(click on photos to enlarge image)
MARGO GRANT WALSH: "COLLECTING BY DESIGN"
On April 11th, 2007 the Silver Society of Canada had the
pleasure to welcome Margo Grant Walsh to hear her lecture "Collecting
Margo Grant Walsh, retired from a successful career as interior
architect first with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in San Francisco
and then with Gensler, now dedicates most of her time to show,
lecture about and share her love for metalwork of the Twentieth
When asked by a client to incorporate a special pedestal for a
silver tankard by Myer Myers into her room design, her life-long
love for metalwork was ignited.
Subsequently the client invited her to attend an auction, where
she found out that collecting eighteenth century American silver
is for deep pockets only.
So she started to look for objects of other periods, which
satisfied her demands for beauty, form, design and craftsmanship.
Margo has an inborn sense of quality. Having been antiquing with
her; I came to admire her surefire instinct to find wonderful
items in the most unlikely places.
Objects of the American Arts and Crafts Movement
were the first ones bought for her collection. She
admits: "I do things backwards sometimes" - meaning that
she bought whatever pleased her first and then
researched its makers and style movements.
She delights in the fact that many of her favorite items
turned out to be designed by architects, such as
Christopher Dresser, Thorvald Bindesboll, Archibald Knox,
William Waldo Dodge and William Spratling.
She has a long reading list (find it below under
Bibliography) and benefited greatly from friendships and
conversations with important dealers such as Rosalie
Berberian (Ark Antiques, New Haven, Ct) and Nicholas
Harris (London, England).
Teapot c.1885, Christopher Dresser (1834-1904)
England, bronze, copper, wood
Her travels also widened her collecting horizons. In England
she discovered works by the Birmingham Guild of Handicrafts, the
Keswick School of Industrial Handicraft and the original London
Guild of Handicraft.
Pitcher c. 1900, Birmingham Guild of the
Handicraft (1890-1905), Birmingham, England, copper
Tray c.1905, Keswick School of Industrial
Handicraft (1884-1984), Keswick, England, brass
Now works by Omar Ramsden, Alexander Fisher, A.E. Jones and
Charles Robert Ashbee were added to the collection. However her
determining factor for acquiring an item is good craftsmanship
and not a famous name.
Most of her copper boxes and caskets - copper being a favorite
material for British craftsmen at the turn of the twentieth
century - are unmarked and their makers remain anonymous.
A jeweled bowl by an unknown Spanish maker found by chance in
Barcelona takes a place of prized possession in her collection.
Raised bowl, c.1960, maker unknown, Spain (Barcelona?)
Sterling silver, green quartz
In 2001 she endowed the Margo Grant Walsh Professorship of
Interior Architecture at the University of Oregon. At the same
time she donated 250 pieces of her collection to the Portland
Art Museum (PAM) in Oregon, which resulted in the first
exhibition of her collection in 2002:"The Margo Grant Walsh 20th
Century Silver and Metalworks Collection".
A second exhibition at the PAM, July 2005 to January 2006, - "Eleven
Decades of Modern Silver, A Taste For Coffee and Tea" was
co-curated by Margo with Bruce Guenther and Margaret Bullock,
both from the PAM, as well as Marcella Peterson, a local dealer.
Ten of the shown tea services belonged to Margo, four of them
have since been gifted to the PAM.
"Collecting by Design, Silver & Metalwork of the Twentieth
Century", January - August 2007, at the International Terminal,
San Francisco International Airport, is the third and by far the
most important exhibition of Margo's collection. The San
Francisco Airport Museum (SFAM) is the only accredited museum in
an airport and was established for the purpose of humanizing the
With Margo's help Abe Garfield, the curator at the
SFAM, did a fantastic job in comprehensively displaying
a collection which spans over 100 years and represents
works by makers of nineteen countries.
