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Olaf Skoogfors

American (born Sweden), 1930 - 1975

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Born in Sweden, Olaf Skoogfors came to the United States with his family at the age of four and did not discover his Scandinavian design heritage until many years later. He entered the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now University of the Arts) to study illustration but soon turned to silversmithing and jewelry. The metals field not only proved artistically fruitful for Skoogfors, it also provided the artist with a viable livelihood. After graduating in 1957, he set up a small shop on the ground floor of a Philadelphia apartment building, where he sold his production-line work.

Skoogfors's early hollowware objects bear the influence of Scandinavian design tradition, which he encountered in the mid-1950s while studying with Hans Christensen at the Rochester Institute of Technology's School for American Craftsmen. The characteristic clean lines and unembellished surfaces of this design aesthetic are found in his hollowware works such as Candelabrum and Decanter. The initial Scandinavian influence was later tempered by Skoogfors's interest in pre-Columbian, Celtic, and Viking traditions, as well as contemporary sculptural trends.

Skoogfors's aesthetic further evolved in the mid-1960s when he revived the all-but-abandoned wax-casting technique, which led him to work with greater spontaneity of form and create more nuanced textures. Approaching metal like a collage artist, Skoogfors would cast a series of elements and then assemble them in compositions. A self-described "constructivist by inclination,"1 Skoogfors revealed this proclivity in the complex assemblages of his later years. Works such as his percussive 1970 Pendant and 1975 Brooch, with its subtle surfaces and embedded form, display a highly sculptural sensibility and a fine balance of organic and architectonic elements.

Suzanne Ramljak, from Crafting a Legacy: Contemporary American Crafts in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2002), p. 145.

1. Arline Fisch, "The Legacy of Olaf Skoogfors," Craft Horizons 39, no. 2 (April 1979), p. 29.

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