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Bijan, a major force in the mid-century metal
art movement and considered by many to be “The Father of Metal
Sculpture.” Bijan has been largely unappreciated for years, perhaps this
is due to the lack of information available about
this genius. Even with the lack of information, Bijan's collectors
love his works and their ranks are growing.
hours of interviewing Bijan, the biographer Linda Stoll has given us an
excellent biography and a glimpse into the life of a man, few of us knew
anything about. This biography opens up a wealth of new information
about this great artist.
This first article was written in
1969. It reveals some wonderful information about Bijan. Indeed, as
collectible as his "department store" pieces are becoming today, his
original works should skyrocket in value.
(Subscribe to our free Groovywares newsletter for a copy of this article
in it's entirety.)
When Bijan came to the United States, from Iran,
1959, he knew only a little English and had virtually no money. Bijan
was a handsome 22 year old Persian.
Bijan started by renting a little old lady's garage
and creating metal sculptures. He sold them to private collectors: Frank
Sinatra, Carol Burnett and Joey Bishop are some others, as well as public
Someone suggested to him that there might be a
market for his works with the general public. He rented a little bigger garage
and started turning his works out in quantity. Local department stores gobbled
them up. He decorates some of his works with glass marbles (with a technique he
is now in the process of patenting) To keep his sculptures safe in transit, he
packed them in popcorn, in the sixties.
It is his artistic eye and technical skill - he uses
new methods of working with metal - that set his sculptures apart.
The ones he sold in stores, in the sixties and the
seventies, ranged, in price, from $25 (for a metal sculpture flower) to $950.00
(for a glass top sculpture table.). However, an original Bijan for your home or
your office building, the sky was the limit.
Note that his low priced art of $22 in 1969 would
cost $110 dollars in 2009 and $950 in 1969 would cost $4,545.00, I dare not
speculate on how much "the sky's the limit" in 1969 $$ would be
Recently one of his carved crystal sculptures, The
Illusion, sold for $35000.
Groovywares owns several of Bijan's rare
etchings on metal as sculptures.
On one etching is a sticker entitled - Biography.
The sticker goes on to read, in part:
"The credit of pioneering the field of metal
sculpture has rightfully been given to Bijan. His massive architectural
sculptures, murals, fountains, and paintings, his collection of bronzes, have
made their homes on six continents. Bijan, who is so well known for his
three dimensional sculpture in bronze, copper, and brass, who expresses his art
form so superbly by using the natural richness of metal, his favorite medium,
was also applied to his distinct style to Etched Engravings on metal.
Everyone is a signed and numbered Limited Edition with a distinct character of
its own. Many have already joined the Bijan sculptures in collections of
distinguished art connoisseurs."
After hours of interviewing
Bijan, Linda Stoll, has given us an excellent biography and a glimpse into the
life of a man, few of us knew anything about. This biography opens
up a wealth of new information about this great artist.
Bijan J. Bijan
Biography (By Linda Stoll)
BIJAN IS A RENOUND SCULPTOR, PAINTER, DESIGNER,
INVENTOR AND PRODUCER, NOT ONLY HAS ENHANCED HIS TALENT
OVER TIME, HE WAS BORN WITH THE EXTRAORDINARY ABILITY TO TRANSFORM LIFE
INTO CREATIVE PROCESSES AND FORMS.
Bijan is a private man and does not share his life
story freely. After spending hours with Bijan, I have come to
realize that there are many great artists who might be greater than Bijan
in many media and fields, but there could not possible be a single person
with as much talent, expertise, technical knowledge as well as design sense in
such a vast and unlimited areas as possessed by Bijan.
Bijan is even into writing novels, scenarios and
music. He cannot read a single music
note, but he can make music, even with a simple comb.
He loves to compose music
and like everything else he does, the execution of
it, takes a back seat to the joy of the creative process. Whatever
Bijan creates in his mind, he is capable of actually making and
fabricating it with his own hands.
Most of what Bijan knows has been self taught,
which has resulted in his designing many novel creations. Bijan
proclaims, “Ignorance has been my greatest asset.” One must think
hard to understand this strange comment. He has over a thousand
inventions, but has not applied for a single patent. It is just not
important to him. However, many of his ideas have been put into production by
major companies, with great success.
Bijan has never had a benefactor, promoter,
partner, personal manager or been involved in any fraudulent self
promotions. Sadly enough, Bijan is the most under appreciated and under
recognized person in art and design.
Bijan is truly a Renaissance man in its purest
or is he an oddity and fluke of nature. You decide.
