Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Kalo Shop was the "leading maker" of the Arts and Crafts silver movement in Chicago.

In many respects the Kalo Shop was the single most important American handwrought silversmith. The Kalo Shop produced the widest range of classic handmade holloware, jewelry, and flatware for nearly 70 years, and was a critical influence in the Arts & Crafts movement.

The Kalo shop and affiliated Kalo Arts and Crafts Community House, a training school and workshop noted for silver and jewelery in nearby Park Ridge, Illinois, were founded in 1900 by a group of six young women who had trained at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Thirty-two year old Clara Pauline Barck (1868-1965) was the group's leader and most notable member. The other founders were: Bertha Hall, Rose Dolese, Grace Gerow, Ruth Raymond, and Bessie McNeal.

The Kalo company name was taken from a Greek word meaning "to make beautiful."

In addition to pyrography (the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface) and leatherwork, Barck initially sold textiles, copper items, baskets, and jewelry. In 1905, Barck married George Welles, a coal merchant and amateur silversmith.

In 1907 she bought a house to serve as the workshop for the Kalo Arts Crafts Community in Park Ridge.
The Kalo Shop metalsmiths, jewelers, designers and crafts workers seated in front of the Kalo Arts Crafts at 255 North NW Highway in Park Ridge, Illinois. circa 1910
When Clara and George divorced in 1914 and the Shop moved to Chicago at 222 South Michigan Avenue, George convinced her to focus exclusively on the handwrought copper and silver items for which it is best known. In 1912 Kalo opened a branch store in New York that lasted only until 1916 because of war constraints.
Kalo Shop, 152 East Ontario Street, Chicago. circa 1924
In 1959, Barck transferred the shop to four of the craftsmen; Robert Bower, Daniel Pederson, Arne Myhre, and Yngve Olsson. Barck hired women designers almost exclusively, although the immigrant Scandinavian craftsmen were male. At its peak, Kalo employed 25 silversmiths.

After Barck retired, the Shop continued making copies of the early pieces, adding a few modernist items and some in the Danish taste.  Many of its forms are classics, and very collectible, reflecting Welles' motto:  "Beautiful, Useful, Enduring." Kalo closed in 1970 due to the difficulty of finding young people willing to apprentice as silversmiths.

In the summer 1992 issue of American Silversmith, Bower, the last, surviving Kalo silversmith, explained to an interviewer that, "We ran out of silversmiths. In the last year we lost our three top silversmiths; men who could not be replaced. It was difficult trying to find men willing to learn silversmithing and it took years to train them."

Today, Kalo pieces bring high prices at auction and belong to the collections of major museums.
Large early Kalo coffee urn from the shop's Park Ridge studio.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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