Good Design for Everyone: American Modern by Russel Wright

The glaze captures the imagination .  . .

Russel Wright dedicated long hours to mixing glazes to achieve the depth of soft color of American Modern Dinnerware. The first glaze colors – Chartreuse, Seafoam, Granite Gray, Coral, and Bean Brown –  were envisaged as a complementary palette. The glazes bring out the best in each other – a reflection of color in the natural world.  In that vein, American Modern was introduced as “open stock” dinnerware.

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American Modern designed by Russel Wright, produced by Steubenville Pottery, 1937.             Chop Plate in Seafoam (13.5 X 13.5 inches)

Seafoam has an earthiness unexpected in blue . . . it is not a blue-gray. A stormy sea at sundown?

The seafoam glaze grounds chartreuse while the shape of the square platter cradles the salad plate. A platter without a distinct rim or a deep well was distinctly different in 1937. Russel Wright stripped the typical elements of a platter. His minimalist design would shape modern dinnerware while his glaze colors were imitated but never duplicated.

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American Modern Glass by Russel Wright and Morgantown Glass Guild, 1951.                      Cocktail Glasses, Chartreuse (3 X 3 inches)

 

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American Modern Chop Plate serves as a Cocktail Tray.

Good design does not dictate. The chop plate designed for the service of a meat course was a large square platter that might serve as a tray . ..  in other rooms as well.

 

 . . .  the art of life is centered on the dinner table.

The Victorian etiquette books were heavy with standards that were unattainable for most consumers. There were bone plates, fish plates, underplates in the list. And of course, there was the time required to set such a table and maintain a lifestyle dictated by the past that was no longer practical in the every day of life.

American Modern set a new standard – multi-functional and undecorated pieces that could be mixed by the homemaker at will. In their book, Russel and Mary Wright wrote, that each table setting would be a unique design  –  a work of art created by the homemaker. The art of the table.

 

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American Modern by Russel Wright. Steubenville Pottery, 1939.                                                    Celery Tray, Seafoam (13 X 3 inches).

 

Ohio Valley Pottery: A Bowl is a Bowl is a . . .

Ohio Valley Pottery: A Bowl is a Bowl is a . . .

Russel Wright, White Salad Bowl, Steubenville Pottery ca. 1950s

Not a true statement. In my mind, there are bowls – and then there are bowls. Sometimes, bowls take on very interesting shapes. Even production pieces like those made at Steubenville Pottery for the American Modern line of dinnerware designed by Russel Wright. This bowl is a vessel that seems to cradle all that it holds. Sometimes it looks like an open hand …it is a curve that does not stop…

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Russell Wright Chartreuse Salt and Pepper Shakers – For You

Russel Wright American Modern Salt and Pepper Shakers

All that is needed to understand the beauty of  ergonomics is to hold the salt and pepper shakers designed by Russel Wright for Steubenville in your hands … to hold them is to love them. They fit the hand so perfectly. And we would like to give you that opportunity. We are giving away this set of chartreuse Russel Wright Salt and Pepper Shakers. Our Give Away: Chartreuse Salt and Pepper…

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Russell Wright Chartreuse Salt and Pepper Shakers – For You

All that is needed to understand the beauty of  ergonomics is to hold the salt and pepper shakers designed by Russel Wright for Steubenville in your hands . . . to hold them is to love them. They fit the hand so perfectly.

And we would like to give you that opportunity. We are giving away this set of chartreuse Russel Wright Salt and Pepper Shakers.

Ohio River Pottery: Russel Wright for Steubenville Pottery, American Modern

Ohio River Pottery: Russel Wright for Steubenville Pottery, American Modern

The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern.  Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living,  that was…

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Ohio River Pottery: Russel Wright for Steubenville Pottery, American Modern

The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern.  Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living,  that was certainly at odds in the 1930s when many could no longer afford imported fancy serve ware or a household staff to serve. His stated intent was to bring design to everyone – American Modern would become the best selling dinnerware in American history.

His design took another turn; the post modernist turn. He looked to the form and function of each piece, first, and then applied glazes that reflected the natural world. You might even say, he used organic shapes and colors that soothed a generation in an era of unsettling news –  economic downturns, political unease and total war on a global scale. As much as his design fascinates, his later avocation to restore land that included abandoned quarries near the Hudson River inspires me. I plan to visit . .

The first piece of Russel Wright that I found was in a box in an abandoned trailer. Although I didn’t know who made the piece, I was captivated by the color and shape. I soon discovered the pitcher was manufactured by Iroquois China and designed by Russel Wright. The pitcher is definitive of Wright’s design – curves that do not end. There are no hard edges. Truly wonderful to hold and behold.  And the color  . . .  drawn from the forest at sunset.