Bijan was born in Tehran, Iran in
1936 as Bijan Jazai Shokatfard. He came
to United State in the spring of 1959, to become a
"Doctor," fulfilling his mother's wishes. Medicine was not
his calling, but art was. No one knew that at the time except
Bijan himself. In 1972, he became an American citizen. He
changed his name to Bijan J. Bijan because he was already very well known by
the name Bijan nationwide as a sculptor, so the last name Bijan was
the natural choice. Bijan has been married twice. He has two daughters and a
son, as well as five grandchildren. He presently lives in
Below is a recent photo
of Bijan son
His interest in art started at a very early
age. When he was four years old, he used his mother’s lipstick to
paint an apple. It was so highly realistic in shape and shading that
it amazed everyone.
By the age of six, he was creating piggy banks and
kites, totally new in design and construction. At nine he was
inventing and making functional gadgets, with amazing accuracy, at his father’s
factory in Iran.
Gifted with great curiosity and a fascination of
nature he began to sketch, paint, and sculpt elements in his environment and
continued this creative expression with great intensity during his formative
years. With the encouragement of his parents, in 1959, he came to
the United States. His first place of residence was in
Sacramento, California, where he attended school. Many of
his paintings and sketches were placed on exhibition, not a common event
for a new foreign student.
He was spotted and admired by an official of the
1960 Winter Olympics Games at Squaw Valley. During that time
Bijan was working on the painting, “The Beach at Lake
Tahoe”. It impressed an Olympic official and consequently he was
introduced to Walt Disney, who was in charge of the
Olympic pageantry and encouraged Bijan to do the painting for the
1960 Olympics. Bijan was elated and his professional career in art
was launched. Using his imagination, he created the Olympic painting
in the summer of 1959, the painting was signed "Bijan
Bijan was introduced to, then Vice President Nixon
and his wife Pat, who were opening the Olympic ceremonies. Bijan was
honored and elated to meet both of them.
The Squaw Valley painting is now hangs in the home
of Bijan J. Bijan the Third, Bijan’s son.
A Forest by the Caspian
This 1951 oil on
canvas, was painted by Bijan, when he was 15 years old.
In 1967 he added his
newly developed signature to the painting.
In 1967 Bijan painted this self-portrait:
In 1962, Bijan moved to Los Angeles where
he attended the ArtCenterSchool of Design. At the same time he
opened his art studio. He immediately began creating massive
architectural works. He was amazed by the trust bestowed upon him
and his work and was offered important commissions for monumental sculptures
and design ideas.
In 1962, Bijan made an eighteen foot high Bass
Relief ceramic wall sculpture, of a winged Griffin, an ancient Persian motif,
for a building in Reseda, California. After the infamous earthquake
in 1993, in the nearby city of Northridge, California, the only intact
structure was Bijan's ceramic mural, which survived without a single
scratch. At the time Bijan was commissioned to create
the Griffin, he had no knowledge of ceramics. He had to develop
his own techniques in order to achieve the end result. The building
was eventually remolded to code and Bijan's masterpiece still remains on
display and has become the symbol of the city of Reseda.
Bijan's metal sculptures
were seen worldwide in the sixties and seventies, which
is now referred to as the "Bijan Era.” This
particular art form, with its special techniques and styles, is associated with
Bijan. At that time, Bijan was referred to as,
"The Father of Metal
Sculpture," although that title has been claimed by
other artists as well.
Tired of being repeatedly copied, in the mid
seventies, Bijan developed the perforated metal technology, through an acid
etching process. This became his new art form.
etching designs, have now become the rarest form of art, collected from this
It is a technique so difficult and dangerous to produce
that it has yet to be fully understood or duplicated, by any other
artist. The process was utilized for art as well as functional designs,
such as Christmas ornaments, trays, clocks and numerous other applications such
as coffee and dining room table, lamps and elevator door panels.
Eventually, Bijan had to discontinue his
chemical operation. It was too hazardous and highly dangerous
and health hazard.
At times, Bijan utilized steel material for some of
his etchings, as well as his famous “Night flight” sculptures of black birds.
In 1975, the words “I Believe,” became the name
Bijan gave to his jewelry collection. It included necklaces,
bracelets, and rings, as well as a few other applications. His
jewelry designs were sold through select department stores. They
were also offered as a fund raising gift by a number of religious
organizations. Eventually, over two million pieces were produced and
sold nationwide. A small number were produced in fourteen carat gold.
By the early eighties, Bijan was producing his "Golden
Bronze Sculptures.” It was comprised of a very thin castings
process, polished and then bolted together, instead of being welded. Again he
had developed a new art form. He incorporated porcelain as well as marble in
some of his designs. Every material he used was natural and genuine.
