Flower Basket

Dirk Van Erp American

Not on view

California was a dynamic and influential creative center for the American Arts & Crafts movement. When Charles Ashbee, an English designer and leading proponent of the Arts & Crafts movement, visited California in 1909, he reported, "The best work in Arts and Crafts in America is already being produced on the Pacific Coast." Dirk Van Erp’s bold and inventive hammered and patinated metal wares likely were among the work that inspired Ashbee’s admiration. This canoe-shaped flower basket epitomizes Van Erp’s distinctive metalwork both in the way the varied hammer marks enliven the surface and the reddish brown patination that lends vitality and richness to the form.

Born and trained in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, Van Erp immigrated to the United States and began working for Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California by 1891. After a short stint in the plumbing and hardware business, Van Erp was employed at the Mare Island Naval Shipyards. In his free time he crafted objects out of discarded brass artillery shell casings collected at the shipyard. His work attracted the attention of shop owners and art dealers, and he began to sell his wares through retail stores, art galleries, and interior decorators. A local newspaper, The Vallejo Evening Chronicle, reported in September of 1907, "Art copperware is Dirk’s specialty. Yesterday, he took forty-five pieces, no two alike, to San Francisco and quickly disposed of them in the several art stores, where his work was pronounced clever. He was told that all the art copperware he could make would be taken." The following year he opened a shop in Oakland, California, relocating a few years later to premises in San Francisco. Van Erp partnered and collaborated with a number of fellow metalsmiths and artists, including Alexander J. Robertson and D’Arcy Gaw, and exhibited at various Arts & Crafts exhibitions, fairs, and other venues. Van Erp’s work featured at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, and this basket design likely was conceived at about this time.

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