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Handy & Harmon Workshops

The Handy and Harmon Workshops were very important events in the history of contemporary metalsmithing (post W.W.II) in America. Margret Craver saw the need for the dissemination of technical information in the United States. She approached the President of Handy & Harmon, Refiners and Dealers in the precious metals to promote a greater interest in metalsmithing and educate practicing craftspeople and artists on the techniques of smithing. There were only two universities in the United States that taught advanced courses in the metals field. Craver, herself, was amidst research on metals techniques. She traveled all over the country and abroad to attain the knowledge she sought. She vowed to make it easier for others who wanted to become metalsmiths to succeed in their goal. In order for contemporary American silver to grow, people needed to be taught techniques and given time to experiment with them. Craver was also interested in doing something for the war effort.

"Instead of trying to learn to knit for soldiers of World War II, I joined Handy & Harmon, set up a pilot program under the watchful eyes of General Kirk, Surgeon General of the United States Army, and the Chief Occupational Therapist."

Craver approached Mr. Niemeyer, the President of Handy & Harmon, and summed up what she had been thinking and presented the need for an educational project -- he responded with great enthusiasm. The Hospital Service Department became the Craft Services Department. Plans for the first of five conferences started with the offering of four weeks of work in silver to teachers with art and design backgrounds. Twelve people was the maximum for each conference. They found that Rhode Island School of Design had a large, well equipped, ventilated studio with several years of accumulated dust. Mr. William Bennett, form Goldsmith's Hall in London, agreed to be the first teacher and Frank Spies gave the first metallurgical lectures.

The opening day of the first conference arrived and all conferees reported in spite of its being an unheard of project. Mr. Niemeyer came from New York to welcome the conferees and five minutes later Mr. Bennett started his first demonstration on blocking. Twenty minutes later twelve hammers were pounding. Conference breaks were talks by Handy & Harmon metallurgists and gallery directors. Mr. Bennett and Margret Craver were also making a color film documenting the raising of a form from a flat sheet of metal to a completed bowl.

The results of the conference seemed liked magic and were a bit amazing. The pieces made during the conference were exhibited in many places in New York, a tour of Europe under the State Department, and above all an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was an educational exhibit with the conferee's pieces and one of John Prip's as the attraction.