There was no brass plated steel, to be presented as real
brass, as some artists were claiming, at that time. Bijan's work will
exist five thousand years from now, while most other steel sculptures
will eventually deteriorate and rust away.
In the eighties, again, Bijan created
a new art form at his studio in Florence, Italy. The series
called “Clear Vision,” was introduced as a Limited Edition of 50 to 100 pieces
per design. Bijan's carved and polished crystal technique has earned him
universal praise. These diamonds carved designs have reached the
ultimate level of perfection and craftsmanship, as it is an extremely difficult
art form. This closed edition is now one of the most sought after of
all Bijan's work. These sculptures have been presented to
dignitaries, as state gifts, as well collected by art
connoisseurs the world over.
In 1982, Bijan
carved the "Pieta," at his studio
in Florence, Italy. He obtained a block of marble form
the CarraraMountains and started carving. To realize
his mastery in carving marble, Bijan’s “Pieta” is the finest example
of his abilities and understanding of natural stones. Bijan was
simply intending to test his own skills on this very unforgiving
material. Replicating a realistic figure such as the head of
the Madonna the "Pieta," was an ultimate
challenge. This one-of-a-kind work of art is simply a breath-taking
In 1987 he introduced his "Animal Adventures
Series." This was a unique combination cast poly, hand
painted and added bronze elements, mounted on
oak bases. The collection consisted of twenty designs with
an edition of 5,000 pieces each. This series created
quite a sensation at the time and triggered the "Poly
Revolution” in the Orient, which is now seen everywhere for many applications,
especially in the figurine and gift markets.
For almost thirty years, many prestigious
companies such as American Express, Gumps, department stores and have presented
Bijan's work through their stores and catalogs.
During his career, Bijan has been instrumental
in discovering, employing and training unknown talents, many of whom have gone
on to become famous and very successful artists in there own right. Paul
Wegner, whose bronze sculptures can be seen in galleries everywhere, is
one example. Wegner’s unique style of using only the heads and
hands of mostly African-American jazz musicians, holding
polished bronze instruments, floating in the air,
can easily be recognized. Paul worked for Bijan from 1974 to
1978. Paul's brother, Steve Wegner, worked for Bijan.
Numerous Bijan employees are now well
known and respected artists,
in the US, Italy, Taiwan and China.
Bijan’s combined technical mastery and highly
developed sense of style makes his work unique. He is one
of a few artists in the world who creates, designs, engineers, manufactures,
and distributes his own work in the U.S., as well
The following statement would summarize Bijan in its
purest and most descriptive form;
“Bijan is a creative army of one…Bijan is an
Bijan has over five thousand original copyrighted
designs to his credit. Today he is one of the most collected
sculptors of our time. Millions of people own designs by Bijan, from
one-of-a-kind masterpieces to everyday functional products. The
people who enjoy and collect his work include heads of state, dignitaries,
celebrities and a great number of enthusiastic collectors worldwide.
In 2001 Bijan created The WorldTradeCenter design
and philosophy which was presented by the victims’ families. He
introduced the 1776 foot high building idea of his unique, appropriate and
emotional memorial park. It did not get the attention it
deserved. The politics on this project were unbelievable. Bijan
was not well represented in order to get his project reviewed by the proper
Bijan’s architectural designs and original ideas
mark Bijan’s lifelong achievements. One example of this is the
unique “APPLE” night club in Taiwan, in which Bijan designed a movie
screen as the dance floor, projected from below. One would feel they
were dancing on moving clouds, ocean waves, bead of flowers, or have the
feeling they were falling or flying. Bijan himself wrote, produced,
directed and edited the movie used on the dance floor. Bijan called his
film “Cinedance.” It became a phenomenal success in the Orient in
1988. At the time of the construction of this famous entertainment
center, Bijan’s work was being examined by Professor K. Wong, of
Taiwan University. Professor Wong was educated at MIT
and Oxford University. He was the chair of the engineering
department at Taiwan University. When Bijan was asked by the
professor: “How did you calculate the metallurgy and strength
factors?” Bijan simply pointed to his nose. Professor Wong was so impressed that he shook
Bijan’s hand and said, “I am honored sir; I have never met a natural like
you!” Many of Bijan’s other inventive ideas were used in this
project, such as architecture, furniture and product design are all examples
of his artistry.
