San Francisco Bay Area Metalworkers Colony

07 Jan

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Immediately after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, there was a market for furnishings to restore the great houses that had been ruined.  Local  Bay Area artists began producing household wares in copper and brass with occasional silver or enamel touches to meet the demand.  This engendered a flowering of the Arts and Crafts movement on the West coast which gave us bookends that are very desirable today.  The first coppersmith artist/craftsman who became commercially successful was Dirk van Erp who offered his handmade vases in 1907.  He later became mentor and idol to upcoming local coppersmiths.  Nearly all bookend collectors are probably familiar with van Erp’s bookends, lamps, and other metal creations because they frequently appear in antique shops and shows, always at high prices.

van Erp was followed in the Bay area by a large number of art-metal workers, including Harry St. John Dixon, Agatha and William van Erp,  August Tiesselinek, Fred Brosi, Hans Jauchen,  Armenac Hairenian, and John Willocx (correct spelling) to name only a handful.  These artists and the coppershops they founded continued to function through the nineteen twenties and thirties and some even later.

Photo of Bay Area Copper book cover

Bay Area Copper 1900-1950, Gus Bostrom

This information regarding the Bay Area coppersmiths was taken from the publication entitled  “Bay Area Copper, 1900/1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence.”   by Gus Bostrom, published by California Historical Design, 2012.  We recommend this book to all collectors; it is based on original sources and will certainly provide a historical perspective to Bay Area coppersmiths, their biographies, their bookends, and copper bookends in general. Especially valuable, the book illustrates many shopmarks that tie bookends to each artist.

In November and December, 2012 California Historical Design in San Francisco hosted an exhibition of the same name, “Bay Area Copper, 1900/1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence.” Gus Bostrom discusses the exhibition in the California Historical Design youtube video below.

Hand-crafted copper bookends are often small and hard to see from across a room, so collectors tend to ignore them at first.  But these bookends seem to be an acquired taste, like oysters or martinis.  Eventually, they take a respected position in collections, admired for their masterful handwork and their Arts and Crafts credentials. For interested collectors, a discussion of the Arts and Crafts genre can be found in Chapter 4 of BOOKENDS: Objects of Art and Fashion.  Bookend Collector  posted copper bookends from the Bay area coppershop Old Mission Kopper Kraft  on November 27, 2013 and we will post additional Bay Area copper bookends soon.

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Arts & Crafts


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