Post–World War II consumerism inspired designers to create organically constructed furnishings for homes that were being built with improved materials and advanced technology.
Referred to as “midcentury modern,” this design aesthetic also influenced artists such as C. Jeré who presented an ultrahip alternative for rethinking a bare wall.
Today, metal raindrops, copper sea urchins, and brass birds-in-flight sculptures marked with an authentic C. Jeré signature sell for hundreds and thousands of dollars. Their rustic allure and exaggerated scale add instant vintage flair to any interior.
“Not everyone wants a painting on the wall, and brass is more popular than ever,” says a La MOD owner Jimmy Claude. He sells C. Jeré pieces in his Palm Springs vintage furniture store and can hardly keep these sculptures in stock.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF JONATHAN ADLER
Brass is more popular than ever.
Although other artists such as William Bowie and Marc Weinstein practiced the same craft, C. Jeré was a standout in the home décor industry. Many of these dramatic wall adornments became emblematic of the times while reflecting Southern California’s easygoing way of life. Claude says part of the appeal is their durability, which makes them great for both indoor and outdoor living spaces — ideal for decorating a desert home.
It all started in 1964 when brothers-in-law Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels founded Artisan House under the nom de plume Curtis Jeré. Their main intention: produce quality, gallery-style metal artwork for the masses. The duo went on to recruit a team of craftspeople to assemble the designs. The pieces were handcrafted using rich-colored metals and ranged from representational to highly abstract.
Some of the older techniques employed, such as enameling, resin coats, and use of certain metals, haven’t been used in decades. “Often- times the vintage pieces have a patina finish,” says Claude, which makes them more interesting and therefore more valuable.
The two company founders sold Artisan House in 1972, but Fels stayed on as head designer for several years. The Los Angeles–based company has since been sold numerous times, and manufacturing moved to China in 2003.
Both Freiler and Fels are now deceased, but their eye-catching sculptures and accessories are in high demand with the thriving trend of midcentury home furnishings. Over the past 50 years, many of the metal sculptures have been installed in homes, hotels, casinos, restaurants, and department stores such as Nordstrom and used as set decorations for movies and television shows, including Mad Men.
And in 2007, interior décor designer Jonathan Adler began an exclusive partnership with Artisan House, which now offers a six-piece collection of reissued works that include those sought-after sailboats and sea urchins.
“A lot of people grew up with midcentury modern style,” says Claude, who has a C. Jeré pom-pom lamp and brass raindrops sculpture in his own home. “For them it’s nostalgic; it’s about bringing a bit of the past back into their lives.”
Keep an eye out for C. Jeré pieces at these local stores:
a La MOD
844 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, 760-327-0707
TOWNE Palm Springs
1345 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, 760-464-0480
68929 Perez Road, Suite K
Cathedral City, 760-770-5333
Photo courtesy of 1st Dibs