Over the years, Bijan has transformed his creative
visions into finished works of visual art, design and creative
elements. Bijan has developed a deep understanding of the processes
necessary to transform his dreams into physical realities. More often
than not, when techniques did not exist, he simply invented them, in
order to obtain the proper objective. Having done so, Bijan
created a reputation and gained respect for his originality,
artistry, technical knowledge material understanding, and ability to create
works which received wide acceptance.
In order to truly appreciate his art, one must
view Bijan’s actual work. Pictures simply do not do his
three-dimensional pieces proper justice.
Art, design and pure creativity have been
Bijan’s callings. Knowing there are others with similar
interests, Bijan’s lifelong ambition has been to create a unique art institute,
dedicated to seeking
out and training students with great
talent. In this way, he could pass along his enormous bank of
knowledge, know-how and experience in creativity, art, and design, at no
financial burden to the students.
over thirty-five years, Bijan’s name, signature and some of his principles of
designs have been mercilessly pirated and capitalized on by unscrupulous
individuals. Bijan has risen, at times, through extreme
difficulties, using his resilience and his enormous will to succeed.
recent years, Bijan has been on sabbatical from the business, but when he was
not delightfully occupied by his grandchildren, he has continuously devoted his
time to develop innovative designs and creative ideas.
We are avid collectors of Vintage Marc creates
The quality and creativity
is unsurpassed for vintage production metal art pieces.
Note: As of January 19, 2014 Mark Weinstein's son Boyd has let me know that they are back in production. Check out their site at marccreates.com
Artist and inventor Mark Weinstein of Saint Louis Missouri,
established Marc Creates Inc. in 1967. Ten years prior, Mark was fresh out of
High School and had just decided to go to work with his father who owned a
scrap metal yard. His father's scrap yard soon became the catalyst for
Weinstein's inventive art. (The scrap yard provided literally "tons"
Mark Weinstein always had an
interest in art. Weinstein says he has always looked at things differently,
trying to see designs and images in everyday objects. He remembers looking at
books on nursery rhymes as a young child and seeing the space between the
drawings and how they relate to each other as images. Weinstein said,
"People look at a sign for a business and see letters. I look at the way
the letters interact with each other and they form a picture for me. Where
others might see words, I see symmetry, rhythm, and abstract shapes. I am
always looking at shapes unconventionally, always analyzing the area around them.
After Weinstein began working for his father at Federal
Salvage and Supply in St. Louis in 1957, he had a hard time seeing the scrap
metal as mere junk to be sold for weight. He found interesting shapes and
designs everywhere he looked.
Weinstein began experimenting with
different welding techniques after learning the basics from a local handyman.
Welding brought Weinstein's artistic abilities to the surface and by the early
1960s, he was transforming scrap metal into works of art.
Weinstein was carving out time to
create art during his workday and staying late at night. He spent the next two
years welding textured metal sculptures in a shed in the corner of his father's
scrap metal yard. What started as an artistic release in his spare time, was now
starting to consume his days. Weinstein said, "My Dad thought the
sculptures were interesting, but was also concerned about running a
On a whim he took a metal wall
sculpture to a local furniture store to see if they would buy it. "The old
guy who owned the place didn't like it, but his son stopped me before I left
and said that he wanted it. He purchased the sculpture to sell in the furniture
store and it sold immediately," said Weinstein.
Shortly after he sold his first work, he was receiving
orders at a slow but steady rate until a furniture sales person spotted his
sculptures hanging in a store. The sales person contacted him to see if he
could carry his artwork. The sales person used Mark's sculptures to accessorize
the walls of a furniture show in Chicago. As a result of this exposure,
manufacture representatives from all over the country began to inquire about
selling his art.
By 1967, the demand for Marc Creates
metal sculptures was outgrowing the shed in the corner of his father's scrap
yard. In need of a full-time production facility and showroom, Weinstein rented
a building in downtown St. Louis. By the early 1970s, Marc Creates was
producing metal sculptures and furniture, shipping thousands of pieces of art
throughout the world.
Today Marc Creates multi-dimensional
metal sculptures can be found around the globe; they have been spotted on TV
shows, in restaurants and thousands of homes and offices.
creative half of the duo was Jerry Fels, As head designer for Artisan House in
the early days he is the person that people like to think of as “Curtis Jere.
Indeed, in a 2007 interview with Mr. Fels published in Modernism Magazine
shortly before his death the article read in part, “Jerry Fels, California Artisan
House's longtime design director and president, is the 'real' Curtis Jere, the
elusive but influential metal artist. Renewed interest is being shown in Curtis
Jere's handcrafted wall and table sculptures, lamps and table bases which
capture the mood of California making the works among the most collectible
mid-century decorative pieces presently.
