Monday 22 January 2024
This book accompanied a major 2023 exhibition of Arts & Crafts copperwork at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon. Organized by guest curator Marilyn Archer, it was probably the first major exhibition to explore the use of copper by makers across the world.
There were 57 pieces on display, mainly functional items such as fire screens, vases and boxes. Thirty items originated from the UK, 17 from the USA and 10 from other countries. The exhibits included many well-known names – Roycroft, Liberty, A.E. Jones, the Birmingham Guild, John Pearson and Edward Spencer – as well as less famous makers such as Hans Jauchen, Joseph Heinrichs and Annie Buckhurst.
The hardback book is beautiful. It is a visual feast with superb specially commissioned photographs by Jim Lommasson and Thomas Dubrock, as well as archive photographs of key players and workshops. The numerous full-page photographs show the standard of craftsmanship and the individual hammer marks of the exhibits, which are all of high quality.
Essays by Mary Greensted and Jonathan Clancy are very informative, particularly on US copper. They explain why copper was the first choice for many metalworkers (it is very versatile, easy to work and less expensive than other metals) and how copper was elevated from a lowly base metal to become the material of choice for both craftspeople and patrons, used for highly sought after artistic wares that graced the best tables.
It was good to see mention of the Home Arts and Industries Association and the important role it played for amateur makers around the UK. It was equally pleasing to see much discussion about the pivotal role women played ‘transforming an idle pastime into a viable commercial enterprise’; however, it is disappointing that there are not more pieces by craftswomen.
Informative biographies of makers, companies and workshops provide further insight. This is a book that will grace any private library or coffee table and is highly recommended.
THE FIRST METAL: ARTS & CRAFTS COPPER
John S. Weber & Marilyn Archer, eds, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, 2023, hb $40
Condensed from a review by Colin Pill in DAS Newsletter No. 129