Exhibition Opening: The First Metal: Arts & Crafts Copper

I was able to attend the exhibition opening for The First Metal: Arts & Crafts Copper at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in Eugene, Oregon. The museum is part of the University of Oregon, on the beautiful (and very green!) campus.

The weekend was very special, as my former boss and mentor, Margo Grant Walsh came up with the idea and lent most of the pieces featured in the exhibition. I worked for Margo for several years when I lived in New York. She had an extremely successful interior architecture career (after graduating from the School of Architecture at University of Oregon!), running offices for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Gensler.

Never one to sit still, when Margo retired she turned to a new passion: collecting. Her collection of silver and metalwork is impressive, with a focus on modern design from all over the world. I helped her donate pieces of her collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Trilliums blooming in Michigan, one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring

Over the years, Margo has introduced me to collectors, museum curators, dealers and appraisers, and taught me a lot along the way. Her guidance and mentorship were crucial for me when starting my career after finishing graduate school in NYC. So, one day last year we were catching up on the phone and I asked her what she was currently working on. She told me about the Arts & Crafts copper exhibition she was planning for the Schnitzer Museum. She was working with one of her former colleagues to curate the exhibition, the first ever show focusing on Arts & Crafts copper. With her previous donations to the museum making up most of the show, she supplemented it with additional pieces from her collection that she lent, as well as from other collections. I said, “Oh! I have an Arts & Crafts copper desk set that my grandmother gave me!” Margo immediately requested I send her a photo and that night she asked if I might lend it for the exhibition.

My grandmother gave me the desk set a few years ago. It was made by Old Mission Kopper Kraft, an Arts & Crafts company in San Francisco that was only in business from 1922 to 1925. It was founded by Fred Brosi, who left his partnership with Hans Jauchen at Ye Olde Copper Shop to start his own company. The desk set has four pieces: an inkwell, blotter, pen tray and calendar, all hand wrought with a hammered finish and flower details. The flowers are trilliums- my favorite wildflower that are one of the first signs of spring (how appropriate!).

I grew up visiting my grandparents’ house in Ann Arbor, filled with beautiful and interesting things. My grandmother has great taste and an artistic eye- she was an art teacher! She appreciates Arts & Crafts style—handmade, high-quality pieces that are durable and timeless in earthy colors and materials including ceramics, wood and metalwork. When I told her I was lending the desk set to the museum, she remembered the date and store she bought it back in the 80s! I am so happy something from her collection is on display to share with others.

My grandparents, Ned and Mary Jane Thomson

The Schnitzer Museum published a beautiful catalogue of the exhibition, with my grandmother’s desk set photographed and shown along with the other copper pieces in the show. A big thank you to my grandmother, not only for giving me the desk set, but also for being an inspiration for my interest in Arts & Crafts and decorative arts in general. And thank you to Margo for your mentorship and friendship for so many years.

See the exhibition catalogue here.

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