Mary Catherine Knight (attributed) and Karl Leinonen at the Handicraft Shop Hand Wrought Arts & Crafts Sterling Silver Serving Plate, Boston or Wellesley Hills, 1907
Of circular form with a raised edge, this wonderful silver plate features outstanding chased decoration around the rim. A repeating pattern of large flowers encased with leaves separated with scenes of smaller flowers is bordered on the outer edge with an applied rim. The center is beautifully engraved with a bold 'W' monogram. Applied to the base is a simple ring foot.
The Handicraft Shop of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, was an early outgrowth of Boston's Society for Arts and Crafts. Mary Knight came from Gorham's design department and supervised the Handicraft Shop, having several of the artisans there execute her designs. She worked along side many of them, letting them raise the pieces and applying decoration herself.(1)
Her work is unique. A gifted designer, Knight completed a four year design course at Philadelphia's Drexel Institute. Inspired both by medieval designs and those found on colonial silver, her decoration is at the forefront of Arts and Crafts design. Her chased decoration is highly unusual in that it is comprised of strikes from small leather working tools, rather than the traditional chasing tools of the silver trade.(2)
The Handicraft Shop espoused a cooperative spirit and many of the pieces designed and decorated by Knight were raised and marked by others. This plate is signed by Karl Leinonen, a Finnish immigrant silversmith, who ultimately would receive the designation of 'Medalist' - the Society of Arts and Crafts highest award for his craft and one of only eight silversmiths to be so honored. We had a similar important bowl with the identical decoration also attributed to Katherine Knight, raised and marked by Leinonen, which we sold to the Dallas Museum of Art. It was illustrated in Modernism in American Silver (p. 329).
Pieces by female silversmiths are uncommon and highly sought after by museums and collectors today.
This beautiful sterling plate measures 9.75 inches in diameter, weighs 15.15 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition with a nice old surface. It is marked on the back with the Handicraft Shop trademark along with 'STERLING 1907 and 'L' for Karl Leinonen'.
Marilee B. Meyer, consulting curator, Inspiring Reform: Boston Arts & Crafts Movement, (Wellesley, MA: David Museum and Cultural Center, 1997), p. 75.
Wendy Kaplan, The Art That is Life: The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987), p. 273.