Fels passed away after 90 talented productive years on November 5, 2007
Curtis and Jerry sold
Artisan House in 1972 but Jerry stayed on as head designer for several years. By
1978 another designer was creating many of the favorite c. jere designs that we
so know and love - BJ Keith.
Here is a quote from an email conversation that Groovywares
had with BJs daughter ,
Linnie Aikens,after listing a 1980 giant Jere can opener last
“ My mother
designed this piece in 1970 or 71 when I was either 10 or 11. It was her very
first piece for the Artisan House and the first of the kitchen utensil
collection. She is quite famous in the metal sculpture field now. Her work has
been in Architectural Digest, American Bungalow (article "An Artists
Bungalow") as well as in too numerous to count exec offices on television.
She actually learned to weld on this piece it was her ticket in to Artisan
House! Jerry Fels was an inspiration and my mother's mentor and good
As his protege, beginning in the
late 1970's B.J.Keith grew from designer to top designer when Fels moved to
Colorado. She served as Art Director for the company for at least a decade,
teaching and helping other artists to perfect their skills, and recently
retired from full-time after 30 years with the company.
Artisan House still produces wonderful 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.
Vintage C. Jere works are highly collectible and can sell for thousands of
dollars. C. Jere works range from representational to highly abstract. Some of
the older techniques, such as
enameling, the use of resin, and the bronzes, haven't been used in decades.
Examples of 1960's Jere piece using enameling:
Examples of 1960's Jere sculptures using RESIN:
Examples of 1960's Jere BRONZE sculptures:
The Gumps sticker below - still attached to a 1968 Curtis Jere sculpture, in indicative of the way Jere was promoted in the 60's and 70's. It talks about Curtis Jere but is really referring to that "Talented Mr. Jere", Jerry Fels.
Many Jere art references from top designers and top design magazines can be
Here are a few examples: (Please email us any that you find that
are not on this list so that we can post them)
Modern Magazine - Winter 2011 - Page 117 - Features Jere Raindrops in Chrome
Elle Decor - November 2010 - Great article on Curtis Jere entitled "The sculptural ornaments of C. Jeré" By Mitchell Owens - Page 128 - Mitchell Owens traced the history of C. Jere, saying that the '60s and
'70s pieces "are attracting the admiration of leading dealers in vintage
(1968 starburst sculpture)
Architectural Digest September 2007(Rare
1965 jere wall sculpture and a lamp)
1, 2009 (Lamp)
Jan 1, 2008 (raindrops)
William Friedle and his brother Bruce ran a metal sculpture
shop in New York City during the early 60’s.
The Brothers grew up in Rumford Maine and graduated from New
York University. Their artistic careers took off when William won a New York
decorating contest for a new apartment house. His entry? A large steel rod sunburst,
suspended from the ceiling of the lobby. Suddenly William was being commissioned
to do starbursts for doctors offices, churches, department stores, banks, and
high end living rooms. It was then that he brought his younger brother Bruce
onboard. Shortly thereafter the American Iron and Steel Institute which was
creating the “Home of steel” for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, commissioned
the brothers to sculptweld most of the décor.
Working with brass and copper He and his brother Bruce
opened a showroom called Sculptsmith at 138 west Tenth Street in 1961. Bill and
Bruce were both under 25 years old at the time. They created wonderful
and popular for the time brass and copper abstract sculptures. The most
popular designs were the sunbursts. They created both floor and wall
sculptures. The largest and most expensive was a 5 foot tall weeping willow
tree. That design went for $400 at the time. Sunbursts started at
$75. They were responsible for the introduction sunburst design/movement of the 1960's. Many consider the Friedle’s to be the originators of mod metal
starburst designs. Most of their starburst's were created during the 1960’s. Collectors
included Malcolm Forbes, Sammy Davis, Jr., Henry Morgan, Jim Henson, Former
President Nixon, Ted Kennedy and Dom Delouise and many other
By the time Bruce was 25 years old he owned 5 Rolls Royces and a few homes on Long Island.
Most of their work was unsigned (they just didn't feel like signing it!) or 'signed' with a paper label.
William Friedle retired in the very early 70's; Bruce continued until
his last show (World Art Expo, NYC) in 1985 which featured his later
"Amercan Whimsical Folk" art
Bruce Friedle’s last location at 304 E
76th St New York , NY closed in the early 1990’s.
In 1963 the newspaper enterprise advocate
of new York wrote this about the Freidle brothers: (source: The Victoria
Advocate Oct. 13, 1963):
The photo below is of the two brothers
standing in front of one of their starburst sculptures in 1963