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Portrait of  Mary Ann Scherr
Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Mary Ann Scherr

Mary Ann Scherr is a designer, educator and goldsmith. Her work includes automobile design, toy design, fashion design, illustration, experimental metal research and product development. While in art school (Cleveland Institute of Art) Scherr studied all basic courses and majored in design and illustration. An opportunity for Scherr to try metals occurred in an Adult Education course in 1950. She was driven to continue her work and built a workshop at that time. At that time the "Craft Movement" started to affect the world and the Chairman of Kent State University School of Art turned over the metals program to Scherr. She was pleased with the opportunity and felt she did not have enough credibility to teach the subject, but was advised that her knowledge of metals "amounted to more than anyone else in the department." That once a year metals course attracted broad interest and became a graduate program within five years of its beginning. Scherr resigned the position of Associate Professor, in 1977 to move to New York City, New York. At the time she left the metals program had grown to fourteen graduate students and three full-time sections of undergraduate metals majors.

Scherr is and always has been influenced by everything. She is influenced by the technique she is learning or teaching. She is influenced by any texture, color or form that enters a conceptual, mental, emotional trap and is held there until it is released through actual manipulation of a project. Since Scherr entered the metals field at a time when she was driven by her own direction, she found that problem solving became her teacher, mentor and influence. The work process became the goal. Scherr is most comfortable when process knowledge emerges to guide in the completion of the work.

The computer entered Scherr's life because at the time she needed the element of precision to solve the problem of accurate pattern rendering. She learned to direct the computer and use it as an essential facet of the technique being researched. For Scherr, the desire to understand the broad possibilities inherent in the computer is a basic ongoing goal.

Discovery, for Scherr, is the vital core of an investigation. She is most comfortable when the design effort is at a start-up stage with no solutions known. Another influential experience for Scherr was working as an automobile designer at the Ford Motor Company she wanted to talk to one of the engineers to learn how a door panel controls the door function. Scherr says,

"The wise response to my query has remained in my design thinking forever. He said, 'if I tell you how a door opens and closes, you will not consider another way. As a designer you may create another system for the door to function.' That was a fine lesson."

When the astronauts landed on the moon in 1969 Scherr was making a device that simulated the visual response of a man's heartrate. She was hired to design a space costume for Ohio's candidate for the Miss Universe Competition. Most of the first men in space travel were from Ohio so the theme of the costume was an astronaut. The costume's belt housed many devices which would function, in a real world, as body monitors. Years since then Scherr has included working devices that function as human health alerts masked in jewelry. Scherr created air monitors, heart monitors, radiation detectors, smoke alarms, and other monitors of the like. Experiences that have resulted from the costume design continue for Scherr. She earned patents and an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, for this research.

Scherr was also influenced by a commission from The United States Steel Corporation. She produced jewelry that would be presented to the United States Government as the possible metal to be used in coinage. Investigating stainless steel as a jewelers metal required an overhaul of studio equipment and resulted in a different approach to metalworking techniques for Scherr. Scherr has used these systems in her current work and is grateful for the knowledge she gained.

At a Society of North American Goldsmiths conference Scherr watched a demonstration on printing designs on cards, cloths and other effects. After four years of trail and error Scherr was finally able to print and etch any graphic design on metal. Scherr has a copyright issued on the process. She represented the Japanese company and demonstrates this new process whenever invited. For Scherr, the need for precision designs resulted in learning to work with the computer.

Scherr was commissioned by ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America) to complete a project using aluminum for a promotional program. She learned to work with sculptural waxes and then aluminum to complete the project. To Scherr, this experience continues through the selection of metals for unique projects.

Regarding teaching, Scherr believes,

"Stay clear, curious, challenged and ALERT! Discover, learn, grow and DELIVER!"

Mary Ann Scherr has received many awards for her work. She has lectured and exhibited throughout the world; Moscow, London, Tokyo, Korea, Montreal, Canada, South Africa, Trinidad and Venezuela. She and her work appeared at the White House, on CBS with Dan Rather, on NBC's "TodayShow", ABC's "Good Morning America", and the Johnny Carson Show, among others. She has been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Peoples Magazine, Connoisseur, Fortune, Time, House and Garden, Omni, Mirabella and others in the USA. Her art works are included in over forty publications.