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Jack Prip passed away

Jack Prip, a good friend, phenomenal silversmith, and respected
teacher, died today in Cranston Rhode Island. He was 86. To read
about Jack, visit…

What a tremendous loss to the world of silversmithing.

John Axel Prip (1922 - 2009), also known as Jack Prip, is a
master metalsmith known for setting standards of excellence in
American metalsmithing. His works and designs have become famous
for bringing together the formal, technical tradition of Danish
design into harmony with the American desire for innovation.
Several of his designs for the Reed and Barton Company are still
in production today.

John Prip was born in New York of a Danish father and an
American mother. As a child, he moved to Denmark with his
family, where his father ran a silversmithing factory that had
been his grandfather’s. At 15, Prip began an apprenticeship
while attending high school. The next five years were spent
polishing stakes, sweeping up, and laboriously reproducing
classical renderings. The experience taught diligence and a
deeply rooted technical skill, but simultaneously imposed a
restricted aesthetic. In a way it was the unlearning of these
traditional forms and procedures that pushed the young
silversmith into bold experiments and motivated the innovations
that distinguished his career.

In 1948, Prip returned to the United States with his wife,
Karen, and infant son, Peter. He came over on the same boat with
a woodworker named Tage Frid, who was to become a lifelong
colleague and friend. They had both been invited to teach at a
new school in Alfred, New York, called the School for American
Craftsmen. At the time, there were few places to study and
limited knowledge of metalsmithing techniques in the United
States. Prip’s position was unique: his Danish training provided
him with firm technical grounding, while his American
environment encouraged the attitude of exploration and
innovation that became a hallmark of his career.

When the school moved to the Rochester Institute of Technology
two years later, Jack and his family, which now included
daughter Janet, moved along with it. It was during this time in
the early '50s that Prip and the crafts movement were eagerly
searching for their own style. Along with Frans Wildenhain, Tage
Frid, Ronald Pearson, and others, Prip established a gallery in
Rochester called Shop One. This gallery was a unique institution
in its time, providing not only a business venture originated
and managed by craftsmen, but also a forum for the presentation
of top quality avant-garde craftwork. Its mission was to educate
the public to the special beauty of handmade objects.

In 1957, after three years with Shop One, Prip again felt the
need to move on. Through some fortunate connections he was hired
by Reed and Barton Company, a holloware and flatware
manufacturer in Massachesetts. The title invented for the role
he conceived was Artist-Craftsman-Residence. He was given a
workspace, materials, and access to the 900-worker factory. It
was understood that Prip had a responsibility to address himself
to work that might eventually profit the company, but beyond
that guidance no restrictions were imposed. Prip was to stay at
Reed and Barton for three years. One indication of his success
there is the fact that 20 years later several of his designs are
still in production.

Prip returned to teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine
Arts in Boston and after three years went to the Rhode Island
School of Design, where he would teach until 1981.

Jeffrey Herman, Founder & Executive Director
Society of American Silversmiths

Condolences can be sent to Judy Skoogfors Prip, 75 Fort Ave.
Cranston, RI 02905.

Jeffrey Herman

Jack Prip, a good friend, phenomenal silversmith, and respected
teacher, died today in Cranston Rhode Island. He was 86. 

And for those who aren’t sure just what impact he had on their own
metalsmithing experiences, I’d mention that anyone who’s found Prips
flux to be useful, can thank Jack for that. There is much more, of
course, but not so obviously named. When Jack taught at the School
for American Craftsmen, it was one of the few places in the U.S.
where anyone taught metals. Many of the people who went on to teach
metals elsewhere, owe at least some of the they passed on
to their own students, to Jack. Even those who weren’t his direct
students in those years, shared in that knowledge since it was a
small group of people, who shared The School for
American Craftsmen wasn’t of course, the only such seed school to
which the current vibrant American metals community owes a great
debt of inheritance. Just as one example, there’s also the program at
Cranbrook headed for many years by the essentially self taught
Richard Thomas. But Thomas, too, benefited from Jack’s knowledge,
even if not as a student, and passed it on to a whole raft of his
own students over the years, who often then went on to teach. There
are, of course, a number of others in this early group of pioneers in
American metals. But it’s a surprisingly small number, from whom most
of us doing metals now, and not just in the U.S., have inherited much
of what we know, or were taught, both in terms of techniques and
technology, and also, importantly, the philosophy of metals as art
and craft, and metals knowledge as something to be freely shared
among peers and with students, rather than guarded as trade secrets.
Jack, and all those other early pioneers in the field, have an awful
lot of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in this
field, many of whom have no real idea just whom they’ve inherited
their skills and craft traditions from. If you are one of those many
inheritors of the efforts and skills of people like Jack, say a
silent thank you. Rest in peace, Mr. Prip.

Peter Rowe