Monday, July 26, 2010

Aluminum That Is Not Hammered

All collectible aluminum is not hammered and not all collectors have chosen the hammered look. Today, before moving on to more familiar ground, I want to share a few thoughts about the "other " aluminum collectibles.

Recently, while going out for dinner at a new (for me) restaurant, I quickly noticed the decor with it's aluminum appearance: the silvery metal formed picture frames, other discreet touches of trim here and there, and little bud vases on every table. Then I realized that the chairs were also of a metal with the aluminum appearance. I spared my companions the embarrassment of seeing me turning the chairs over to examine a possible mark identifying the material and the maker, but I assume the metal was brushed nickel or stainless. This seems to be the latest thing in home and business accessories. Does this tweak any memories about the aluminum accessories of 40-50 years ago? I will add that these dining chairs were both elegant and comfortable.
In its heyday, aluminum was popular for much more than the gift ware we have collected. The bank lobby accessories have become fairly familiar, their lamps and desk accessories exist in many of our collections. Although these pieces were generally produced by the Wendell August Forge, and had familiar reposse motifs, other sleek polished lamps and furnishings of aluminum became available. Occasional tables and chairs made of aluminum or combined with other materials became popular. Today some of these items are museum pieces, created by esteemed designers and have prices much higher than even the most rare of our hammered aluminum.
This “look” seems to be returning but mostly in the form of brushed stainless steel or nickel. Aluminum and, even pewter, seem to be in the minority, but the overall appearance is the same.

Will the current use of brushed stainless in kitchen appliances and the revival of the aluminum look in smaller home accessories such as ceiling fans, lamps,and small counter top items, also bring a revival in the gift ware line? There was a surge in popularity several years ago when Armetale serving pieces began to fill the gift wares departments. That interest has declined slightly, but Armetale is still very popular. After Bruce Fox, Inc. was sold to Wilton Armetale in 1975, the Bruce Fox name was combined that of Armetale and sometimes the name of Royal Hickman, who was a renouned designer. With the rise in use of aluminum/brushed nickel/stainless, and even pewter, as accents, all aluminum gift ware items may again be "the rage." Obviously, being a part of a current trend has never been a goal of those of us who have collected hammered aluminum for many years. We have displayed it, used it as serving pieces for at home meals, and surprised everyone with its beauty when we had an opportunity to use it at dinner parties or wedding receptions.
One of the companies of our hammered group has long been a favorite for this type of use. It's decorative trim has made it an attractive serving piece, even when loaded with food. Rodney Kent products were the first aluminum items to merit the attention of dealers and therefore became the first aluminum to be purchased by shoppers who later became collectors of other hammered aluminum.
Below: The familiar Rodney Kent design

In later years, probably the late nineties, Rodney Kent joined this trend of simpler serving pieces. Their first brochure showed very simple pieces with smooth lines, made of Magalon. A listing of their current products describe them as hand hammered, and while still simple, they appear , as pictured, to have lost something in the change from their first sleek style. The Rodney Kent Collection is a division of Shane Industries, makers of fiber optic reels. This doesn't appear to be a logical relationship but was developed because of the association with Stanley Gelfman of the original Rodney Kent company. In a telephone conversation with Mr. Gelfman, he spoke of the earlier company when the gift ware that was to become Rodney Kent, was being developed. Gelfman had been placed in charge of naming this new line of products. He spoke of being stymied by the task until he looked out his office window and focused on the intersection of two streets...Rodney and Kent. He had the name! Now, forty years later and still associated with Shane Industries, his interest in the possibilities of computer use led to the decision to have this new line's design computer generated. photos are available at Rodney Kent Collection
Another highly collectible line of aluminum is one made in New Mexico
Nambi has been around for years and I have two pieces purchased many years ago, probably at garage sales. These are highly functionally, and dull with use, but when new,these pieces have a shine that’ll make you squint.
On my recent trip to NM, I was mainly a follower, seeing displays connected with crafts of which I knew little. I was with my daughter Sherri Woodard Coffey who has become an enthusiastic weaver since her retirement from teaching. She attended a weavers’ convention in Albuquerque and planned to visit several galleries displaying things of special interest in Santa Fe and Taos ( where she has a few pieces of her own displayed). All this was very interesting, but I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the Nambi sign swinging over the sidewalk. My field of interest! I visited briefly with the shop manager and took a few pictures that, because of the brightness of the metal, failed to show their beauty. Their brochure shows both the old classic designs but also pieces of newer more modern design
As you can see, although modern, there is something also familiar about the design of these pieces. The cake plate and servers shown in the photo below remind me of Cellini Craft's style and I'd be glad to include these in my aluminum collection. After all, although the alloy consists of 8 metal, the major component is aluminum. It should fit right in!

There are other materials in the Nambi line. Wood, crystal, and pottery were mingled with the metal pieces displayed in this shop and in their brochure. The same basic simplicity of design was predominate in all.

The company's pride in both the quality of the material and the finished product reads like that of the Wendell August Forge. Perfection is their goal.
The more I dig through my catalogs and notebooks loaded with information, the more I find! I am aghast at what I have forgotten! I have always found it easy to overlook the Russel Wright designs in aluminum, partly I expect, because it is so lightweight. His designs are absolutely elegant ones, all of spun aluminum. This is beautiful stuff when in pristine condition but can be easily ruined by a slight bump. Overall, his designs covered many fields: glass ware, cutlery, pottery, lamps, dinnerware, and "the new metal," aluminum. Ann Kerr's book on Russel Wright has an extensive showing of his work and over 40 different marks!
Imagine having these pieces, in mint condition, pictured in Designs by Ann Kerr.

Returning to the hammered collection, this small tray in the Coffee pattern which is not as plentiful as some.

This small tray and the pair of
vases with the horse motif are
courtesy of Mary Ann's
photographs of her collection.

The horse motif is her favorite.

Now for more details on accessing the Aluminist on line. For those of you who are computer experts, this will be either boring or repetitious! Skip it or think of ways to help those who are only now tentatively entering the world of electronics and are totally confused by it all...I prefer your help!!!

Comments on the blogs.......Irene S. included the following information in her comment:

Sometimes the obstacle to Internet use is not having a computer. I've found that people are surprised that public computers (and often help) are available at senior centers and/or libraries. I've been a volunteer computer tutor and have found that people learn more easily when having a specific goal such as reading this blog. So please spread the word about public computers!
A question was made concerning knowing when a fresh Aluminist is posted; also if I will be aware when a comment is made on an older post.
#1. I will get an email when there is a comment.
#2. You, the person making the comment will be notified if you click on subscribe. Unlike magazine subscriptions no fee is involved and won't be sending out renewal notices!
An email from a collector:

I just looked at your blog and saw the photo

of the Palmer Smith candlabra with the glass

I have a pair, too!! In fact, they were the first pieces I

bought and they are my very favorite! What a treat

to see another.

My own comments...
Please leave a clue to your interest, or/and your reaction to the Aluminist. Any hints of improvements, helps for other collectors, getting the entire process to run more smothly .... all will be appreciated. Do try to refrain from saying "Yuck!" :)

Several sales are planned; at least one is scheduled. There may be more information on Alumilist>

Waiting to hear from you and expecting my computer to fail has symptoms that don't bode well for me.