Oral history interview with Jere Osgood, 2001 September 19-October 8
Osgood, Jere, 1936-
Gold, Donna, 1953-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 64 pages.
Originally recorded on 7 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 12 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hrs., 46 min.
An interview of Jere Osgood conducted 2001 September 19 and Oct. 8, by Donna Gold, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Osgood's home, in Wilton, N.H.
Osgood describes his early childhood years in Staten Island, N.Y.; the influence of his architect grandfather and handyman father; his early interest in architecture; visiting museums with his mother and aunt; Vermont vacations; high school; and reading "Popular Science," "Popular Mechanics," and "Wildlife Magazine." He describes his architecture studies at the University of Illinois and the subsequent use of parabolic and catenary curves when making bowls; attending the School for American Craftsmen in the 1960s when it was "thriving"; selling bookends at America House; exhibiting in "Young Americans" (Museum of Contemporary Crafts, 1962); teaching at Boston University; studying bookbinding and weaving in a folk art school in Denmark in 1960; the distinction between "furniture makers" and "furniture designers" in Denmark; working in his father's basement workshop; setting-up a workshop in Connecticut; the appeal of root forms; developing lamination techniques; making curved forms; and experimenting with various woods. Teaching at the Philadelphia College of Art, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and Boston University are discussed in detail, as are his typical workday, his design process and means of evaluating form, the growing craft industry, and sculptural furniture. Osgood recalls his teacher Tage Frid.
He also discusses his works of art including Elliptical Shell Desks, a walnut Semainaire, Writing Desk (1986), Angels in the Snow (1986), and Cylinder Front Desk (1989). He comments on selling his work at Pritam & Eames (East Hampton, N.Y.); the influence of Wharton Esherick on his career in the late 1950s; commissions; furniture making at RIT and the North Bennett School in Boston; his experiences teaching at Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont, and Peters Valley Craft Center; his involvement with organizations such as the New Hampshire Furniture Masters' Association, American Craft Council, and The Furniture Society; the importance of good photography; the economics of the craft business; and his appreciation of pure form.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Jere Osgood, 2001 September 19-October 8. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Oral history: Renimiscenses of Jere Osgood; Columbia University. Oral History Research Office, Box 20, Room 801 Butler Library, New York, NY 10027.
Jere Osgood (1936- ) is a woodworker from Wilton, N.H. Donna Gold (1953- ) is an art writer from Stockton Springs, Maine.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001