Oral history interview with Ruth Adler Schnee, 2002 November 24-30
Schnee, Ruth Adler, 1923-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 159 pages.
Originally recorded on 9 sound discs. Reformated in 2010 as 70 digital wav files. Duration is 11 hr., 9 min.
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Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Ruth Adler Schnee conducted 2002 November 24-30, by Anita Schnee, at the artist's home in Southfield, Michigan, for the Archives of American Art as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Schnee talks about her early childhood in Germany, living in Nazi Germany and her family's emigration to the U.S. in 1939; her family's beginnings in the U.S. and her education; working in the display department at Winkleman's Department store; her scholarship to Rhode Island School of Design; experiencing New York City at the close of WWII; attending Cranbrook Academy of Art; her friendship with Eliel and Loja Saarinen; meeting and marrying Edward Charles Schnee; their first silk screening studio in Detroit; early designs; a fire that destroyed the first Adler Schnee shop in 1955; the new Adler Schnee store on Livernois; buying trips to Norway, Sweden, and Finland; difficulties and strategies for selling fabric designs; teaching herself the silk-screening process; designing for the airline industry; her love of color; and the labor intensive process of making the perfect design.
Schnee also discusses her sources of inspiration and how they have changed over the years; good design as "problem solving"; participating in tradeshows and finding clients; the shop paper, "The Bugle;" the Detroit Artists Market; significant commissions including Braniff Airlines, Ford Rotunda Auditorium, the Feld-Weisberg Clinic, and the Jewish Home for the Aged; and a research trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, to learn early American design techniques. Schnee comments on her travels to Mexico, Germany, South America, Israel, and in the U.S. She concludes the sessions by reviewing the recording and providing additional information. Schnee recalls Paul Klee, Albert Kahn, Minoru Yamasaki, Maija Grotell, Richard Savage, Al Taubman, Louis Redstone, Hans Knoll, Victor Gruen, Edward Wormley, Edgar Kaufman, Susanne Dotson, Harley Melzian, Selma Fraiberg, Hedie and Helmut Goedeckemeyer, Roberto Lago, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Ruth Adler Schnee, 2002 November 24-30. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Transcript available online.
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.
Ruth Adler Schnee (1923- ) is a textile artist from Southfield, Michigan. The interviewer, Anita Schnee, is her daughter and is from Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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