If you're a fan of mid-century modern design, then you're probably familiar with the work of Russell Wright. Wright was a prolific designer who created a wide range of products, from dinnerware to furniture, and his work is highly sought after by collectors today. In this article, we'll explore some of the key characteristics of Russell Wright designs and offer some tips on how to identify and research them.
Who was Russell Wright?
Russell Wright (1904-1976) was an American industrial designer who is best known for his work in the mid-century modern style. He began his career as a set designer for theater and film, but soon turned his attention to industrial design. Wright was a pioneer of the concept of "total design," which aimed to create a harmonious environment by designing all the elements of a room, from furniture to tableware.
Wright's designs were characterized by their simplicity, functionality, and natural materials. He often used organic shapes and muted colors inspired by nature, such as browns, greens, and blues. His work was widely popular in the 1950s and 1960s, and he collaborated with many major companies, including American Modern, Steubenville Pottery, and Conant Ball.
What to Look for in Russell Wright Designs
If you're interested in collecting Russell Wright designs, there are a few key characteristics to look for:
- Natural Materials: Russell Wright's designs often incorporated natural materials, such as wood, cork, and earthenware. Look for pieces made from these materials, as well as those with a matte or textured finish that mimics natural surfaces.
- Organic Shapes: Wright's designs often featured rounded, organic shapes that were inspired by nature. Look for pieces with curves, asymmetry, and irregularity, as well as those that resemble leaves, shells, or other natural forms.
- Muted Colors: Wright's color palette was inspired by nature and often included muted, earthy tones such as browns, greens, and blues. Look for pieces with these colors, as well as those with a matte or satin finish that creates a soft, natural look.
- Modularity: Wright was a proponent of modular design, which allowed pieces to be used in multiple configurations. Look for pieces that can be stacked, nested, or combined in different ways, such as his American Modern dinnerware line.
How to Identify and Research Russell Wright Designs
Once you know what to look for in Russell Wright designs, the next step is to learn how to identify and research them. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Consult Reference Books: There are several reference books available that can help you identify and value Russell Wright designs. Some of the most popular titles include "Russel Wright: American Modern" by Donald Albrecht and "Russell Wright: Creating American Lifestyle" by Lisa Kerr.
- Visit Antique Stores and Estate Sales: Antique stores and estate sales are great places to find Russell Wright designs. Look for pieces that match the characteristics listed above and ask the seller if they have any information about the piece's provenance or history.
- Join Online Communities: There are several online communities devoted to mid-century modern design and Russell Wright in particular. Joining these groups can be a great way to connect with other collectors, ask questions, and learn more about specific pieces.
- Check Auction Sites: Auction sites like eBay and LiveAuctioneers often have a wide selection of Russell Wright designs for sale. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully and look at all the photos to ensure that the piece is authentic and in good condition. It's also a good idea to set a budget beforehand and stick to it, as some pieces can be quite expensive.
- Research the Manufacturer and Production Dates: Many of Russell Wright's designs were produced by major companies, such as Steubenville Pottery and Conant Ball. Researching the manufacturer and production dates can help you determine the authenticity and value of a piece. Look for markings or labels on the piece that indicate the manufacturer and date of production.
- Attend Auctions and Shows: Attending auctions and shows can be a great way to see a wide variety of Russell Wright designs in person and learn more about them from experts and other collectors. Look for shows and auctions that specialize in mid-century modern design or Russell Wright specifically.
Russell Wright was a pioneering designer who created some of the most iconic mid-century modern designs of the 20th century. His work continues to be highly sought after by collectors today, and identifying and researching his designs can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By looking for natural materials, organic shapes, muted colors, and modularity, as well as consulting reference books, visiting antique stores and estate sales, joining online communities, checking auction sites, researching the manufacturer and production dates, and attending auctions and shows, you can become an expert on Russell Wright designs and build an impressive collection of your own.
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