© Summer 1996 Newsletter


Artisan Happenings

Cynthia Eid was invited to create a link for a chain to be exhibited in conjunction with the 1996 SNAG conference. Each artist was given a silhouette of an ellipse approximately 7½" x 5" wide, with a maximum thickness of 1½" within which the link had to fit. There were no restrictions as to materials or shape. Cynthia wanted to create a piece that could stand on its own merit when not "linked up."

Cynthia also won an honorable mention for her twisted-neck torque with black pearls set into the ends. Sponsored by MJSA (Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths of America), their first annual Jewelry Design Competition was part of a fundraiser for SAVE (Stop Abuse and Violence Everywhere). Specially created sculptures were presented to award winners on May 5, 1996.

In May Jeffrey Herman gave an hour-long slide lecture on "The Art, Craft, and Business of the 21st-Century Silversmith" to students in the metals program at Georgia State University in Atlanta.

My Life as a Silversmith
by Herman W. Glendenning

When I was six, my family moved to a neighborhood in South Gardner, Massachusetts, where I was destined to become acquainted with a special gentleman. I soon became fond of this man, Mr. Arthur J. Stone, Dean of American Silversmiths.

The first summer I knew him, he asked me if I would do some errands for him and weed his asparagus bed. One day in 1914, when I was eight, Mr. Stone asked me to come in and help him for one hour a day after school. It was at this time that I received my first lesson in the silver trade. It was a real pleasure to go to Mr. Stone's shop. My first job was to hold a beautiful altar beaker on which he made a silver cover. I was a second pair of hands for many projects. He had chased a beautiful crucifix on the front and on the back was a sacrificial lamb. It was at this young age that I wanted to learn silversmithing under the tutelage of Mr. Stone.

He soon taught me to remove silver pieces which he chased from the pitch block. I learned that the term chasing meant making a flower or other design on the metal without cutting into the surface as is done with engraving. Chasing is the displacing of portions of the silver and creating a nice design at the same time. Today it is almost a lost art.

When I reached the age of fourteen, Mr. Stone no longer had to call my mother to say "Don't have Herman come for a few days as the inspectors [child labor] are in town." A few days later he would call to say Herman could return. At this point I had to get a work certificate which would allow me to work in the production line. I began to learn how to forge flatware, and when Mr. Stone felt I was proficient enough, he transferred me to the holloware department.

I have very fond memories of Mr. Stone and the times we spent together. I worked for him for 20 years, starting when I was in the third grade. And during that time I never heard him raise his voice in anger or show any signs of exasperation, no matter what went wrong.

One day during my school vacation, I was working on a project when Mr. Stone came into the workroom and asked me to put aside what I was doing. I was to start an 8½" bowl right away. He said, "It must be ready for tomorrow afternoon for shipment." I put away what I had been working on and got the drawings and scales out to weigh the silver. I then picked up the silver and started to work. In a few minutes I felt a hand on my shoulder, and looking up I saw Mr. Stone. I stopped working and listened to him. He asked me if he had ever taught me how to do a project in a hurry. I replied in the negative and he said, "Whenever you are in a hurry you should slow down a little. Then you can be sure you'll not make a mistake." Those words have stayed with me ever since, and more than once they have paid dividends. This is a rather old-fashioned idea and I doubt that you can find a present day owner in the business world sanctioning that approach to production.

The first time I made holloware handles which are made in two half sections soldered together, I ran into difficulty. I had set the blades with the litharge [cement] and completed the work and turned them over to the finisher who polishes them. The finisher came to me saying, "Two of the handles have broken through the seams." I thanked him for telling me and went on with my work. Mr. Stone always came in early to greet each of us daily. This morning he greeted me and then said, "We had a bit of trouble with some of your knives." I agreed. Instead of a lecture, he wanted to know if I had learned anything from the trouble. I answered that yes I had learned, and explained what I had learned from the experience. Mr. Stone said, "Herman, you'll never hear of this again." I never did, either.

Mr. Stone was the finest designer and craftsman I ever had the pleasure of knowing. He seemed to have the ability to envision the finished product and to draw working plans that would be right. He would come into the workshop to follow the progress of the work. It was a rare occasion when he needed to correct a line on the original drawing. It was a wonderful experience to work so closely with a man of his caliber.

During my apprenticeship I was instructed in the art of making my hammers and heads [small mushroom-shaped forming tools], and the holding tools that would allow us to use the heads inside the vessels we were making. Each craftsman would make his own kit. At one time I had about 75 or 80 hammers and 100 heads plus a number of special tools.

We used steel hammers made of good tool steel. We would forge them into shape much as a blacksmith forged horseshoes and metal parts on wagons. After forging hammerheads we would file them smooth and make the two faces the way we wanted. Then we would harden and temper the metal. Tempering was very important because if not done properly, the steel would crack or break. It is very fussy work to make steel hammers and fit the handles so the balance is right. For the final planishing we needed cast iron, as it is not as dense as steel and will not stretch the silver as much as steel. We would make a wood form in the exact shape of the hammer and send it to the foundry to be cast. We then polished the hammer faces and put the handles on. Heads were made the same way.

In the early 1930s, Mr. Stone was troubled with strokes, each one leaving him progressively weaker and finally causing him to stop his active work. For a few years he would come into the shop as usual to greet each of the workmen. But finally he had to stop coming in; that was a very sad day for us.

He tried several designers and chasers. The last was a man from F.W. Smith Company who was to manage the shop. When he started to change Mr. Stone's drawings, I disliked the idea and resigned.

In 1936, I went to work at George Erickson's silver shop, also in Gardner. George and I had worked together and learned our trade under Mr. Stone, so it was natural to go to him and start a holloware department. In 1971 I decided to start my own shop and built one in back of our home, where I made flatware, holloware, and started a line of jewelry.

The Gardner Evening Practical Arts Department decided that they would like classes taught in jewelry-making and asked me to be the teacher. I agreed if they would hold the classes at my shop where I had the tools. Soon I had three classes a week for the school department plus my private classes. In 1975, after having eye surgery, I sold the shop, and my wife and I moved to Westminster, Massachusetts.

Janet G. Loop, daughter of Herman, continues:

Up to 1985, Herman had done quite a bit of lecturing, appraising, and repair work, and in 1987, he and his wife, Vera, moved to Saugerties, New York. Herman sold most of his flatware tools to a former adult student. The holloware tools were purchased by Robert Oppecker, an Artisan member of SAS who works at the Colonial Williamsburg Silver Manufacturing Shop in Virginia.

Most of Herman's drawings and other varied items have been given to the Gardner Museum, as well as some of Mr. Stone's tools and drawings from Herman's collection.

My folks are currently residing at the Ten Broeck Commons Residential Community. Herman is now blind and unable to see any of his work, though he loves to hear about his past.

Many of Herman's books, some with Stone's bookplate, were generously donated by Mrs. Loop to SAS for research purposes. To reach Herman, please contact his daughter, Janet G. Loop, 940 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties, New York 12477-3306, Tel/Fax: 914/246-6392.

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