Robert Roswick is a grey-haired tinkerer born, raised and living in Bismarck, North Dakota.
What is it?
I was doing some research on the Art Deco building styles. The first thing I learned was this movement can also be called simply “Deco”. When hear the word Deco I thought people were being lazy or ignorant like thinking The Guggenheim refers to one building, but not so. There is also Art Deco decorating and Art Deco furniture and Art Deco design. What I needed to know was Art Deco refers to style of visual arts. Art Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.
I want more of this Art Deco.
I’m not sure what Art Deco is or what makes something Art Deco but as described for less savory subjects, “you’ll know it when you see it” applies. So I went to multiple search engines and searched images using the search term “art deco”. I must say I like what I saw. Our state capitol building in my home town is an Art Deco structure. It was unlike most anything I had ever seen but I liked it.
Look what I have found.
In my visual travels I ran across a chrome serving set. I like the set but there was this addition. I shiney something that I really could not identify. On further inspection it was a mirror like sculpture and the reason I could not see it was I was looking at the reflection. Once I mentally discovered it was mostly reflection I pushed that aside and I was left with the outline of a waiter, and what a waiter it was. It was a spectacular gentleman delivering a tray of food I suspect.
I want one.
Now I search for “Art Deco Waiter” and I find him. I go to the page to see what he is about and the link is Craig's list. There is a picture and a price, and he ain't cheap at $350. Next I try another link and I back to Craig's list, and this one is for $75. I like it. I think this guy is something. I know nothing about him but I like what I see. And I want one. I don't what to buy one, I want to make one. So let's draw him up.
I don’t have his base and I don’t have his hands but I can just wing it on those. When you draw something like that you need to have the equipment to make it. Here a laser would do an excellent job cutting this out. I don’t have a laser cutter. I do have a router so I will have to make it using the smallest bit I have available. I change this and I modify that. I come up with an image that will work.
I think about doing him in metal but I don’t have precisely what I need. He would look best in brass. No joy. I do have aluminum but I’m not willing to give up such a big piece for this project when I have so little of it. I do have a couple of piles of acrylic. It is transparent but I think we can use that. I set up a base and tray and start with that.
Practice, you know, everything requires practice.
Well, the first go at it is a failure. Time for round two.
Round two goes much better. I do the outline of my Art Deco waiter in one go. I then put the top and bottom on one sheet of acrylic and that comes out fine. I design these parts with tabs and slots. The fit of these tabs and slots is very snug. Once together it is hard to take them apart. Acrylic is covered with protective plastic to prevent scratches. I remove the protective covers. I snap them together and... I have my guy. He is great. I love it. I want to take a photo and send it to some folks. I do that and guess what. He doesn’t really show up in the photos. He is almost invisible. [R1]
What do you do with the invisible man?
Well, what do you do with the invisible Art Deco Waiter, you paint him. Okay, now he is back and visible.
So the project is done and I send the picture to a few friends. One compliments me on my artistic ability. I am quick to squash that. I respond that what I have done is not artistic ability but rather technical ability. I'm showing my knack for reproducing something. It is like what our government told us about the Soviets during the cold war. The Soviets were good at reproducing our technology rather than being technologically advanced. To make the point I head back to the search engines to pull up a photo of what I had reproduced. This is where things become interesting. In my search, I quickly come up with an image, but now the image has a label. It is referred to as a Lurelle Guild design. With some further digging it is noted to be a Lurelle Guild design for Chase. And what is Chase? It appears to be the manufacturer.
I search Lurelle Guild and the guild is responsible for everything on the serving dish in the original image where I found my art deco waiter. They made the dish. They made the tray. They made the decanter. They made the cups.
I think that it is very clever for the group to refer to themselves as a Guild. These guys were busy. They are responsible for the Electrolux Vacuum. Even better, they are responsible for the Electrolux Aspirateur. What a great name for a vacuum. Even better: I’ve got the story all wrong. Lurelle Guild is a man, Lurelle Van Arsdale Guild. He was born in 1898 in Syracuse, New York and lived until 1985. He was a founding member of the Society of Industrial Designers.
Guild worked with Alcoa who was and is the great producer of aluminum. He is mostly known for his collaboration with Electrolux with the design of the Aspirateur. Lastly, I see a reference to a piece known as Pretzelman. Does my waiter have a name? Is my waiter Pretzelman? Indeed he is!
What's with the wire?
Pretzelman is bronze or brass but I discovered him in chrome. I only see one side of him, so I am unaware he has a thick spine that goes up against his backside. The picture above of the Chase Logo shows the spine. Some of the pictures show him carrying a platter and a few show a wire protruding from the platter. I thought his most likely role was a butter dish or a candy dish but what is the wire for? "To spear the butter?" No, it must be to spear pretzels. That is why I see him with a serving tray with a decanter for drinks, Pretzelman serves up the snacks.
What started as a fascination over the caricature of waiter carrying a platter has evolved into a little piece of Art Deco history.
© 2019 Robert Roswick
Robert Roswick (author) from Bismarck, ND on February 05, 2019:
Verlie Burroughs from Canada on February 05, 2019:
Great fun write on your awesome Art Deco Pretzelman journey.