European studio silver works is shown next to impressive
works by masters of American Arts-and Craft like the
Kalo Shop, the Mullholland Brothers, Robert Jarvie and
Arthur Stone, but one finds also fine works by relative
unknown makers, like, for example, Henry Petzal, New
(Petzal was a businessman, who taught himself
silversmithing as a hobby. His works are also in the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
Canister c.1930, M.T.Wetzlar (active c.1905 – 1940)
Munich, Germany, silver, bakelite
A unique flatware service by Shreve & Co., next to
silver-plated servers and large dishes made by the Erp Studios,
both San Francisco, are notable for west coast productions of
the Arts and Crafts Movement. A display of Tiffany salad servers
shown together with Navajo silver servers is surprising in its
Navajo - Tiffany - Navajo salad servers,
The displays of English silver are a special treat:
Liberty silver, copper and pewter caskets of the
Birmingham Guild of Handicraft, a collection of mixed
metal objects decorated with "Ruskin" enamels, the
beautiful works of A. E. Jones, Omar Ramsden and Charles
Boyton, and my personal favorites - two entrée dishes
with blister pearl decorated handles, made by Frederick
Courthope, assayed London 1921.
There is also a collection of English tea caddy spoons,
most of them by contemporary English silversmiths such
as Gerald Benney, Stuart Devlin, Robert Welch and
Malcolm Appleby to name just a few. A nice idea is also
the incorporation of studio-designed silver jewelry,
such showing the "bread-and butter items" with which
many artists made a living, when larger commissions were
Coffee, chocolate and tea service 1947, Charles
Boyton (1885 - 1958), London, England, sterling silver,
"Collecting by Design" is a monumental show, displaying over
450 objects in 40 showcases, a must see exhibition for all
silverphiles - and a worthy introduction to modern studio silver
for all eighteenth century aficionados like me.
A catalogue of this beautiful exhibition is in the works and
will be a fitting document for this enormous show, which might
be well beyond the scope of other museums.
San Francisco Airport, International
Terminal, "Collecting by Design"
Anscombe, Isabelle: Arts & Crafts Style, Oxford, UK:
Phaidon Press, 1991
Berberian, Aram, and Rosalie Berberian: Fine, Early 20th
Century American Craftsman Silver, Jewelry and Metal: Catalogs
901-981, New Haven, CT: ARK Antiques, 1990-1998
Berk, Varole A., and Penny Chittim Morrill. Mexican
Silver: 20th Century Handwrought Jewelry & Metalwork. Atglen,PA:
Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.1994
Bruce, Ian. The Loving Eye and Skilful Hand: The Keswick
School of Industrial Arts. Carlisle, UK: Bookcase, 2001
Cannon-Brookes, Peter. Omar Ramsden:
1873-1939.Birmingham, UK: Kings Norton Press, 1973
Darling, Sharon S. Chicago Metalsmiths: An Illustrated
History. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1977.
Doty, Robert M. Henry Petzal/Silversmith. Manchester, NH:
The Currier Gallery of Art, 1987.
Funder, Lise. Danish Silver 1600 – 2000, ed. Anne Marie
Nielsen. Copenhagen: The Danish Museum of Decorative Art, 2002.
Goddard, Phyllis M. Spratling Silver: A Field Guide.
Altadena, CA: Keenan Tyler Paine, 2003.
Hughes, Graham: Modern Silver: Throughout the World 1880
– 1967. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. 1967.
King, Edward. Arts and Crafts Metalwork. Kendal, UK:
Blackwell Publishers, 2003.
Krekel-Aalberse, Annelies. Silver 1880 – 1940: Art
Nouveau, Art Deco. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2001.
Kurland, Catherine, and Lori Zabar, Reflections: Arts &
Crafts Metalwork in England and the United States. New York:
Kurland Zabar, 1990.
Stern, Jewel. Modernism in American Silver: 20th Century
Design. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005
Wallis, Rosemary Ransome. Treasures of the 20th Century:
The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. London: The Goldsmiths
Dorothea Burstyn - 2007 -
Dorothea Burstyn is the President of The Silver Society