine Art.

The major points discussed regarding Early California paintings (1870-1940) are:

  1. Traditional art is self-sustaining
  2. It preserves our (California) history
  3. Historical art preserves our environment
  4. The market is strong

To read the full article, see the following link at Art Fix Daily:

Strength of the California Art Market

 

Untying the Knot

You may have seen the fairly new television series on Bravo titled “Untying the Knot”.  It features a prominent divorce mediator helping couples split up their joint assets.

As part of the process, appraisers are brought in to value the personal property.  The level of value may vary slightly by state, however in California the appropriate level is “Fair Market Value”.  For television purposes, the appraisers are verbally reporting the values.  In real life, a written appraisal report must be provided.  It is important to choose an impartial and credentialed appraiser who may be called to testify at formal mediation or court.

In most cases, property owned prior to the marriage is separate and retained by the individual.  Individuals with large collections or family heirlooms may want to consider having their items documented and appraised as part of their pre-nuptial planning.

As an appraiser, I cannot give legal advice.  Please consult a professional attorney.

Resources:

What Should I Know about Divorce and Custody?” from the State Bar of California

Divorce or Separation from the Judicial Branch of California Courts

 

About the Author:

Kathi Jablonsky, ISA CAPP is a certified appraiser of personal property designated in Antiques and Residential Contents with the International Society of Appraisers.  She is based in Southern California and serves the San Diego and Palm Desert regions.