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Oral history interview with Rosanne Somerson

Topic:
Fine woodworking
Interviewee:
Somerson, Rosanne, 1954-  Search this
Interviewer:
Michie, Thomas S.  Search this
Creator:
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Names:
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts  Search this
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America  Search this
Peters Valley (Craft center)  Search this
Rhode Island School of Design -- Faculty  Search this
Rhode Island School of Design -- Students  Search this
Richard Kagan Gallery  Search this
Snyderman Gallery  Search this
Abramson, Ron  Search this
Callahan, Harry M.  Search this
Capanigro, Paul  Search this
Cooke, Ned  Search this
Dunnigan, John, 1950-  Search this
Fairbanks, Jonathan L.  Search this
Follen, Eck  Search this
Frid, Tage  Search this
Jackson, Dan  Search this
Joseph, Peter T. (Peter Thomas), 1950-1998  Search this
Kagan, Richard  Search this
Keck, Hardu  Search this
Kranov, James  Search this
Maruyama, Wendy, 1952-  Search this
Mattia, Alphonse  Search this
Melanson, Gracie  Search this
Osgood, Jere, 1936-  Search this
Sfirri, Mark  Search this
Siskind, Aaron  Search this
Swanson, Charlie  Search this
Szasz, Merlin  Search this
White, Leroy  Search this
Wolf, Hans  Search this
Extent:
61 Pages (Transcripts)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Interviews
Sound recordings
Date:
2006 August 7 and 2007 June 22
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Rosanne Somerson conducted 2006 August 7-2007 June 22, by Thomas Michie, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, Rhode Island. In part one of this interview, Somerson speaks of growing up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; attending RISD beginning in 1971; being asked to teach there nine years later; creating a new department of furniture design; tailoring that furniture design program to encompass the development from design to manufacture; introducing materials other than wood into the program; garnering international attention through worldwide exhibits; her first show at the Richard Kagan Gallery in Philadelphia; participating in a group show in New York City for female woodworkers; making connections through the Snyderman Gallery and Pritam and Eames Gallery; working directly with clients on commissioned pieces; the financial stability of teaching; designing a piece for the headquarters of Khon, Peterson Fox, and Conway in New York; the sculptural elements present in many of her works; moving from a small studio in Boston, Massachusetts, to a larger studio in Westport, Connecticut, and finally to a shared studio in Fall River, Massachusetts; the supportive and proud reaction of her children to her work; creating a production company with colleagues and designing furniture for the RISD dormitories; attempting to make these designs both flexible and environmentally-friendly; putting aside teaching for an administrative position in the department; recent travel to Japan, Australia, England, Israel, and France; enrolling in summer programs with art schools like Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine and others; and excitement for her upcoming sabbatical.
In the second portion of the interview, she discusses living in a house built by her father in Wyncote, Pennsylvania; enjoying the location of the house on a former cherry orchard and consequently being drawn cherry wood as a medium; the feeling of her parents that anything could be accomplished with a certain amount of study; her mother's interest in weaving and spinning later in life; the creative pursuits of her older brothers, including creative writing and photography; verbally communicating the outside world to her blind grandfather and gaining an aptitude for interpreting visual imagery; being more academically than artistically focused in her youth; visiting art museums and having other cultural experiences with her family; being fascinated with photography by seeing her brother's work; deciding to put off college in order to spend a year in Denmark studying photography; enrolling in RISD and feeling overwhelmed at first by her inexperience; taking a winter course in wood-working and preferring it to photography; being advised by her teacher Tage Frid to gain a wood-working education by pursuing sculpture at RISD; transferring into industrial design later; learning a great deal from and being extraordinarily influenced by Tage Frid as a furniture designer and teacher; taking a semester off to attend Peters Valley Craftsmen in New Jersey; spending a few years after graduation assisting Frid with the writing and publication of his articles; working as an assistant editor for Fine Woodworking magazine; being offered a job at RISD in the furniture department; creating the furniture design program; using RISD's collection as inspiration for her work and as a teaching tool; moving towards using more local woods in her designs; her recent lecture and travel in China; and looking forward to focusing on her work in the new studio.
Somerson recalls John Dunnigan, Dick Kagan, Ned Cooke, Jonathan Fairbanks, Wendy Maruyama, James Krenov, Dan Jackson, Jere Osgood, Alphonse Mattia, Peter Joseph, Ron Abramson, Charlie Swanson, Eck Follen, Peter Walker, and others. In the second part, Somerson recalls Merlin Szasz, LeRoy White, Hardu Keck, Gracia Melanson, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Paul Crot, Paul Capanigro, Tage Frid, Hans Wolfe, Mark Sfirri, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Rosanne Somerson (1954- ) is a professor of furniture design and furniture designer and maker in Westport, Massachusetts. Thomas Michie is a curator of decorative arts, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California.
General:
Originally recorded on 5 sound discs. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 3 min.
Provenance:
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.
Occupation:
Furniture designers -- Rhode Island  Search this
Topic:
Decorative arts  Search this
Educators -- Rhode Island -- Interviews  Search this
Photography  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Women designers  Search this
Women educators  Search this
Furniture design  Search this
Function:
Artists' studios
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.somers06
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9db2e506b-fd9b-42d1-b6a2-f24d806027dc
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-somers06
Online Media:

Tage Frid papers

Creator:
Frid, Tage  Search this
Names:
Penland School of Crafts  Search this
Rhode Island School of Design  Search this
Extent:
4.2 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Interviews
Video recordings
Sound recordings
Date:
1949-2003
Summary:
The Tage Frid papers measure 4.2 linear feet and date from 1949 to 2003. The papers document Frid's career as a woodworker, author, and educator through interviews and other biographical material; correspondence with friends, colleagues, and former students; writings including draft articles and book manuscripts; and records of other professional activities including lectures, exhibition material and sound and video recordings. Also found is printed material and photographic material including images of Frid, his family and friends, studio, and woodworking designs.
Scope and Contents:
The Tage Frid papers measure 4.2 linear feet and date from 1949 to 2003. The papers document Frid's career as a woodworker, author, and educator through interviews and other biographical material; correspondence with friends, colleagues, and former students; writings including draft articles and book manuscripts; and records of other professional activities including lectures, exhibition material and sound and video recordings. Also found is printed material and photographic material including images of Frid, his family and friends, studio, and woodworking designs.

Biographical material includes an audio interview with Frid conducted by C. Blandy, and a video recording of an interview with Frid by Rosanne Somerson for the Rhode Island School of Design Visual Archives project.

Correspondence documents Frid's commissioned work and subjects related to writings and video recordings done for Fine Woodworking. Also included is one oversized sketch with a note.

Writings include manuscripts of articles written by Frid for Fine Woodworking and manuscripts for his three books on woodworking which were a compilation of do-it-yourself projects written by Frid, including photographs and designs for constructing various pieces of furniture.

Records documenting Frid's professional activities include exhibition material, some personal business records concerning his commissioned work, material related to restoration projects, and a number of sound and video recordings of lectures and of Frid illustrating how to create pieces of furniture.

Photographic material includes self portraits of Frid, and photographs of Frid at work in his studio. Also documented is his time at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into six series.

Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1960-2001 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1953-2003 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1, OV 5)

Series 3: Writings, 1976-1985 (0.6 linear feet; Box 1)

Series 4: Professional Activity, 1957-2001 (0.8 linear feet; Box 2)

Series 5: Printed Material, 1960-2001 (0.3 linear feet; Boxes 2-3, OV 5)

Series 6: Photographic Material, 1949-1996 (2.1 linear feet; Boxes 3-4, OV 5-6)
Biographical / Historical:
Danish-born woodworker, educator, and author Tage Frid (1915-2004) was known for his influence in the studio furniture movement and his classic series of three books, Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking, published by The Taunton Press.

Born in Denmark in 1915, Frid immigrated to the United States in 1948 and served as head of the woodworking program at the School of American Craftsmen, which later became part of the Rochester Institute of Technology, through the 1950s. In 1962 Frid launched the first college level course in woodworking and furniture design at the Rhode Island School of Design, which he taught until his retirement in 1985. Frid's most successful and iconic design was a three-legged stool which he designed in 1983.

In addition to teaching and woodworking, Frid was an editor of Fine Woodworking magazine from its inception in 1975 to his death. In 2001 Frid was honored by the Furniture Society with its Award of Distinction. His series, Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking, remains a woodworking classic, and examples of his furniture can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Related Materials:
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Tage Frid conducted by Robert F. Brown between June 24, 1980 and February 22, 1982.
Provenance:
The Tage Frid papers were donated by Emma Frid, Tage Frid's widow, in 2005. A 2014 addition was donated by Frid's son, Peter A. Frid.
Restrictions:
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Educators -- Rhode Island -- Providence  Search this
Furniture designers -- Rhode Island  Search this
Woodworkers -- Rhode Island  Search this
Authors -- Rhode Island  Search this
Topic:
American studio craft movement  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Video recordings
Sound recordings
Citation:
Tage Frid papers, 1949-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.fridtage
See more items in:
Tage Frid papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/mw9ef4184b2-c88f-453a-a8c7-662a8d8973e6
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-fridtage

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