California Historical Design Presents

Bay Area Copper 1900-1950
Dirk van Erp & His Influence

November 3rd - December 15th, 2012

Gus Bostrom Video of Exhibition

Review of Exhibition Book by Bruce Johnson

Click Here to Purchase The Book
Bay Area Copper 1900-1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence

Small Selection of Pieces from the Exhibition

1. John L. Willocx Lamp
2. Dirk van Erp Wicker Firewood Basket with Copper Liner and Warty Handle
3. Fred Brosi Ye Olde Copper Shoppe
4. Fred Brosi American Beauty Vase
5. Digby Brooks Chandelier
6. Fred Brosi "Wrinkled Warty" Vase
7. Students of Agatha van Erp Art Metal Class at The San Francisco Art Institute c1915
8. Dirk van Erp "Wrinkled Warty" and Red "Warty" Vase
9. Armenac Hairenian in front of his Shop c1930
10. Two Hairenian Vases
11. Group of Harry St John Dixon
"Puzzle" Boxes
12. Group of Dirk van Erp Vases
13. Harry St John Dixon in His Workshop c1929
14. Harry S. Dixon Paperweight, Letter Opener & Covered Vase
15. Harry S. Dixon Jewelry
16. Dirk van Erp
Coal Bucket
17. Huge Harry S. Dixon "Warty" Vase
18. Vintage Photo of Harry S. Dixon Copper early 1920s
19. Pr Harry S. Dixon Brass Vases c1920 and Candlestick c1920
20. Vintage Photo of Harry S. Dixon Brass Vase c1920 (noted on back of photo 1 of 2 made)
21. Group of Dirk van Erp Pieces with California Faience Tiles and Figure c1915-1930
22. August Tiesselinck Box and Tray c1920-21
23. Harry S. Dixon Sconce with Chinese Tea Cup Shade
24. Vintage Photo of Harry S. Dixon Sconce with Chinese Tea
Cup Shade
25. Lillian Palmer Hammered Copper Rivetbase Lamp with 8-Sided Shade
26. August Tiesselinck "Warty" Jardiniere dated "January 1932"
27. Lillian Palmer Lamp with a Chinese
Bronze Base
28. Lillian Palmer Hammered Copper Chandelier made for the John P Pryor House, Pacific Grove, CA
29. "Old Man Dirk" title given to Photo by Harry S. Dixon of his Mentor, Dirk van Erp
30. Two Dirk van Erp "Warty" Vases
31. Group of Early Dirk van Erp Shell Casing Vases c1900-1910
32. Dirk van Erp Lamp c1911-1912

Dirk van Erp & His Influence

Dirk van Erp, arguably the greatest coppersmith of the American Arts & Crafts Movement, created a uniquely beautiful body of hand-hammered art copper.  He started his career in the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, CA turning brass shell casings into beautiful works of art before turning his attention to the creation of his classic hammered copper and mica lamps.  He also had a profound effect on many other art coppersmiths in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was a hotbed of artisans and crafters in the early 20th century. A comprehensive exhibition of Bay Area Copper — including rare and early work by Dirk van Erp — will be presented at California Historical Design in Berkeley, CA, from Nov 3 to 25, 2012. Proprietor Gus Bostrom has written a comprehensive book that will accompany the exhibition. 

In addition to Dirk van Erp, the exhibition and publication also cover:

• Harry St John Dixon, brother of western artist Maynard Dixon,
who became the Bay Area’s other most celebrated coppersmith.

• D’Arcy Gaw, Dirk van Erp’s first partner in San Francisco.          

• August Tiesselinck, Dirk van Erp’s nephew, whose technical
skills and creative designs were especially admired.

• Dirk van Erp’s children, William and Agatha van Erp, both of whom became accomplished coppersmiths.

• Lillian Palmer, who moved from San Jose to San Francisco to found the Palmer Shop Cooperative, an early woman-run studio.

• Plus: Fred Brosi, Hans Jauchen & Old Mission Kopper Kraft;
Armenac Hairenian; the other Harry Dixon, Harry L Dixon; Digby Brooks; Mills & Burnley; and John L. Willocx, among others.


This book and exhibition offer much new research about these artists, including more than 200 examples of their work and dozens of vintage photographs, many not previously exhibited or published.
Click Here to Purchase Our New Book Bay Area Copper 1900-1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence

California Historical Design, 2988 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703.  510-647-3621



Dirk van Erp, D'Arcy Gaw and the Idora Park Show Oakland 1908


In October of 1908, Dirk van Erp exhibits at The Idora Park Arts & Crafts Exhibiton in Oakland, CA.  “One of the largest affairs of its kind ever undertaken on the Pacific coast will be held in Idora Park, Oakland on October 19, when the arts and crafts workers, together with a number of the artists and the firms and shops dealing with such wares, will hold a continuous exhibition.  The exhibition will be held at the skating rink.  Each worker in a craft will be allotted a booth where he can use his own materials and tools and carry on his work through its progressive stages toward completion exactly as if he were in his own studio, and where each step will be explained and illustrated.” August 23rd, 1908 San Francisco Call. 

October 24th, 1908 Oakland Tribune entitled: Art Exhibit at Idora Proves Success “Dirk van Erp the old famous Dutchman who won so many awards in his native land for his clever work in copper has a comprehensive collection of the copper… Dirk is the fifth generation copper working family, his ancestors have all been in the business in old Holland.  It is interesting to watch him at work and listen to his humorous explanations of the different processes.”

“The shop of Dirk van Erp , just from Holland, is the center of an interesting crowd every afternoon and evening, and the quaint old Dutchman thoroughly explains the mysteries of the copper working art”.  October 25th, 1908 San Francisco Call reporting on the Idora Park Arts & Crafts Exhibition.

