Curtis Jeré Artisan House and its awesome sculptural works, have become synonymous with mid-century design and contemporary modernist settings. Similarly, it is known for large-scale, ambitious, gallery-quality works of art. Brass sculpture by Curtis Jeré, circa 1980s However, there is no Curtis Jeré. Interestingly, the name is a compound nom-de-plume of artists Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels. The two founders combined pieces of their own names to create the C. Jeré signature. Their design group, Artisan House, was founded in 1963 by Fels and his brother-in-law Curtis (Kurt) Freiler. Freiler was the production chief and Fels was head of design. Mirroring the passion of many other designers of the time, their ultimate goal was to produce “gallery-quality art for the masses”.
Prior to the establishment of Artisan House, the partners built a costume jewellery business, selling work under the names Renoir and Matisse, which employed around 300 people at one point.
As the group grew, Freiler took on and directed a number of different artists who contributed designs that were produced under the C. Jeré name. Today, its pieces are attracting the admiration of leading dealers in vintage art and design. Following the launch of Artisan House, Curtis Jeré sculptures were originally distributed by Raymor, a high-end studio in New York City, and retailed at Gump’s in San Francisco, and other top-quality design emporiums. Curtis Jeré mirror, 1968, brass and glass It is reported that Freiler made efforts to employ minorities and the handicapped. Under his direction, they sheared, crimped, torched, and welded brass, copper, and other metals before coating them with luminous patinas.
Kurt and Jerry sold Artisan House in 1972. Sold and resold, the company still produces metal sculptures including reintroductions of popular mid-century designs. Artisan House sculptures are no longer made in California. Production went overseas to China in 2003.
On November 5, 2007, Jerry Fels passed away following a short illness. He enjoyed a long, full and actively productive life. He is remembered by friends and loved ones as a man of determination, talent and unusual integrity. Curtis Jeré works range from the realistic to the highly abstract. Some of the older techniques utilised, such as enamelling, using resin, and the bronzes, haven’t been used in decades, adding to the desirability and attractiveness of Artisan House pieces.