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Creative Collaboration

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Anson Tennant is more like me than I care to admit. He and I are both great fans of Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. And despite that admiration, neither of us is a sufficient draughtsman to create ornament in Louie’s style, this being one of the rare places where “inimitable” really applies. Anson has one advantage that I don’t: He not only met Sullivan, but may have worked in Sullivan’s Auditorium Tower studio for a few months in 1912. I’m jealous. He also became an architect, while I did not.

There is another important parallel between us: To achieve his vision of Sullivan-inspired ornament for the 1914-1915 pubic library design, young Tennant (he was twenty-five at the time of the competition) needed a collaborator. With luck he knew a young blacksmith only four or five years his senior—Anton Kraus, Jr., a.k.a. Tony Kraus, brother of Klaus and son of Anton Sr. The Kraus family of four had emigrated from Thuringia in 1887 and opened a smithy on the city’s west side just beyond its limits at the foot of Louisa Street. That imagined creative collaboration meant little without an actual counterpart here and now.

Enter Christopher Meyer, third-year student in architecture. Since Chris and I spoke early this semester and I discovered his talent at the forge (being a fourth-generation blacksmith), he’s been at work when time permitted on his part of our own artistic collaboration. And I have to admit it was a challenge to maintain some distance and a hands-off attitude while he worked. With luck (I depend on that a lot), his forge is on the family farm about fifty miles from Fargo—lucky for him, ’cause you know what a noodge I can be. The wreath is complete now and nicely patinated. We’ve found some storage space (in Milton’s garage) so it may be delivered this weekend. It’s exciting to think of it being here and simply waiting completion of the column it will adorn.


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