A Finding Aid to the Margaret De Patta papers, circa 1930-2012, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.depamarg
Creators:
De Patta, Margaret, 1903-1964
Dates:
circa 1930-2012
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
3.7 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of California jewelry designer Margaret De Patta measure 3.7 linear feet and date from circa 1930 to 2012. The papers include correspondence, writings, teaching files, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of California jewelry designer Margaret De Patta measure 3.7 linear feet and date from circa 1930 to 2012. The papers include correspondence, writings, teaching files, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs.
Personal and professional correspondence is with family, friends, artists, galleries, museums, and universities. Notable correspondents include Fred Barson, Adelle Davis, Janet Fleisher, Alice Flory, Janet McHendrie, Victor Ries, Oppi Untracht, and Nanny's Design Gallery.
Writings include essays, personal statements, and notes. There is also an outline for a book on design and an annotated calendar.
Teaching files consist of course materials, administrative records, meeting minutes, and limited correspondence from the California Labor School. There are also a few folders from the California College of Arts and Crafts and the Oregon State System of Higher Education.
Exhibition files include announcements, correspondence, inventories, price lists, loan forms, and other material for Margaret De Patta shows at museums and galleries.
Personal business records consist of financial, legal, and administrative records on Margaret De Patta's jewelry designs and sales, as well as material related to Designs Contemporary, the jewelry production business created and managed by De Patta and her husband Eugene Bielawski. There is also material on large gifts and loans to museums and universities, and files relating to the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild.
Printed materials are mostly clippings about Margaret De Patta and other subjects, along with a few magazines and periodicals, including the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild newsletters, 1952-1964.
There is one sketchbook and several folders of drawings, jewelry designs, and flatware designs.
The bulk of the photographs are of jewelry and other objects designed by Margaret De Patta. There are a few photographs of Margaret De Patta working on jewelry and other subjects, such as a trip to Japan and her house on Laidley Street in California.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection is arranged as 8 series.
  • Series 1: Correspondence, 1946-2011 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Writings, circa 1935-1963 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 3: Teaching Files, 1944-1969 (0.2 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1948-2012 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
  • Series 5: Personal Business Records, 1943-2001 (0.9 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1938-1981 (0.1 linear feet; Box 3)
  • Series 7: Artwork and Sketchbook, circa 1930-circa 1960 (0.2 linear feet; Box 3)
  • Series 8: Photographs, circa 1935-1967 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 3-4, OV 5)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
San Francisco contemporary jewelry designer Margaret De Patta, née Strong, was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1903 and raised in San Diego, California. She was among the first contemporary studio jewelers and a proponent of modernism. De Patta studied painting at the San Diego Academy of Fine Arts from 1921-1923, the California School of Fine Arts from 1923-1925, and the New York Art Students League from 1926-1929.
Margaret De Patta began to create jewelry when she designed her own modernist wedding ring for her marriage to Sam De Patta in 1929. By the mid-1930s, she had become an accomplished jeweler whose work was frequently shown in galleries and museums. Her jewelry was featured in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Around 1939, De Patta also started collaborating with Francis Sperisen, a noted San Francisco lapidary. De Patta designed the shapes of the jewelry using Lucite and wood, and Sperisen would use her models as a reference for the actual gem cutting.
From 1940-1941, De Patta attended the Chicago Bauhaus (now the Institute of Design) where she studied under Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. De Patta's time at the school was formative and Moholy-Nagy was tremendously impressed with her work. She also met her future second husband Gene Bielawski while she was a student in Chicago.
In 1941, De Patta returned to San Francisco, divorced Sam De Patta, and renovated her Laidley Street house in Glen Park. In 1946, she married Eugene Bielawski. The couple taught at the California Labor School. They also moved to Napa and founded Designs Contemporary, a business for producing jewelry that was as high quality as De Patta's handcrafted pieces at more affordable prices. Since all aspects of the business were conducted by the two of them, the workload became overwhelming and Designs Contemporary closed in 1957.
In 1951, Margaret De Patta was a founding member of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild, established to promote the metal arts and specifically address the unique needs of studio jewelers. During her lifetime, she befriended many artists and continued to create jewelry, teach, and lecture. De Patta committed suicide in 1964. Her innovative jewelry designs continue to be influential today.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Rihoko Ueno in 2016.
Author
Rihoko Ueno
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Margaret De Patta papers were donated in two installments in 2003 and 2015 by Martha Bielawski, the second wife of Margaret De Patta's second husband, Eugene Bielawski. These papers were collected as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
The Margaret De Patta papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Margaret De Patta papers, circa 1930-2012. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Jewelers -- California Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designers -- California Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jewelry making -- Study and teaching Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Design -- Study and teaching Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Davis, Adelle Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Barson, Fred Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bielawski, Eugene Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Oregon State System of Higher Education Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fleisher, Janet Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nanny's Design Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Flory, Alice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
San Francisco Metal Arts Guild Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McHendrie, Janet Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ries, Victor, 1907- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Untracht, Oppi Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
California College of Arts and Crafts (San Francisco, Calif.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
California Labor School Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designs Contemporary Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/