Several key people were also at the Idora Park Exhibition including “Miss Darcy Gower, interior decorator in tapestries”.  August 23rd, 1908 San Francisco Call.  Could this be Miss Darcy Gaw with her named misspelled?  If Dirk van Erp met Darcy Gaw at the Idora Park Show, this would pre-date their partnership by at least a year. 

September 12th, 1909 San Francisco Call “Miss d’Arcy Gaw and Dirk van Erp will open their studio and workshop in Sutter St the early part of next week. Miss Gaw who has been teaching for the past two or three months at summer school, will open a private class for instruction in designing and metal work.”  Many previous researchers have stated that their partnership began March 1st, 1910.  This is the date their partnership was formalized.  The San Francisco studio and workshop began in September 1909. 

Did you know there were two coppersmiths named Harry Dixon working
in San Francisco at the same time? Click Here to find out more.

The Copper Shop Oakland, CA

Bessie Whitaker & Jane Bragdon


The Copper Shop was founded by Jane Bragdon and Bessie Whitaker of Oakland, CA. They first appear in the Oakland City directories as “Bessie G. Whitaker Copper Goods” in 1913. By 1914 “Mrs Bessie G Whitaker (Copper Shop) and then as “Whitaker & Bragdon” in 1915.  They sign their pieces “The Copper Shop” with a curled arm and hammer.  For many years people have mistakenly thought these pieces were by Dirk van Erp when he was in Oakland. 

In 1915 they exhibited at the Panama Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. Their booth was located in “Department E Varied Industries Building of the Exhibition in the United States Division, Group 49”.  This is the same room that Dirk van Erp exhibited. 

There is a direct connection with the van Erp shop.  Many of their designs are exactly the same as Dirk van Erp designs and most of The Copper Shop pieces are of extraordinary caliber.  Occasionally pieces surface signed with Dirk van Erp’s windmill stamp and The Copper Shop’s paper label.  That’s because they retailed Dirk van Erp’s pieces at their own store, as they advertized themselves as a gift store. 

Both Jane Bragdon and Bessie Whitaker describe themselves as “Art Copper Worker” at an “Art Shop” or “Art Goods” in the 1920 census.  My hunch is that they worked or were trained at the van Erp Studio or took classes with Agatha van Erp.  The Copper Shop continued in Oakland until 1934. 

Compare The Copper Shop Bookends with similar Dirk van Erp Bookends

The Copper Shop, Oakland
Monterey Cypress Cutout Bookends
Dirk van Erp
Monterey Cypress Cutout Bookends




The Story of How Harry St John Dixon met Dirk van Erp

Harry Dixon was introduced to Dirk van Erp by his brother Maynard Dixon at the Idora Park Arts & Crafts Exhibit in Sept of 1909 . “After (Art School) I went on working where I was at the time which was a small electric fixture house where we made our own designs, made the fixtures.  In the Fall of 1909 I was able to get employment with Dirk van Erp, who was a practical coppersmith trained in Holland, and from him I really learned how to work metal because there I learned how to braze and how to draw the metal in, how to set it up; we made bowls, we made jars, we made large trays.  Anything that came along and the experience I had before I went to him stood me in very good stead.  But as I said, what I learned at art school was minimal.  You cannot learn very much in ninety hours time.  There just isn’t time; there are too any things you must know.”

It is interesting to note that Harry Dixon, in this 1964 interview stated that he started working for Dirk van Erp in the Fall of 1909.  That is exactly when Dirk van Erp moved to San Francisco and partnered with D’Arcy Gaw.  Did Harry ever work in Dirk’s Oakland Studio?  Yes, he did.  The 1910 Oakland City Directory Lists “Harry Dixon Metal Wkr Dirk van Erp”.  Remember, these directories often use information from the previous year.  Harry Dixon worked for Dirk van Erp until May of 1911.  In an undated article of the North Bay Labor Journal (ref in Verna Mays “Working Metal”) “the Labor Journal notes, Van Erp “fired the promising lad” in May 1911.  “’Had it coming to me,’ says Harry succinctly.”





Agatha van Erp in 1917

Agatha van Erp February 25, 1917 San Francisco Examiner Photo

“She comes from a race of copper-workers and is the daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter of copper-workers, whose trail leads back to Leewarden in Friesland, Holland.  Since she was old enough to have any notion at all as to what she expected to do in this world – which was at a very recent date – she has just naturally prepared to swing a hammer or direct a blow-pipe in the craft of her father.”

“Miss Agatha van Erp is the little lady, a healthy pretty young woman in her early twenties, who is the latest addition to the teaching faculty of the Arts Institute up on the California – street hill.”

“Along with drawing, painting in water colors and oils and sculpture, the art of hammering out flat slices of copper into urns, flower-pots, candlesticks, lanterns, andirons and lamps is being taught up there. There is an enthusiastic class of a dozen, most of whom intend turning their craftsmanship to commercial account.”

“Miss van Erp is the first generation of her family born in this country.  Her father is Dutch-born, but has been in San Francisco twenty-five years, and probably was the first to introduce the copper-working craft in this part of the country – at least so far as the making of artistic bits instead of utilitarian pieces is concerned.”

“Her brilliant brown eyes are quietly a-smile when she tells of the way her relatives back in Holland took the notion of a Van Erp, on the female side, doing the work for which the men folk of the line have been noted.”

“There is little doubt that could those Holland relatives see a picture of her in her all-coverings work apron, clasped at the throat with a copper ornament of her own making, her face smiling, her hair in a kind of charming disarray, her eyes alight with her pleasure in work, they would know for certain she had lost none of her femininity in grappling with a man’s job.”

This excerpt from the San Francisco Examiner February 25, 1917 is included in our book Bay Area Copper 1900-1950, Dirk van Erp & His Influence.


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