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Adler Silver Rose
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posted 01-20-2015 12:37 PM
A lot has been written about silversmith Allan Adler, who married Porter Blanchard's daughter and learned the trade from him. Adler eventually started his own shop in Hollywood and established a celebrity clientele.
We've all probably seen Adler's streamlined modern flatware and holloware, as well as charming smalls he made like the worn-out shoe campaign pins for Adlai Stevenson's presidential bid.
Here's an Adler piece that's fairly unusual -- a large lifelike rose. The perfect Valentine's day gift?
Adler died in 2002. Mary Rourke wrote his informative obit for the LA Times:
Allan Adler, 86; Crafted Beauty Queens' Crowns, Silver Pieces for the Stars
Allan Adler, who became known as the "silversmith to the stars" for his celebrity clientele that ranged from Errol Flynn to Michael Jackson, died Tuesday of a stroke at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 86.
From the time he began his career as an apprentice in 1938, Adler designed silverware and holloware in unadorned, geometric shapes inspired by the Modernist art movement of the early 1900s.
After his name became associated with Hollywood glamour in the early 1940s, he was commissioned to design mini-Oscars for Academy Award winners and crowns for Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. as well as silver bowls, candlesticks and goblets for his celebrity clients. In the 1950s, he began to attract political leaders and socialites.
One special commission he was most proud of came during John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. Adler crafted a silver coffee urn to be used at a fund-raising event for Kennedy, who was elected in 1960. Soon afterward, he designed flatware for California Gov. Pat Brown and a silver hairbrush for Winston Churchill.
A savvy businessman as well as an artisan, Adler opened his own shops, first on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, later in La Jolla, Corona del Mar and San Francisco. (A fire in 1980 destroyed the first shop, along with about $1 million in inventory and equipment.)
He once described his style as "clean lines with a bent toward the unconventional." A teapot modeled after a teardrop and a coffee urn shaped like an oversized egg were among his favorite creations.
Born in Missoula, Mont., Adler moved to Burbank with his parents as a young boy. He intended to be a building contractor, but when he met and fell in love with Helen Rebecca Blanchard, his plans changed. Her father was Porter Blanchard, a seventh-generation silversmith in the Arts and Crafts tradition. In 1938, Adler married Rebecca Blanchard and became an apprentice to her father. Two years later, he went into business for himself.
His Sunset Boulevard shop attracted Hollywood actors and actresses, several of whom took private silversmith lessons from him. One student, Katharine Hepburn, occasionally worked in the shop.
Flynn became a customer after he entered the shop, dropped a rhinoceros hoof on the counter and said, "Make an ashtray out of that." Adler's celebrity client list spurred business. "They put their stamp of approval on my work and made it fashionable," he said.
During World War II, Adler won a government contract to produce silver tubing for radar equipment, which gave him immunity from the draft and provided him with a voucher to buy silver, which was being rationed at the time.
A large man with arms strong from hammering silver, Adler was not destined to serve in the military. When his government contract ended near the end of the war, he was inducted into the Army, but was soon discharged because of allergies to onions and garlic.
After the war, he designed the President Dwight D. Eisenhower golf trophy and a punchbowl for the governor's mansion in Sacramento. Dinah Shore commissioned key rings as gifts for the guests on her television show "Dinah's Place."
Some custom orders were a joint effort. "I've learned that the most important thing is a good design," Adler explained in an interview.
"I would sit down with a customer, discuss what they had in mind and pass a sketchbook back and forth. We would play until we got it right."
In 1953, Adler was asked to design crowns for Miss Universe and Miss U.S.A. He made a geometric rendition of the planets for one and a headdress of ancient Egyptian motifs for the other. He delivered the Miss Universe crown under police escort and posed for a photograph with the winner wearing his creation.
In 1959, Illinois Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson called on Adler to design a campaign pin for his presidential race. Life magazine had published a photograph of Stevenson's shoe with a hole worn through the sole. Adler used the picture as a model for the thousands of campaign pins he made for Stevenson. The pin won press for Stevenson, but he lost the election.
As his reputation as a hand craftsman grew, Adler attracted the attention of curators and publishers, as well as famous clients.
"In the age of automation, Allan Adler continued to work by hand," said Connie McNally, editor and publisher of Silver magazine in Rancho Santa Fe, this week. "His workmanship made him famous."
Gary Breitweiser, who owns Studio 2 antiques shop in Santa Barbara, has carried early Adler pieces in his store. "It's highly collectible; it has a following," he said of Adler's work. Although Adler was a prolific worker, his flatware is not rare, Breitweiser said. But his commissioned pieces made for celebrities command a higher price, he said. He and several auctioneers declined to put a dollar value on such pieces.
In later years, Adler worked in a Pacoima studio that had once belonged to his father-in-law, Porter Blanchard. He continued to attract celebrity clients, including Jackson, who commissioned a silver belt, and Carol Channing, who carried the silver lunchbox he made for her to banquets and awards shows. She is allergy prone and takes her own food with her.
Adler also spent more of his time sailing in the 76-foot yacht, Shawnee, that was built the year he was born. He bought it in 1954 and slowly restored it over the years.
He received honorary awards from the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Modern Art and others, but Adler considered himself part of an endangered species.
"Once I had 24 craftsmen working for me. Now I have seven," he told The Times in 1990. (More recently, the number dropped to four.) "I do not exaggerate when I say silversmithing is a lost art. It died in my lifetime."
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