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).