Oral history interview with Fred Fenster, 2004 August 9-10
Fenster, Fred, 1934-
Yager, Jan, 1951-
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
Place of publication, production, or execution:
Transcript: 119 pages
Originally recorded on 6 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 17 digital wav files. Duration is 7 hr., 11 min.
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Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
An interview of Fred Fenster conducted 2004 August 9-10, by Jan Yager, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
Fenster speaks of his parents and growing up in the Bronx; getting his degree in industrial arts from City College of New York; becoming interested in working with metals; setting up his first studio and making silver jewelry; getting married; teaching industrial arts for two years at a junior high school in the Bronx; studying metal work at the Cranbrook Academy of Art; working in a metal shop; writing his thesis on pewter work; doing commissioned projects while at Cranbrook; showing his work in the graduate exhibition; working as an Army crafts instructor; teaching metal work at the University of Wisconsin; his teaching philosophy; having a studio at home; teaching workshops at many places including Penland School of Crafts; the influence of other artists and periodicals on his work; teaching a workshop in Taiwan; the process of making a piece in his studio.
Fenster also speaks of his favorite piece that he has made; choosing tools; designing and making Kiddush cups; pricing his work; the importance of function in his work; choosing designs, surfaces, and types of metal; being influenced by ironwork; learning problem solving skills from his father; participating in exhibitions; visiting museums; the influence of aboriginal artifacts and tools; visiting Australia, New Zealand, and Japan; his relationship with collectors; preparing for his retrospective; working on commission; how the craft market has changed; what some of his students are doing now; applying for grants; the influence of Scandinavian design on his work; being a member of many metal and craft organizations; and retiring and plans for the future. Fenster also recalls Al Pine, Bernard Bernstein, Richard Thomas, Michael Jerry, Don Haskins, Zoltan Sepeshy, Stanley Lechtzin, L. Brent Kington, Harvey Littleton, Arthur Vierthaler, Eleanor Moty, Mary Ann Scherr, Jack Prip, Art Smith, Bill Brown, Chunghi Choo, Phillip Morton, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Fred Fenster, 2004 August 9-10. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Transcript available on line
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.
Fred Fenster (1934- ) is a metalsmith of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Jan Yager is a jeweler and metalsmith from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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