article # 83



by Dorothea Burstyn
(click on photos to enlarge image)


On April 11th, 2007 the Silver Society of Canada had the pleasure to welcome Margo Grant Walsh to hear her lecture "Collecting by Design".

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 Century.

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
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
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
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 airport environment.
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 Jersey.
(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
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 similarities.
 Navajo - Tiffany - Navajo salad servers, sterling silver
Navajo - Tiffany - Navajo salad servers, sterling silver

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 not forthcoming.
Coffee, chocolate and tea service 1947, Charles Boyton (1885-1958), London, England, sterling silver, wood
Coffee, chocolate and tea service 1947, Charles Boyton (1885 - 1958), London, England, sterling silver, wood
"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”
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 Company, 2000
Dorothea Burstyn - 2007 -
Dorothea Burstyn is the President of The Silver Society of Canada