Literature: John Sollo, “Out of the Ordinary: Paul Evans and His Style,” The Modernism Magazine, Fall 1998, p.40 (for a similar example)
David Rago and John Sollo, Collecting Modern, Layton, UT, 2001, pp.94-95 (for a similar example)
Todd Merrill and Julie V. Iovine, “Modern Americana: Studio Americana From High Craft to High Glam.” Rizzoli, 2008.
A product of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Paul Evans studied metalwork, silver-and gold- smithing, sculpture and jewelry. In 1952, Evans moved to Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts to work as a “living craftsman” or essentially a silversmith who worked on the premises of the historical museum. A few years later, in 1955, Evans relocated to New Hope, Pennsylvania to produce the type of sculptured steel furniture that he is known for today. It is in New Hope that Evans met Phillip Lloyd Powell, an artisan who specialized in hand-crafted wooden furniture. Powell, who in the early 1950’s opened his showroom (where he displayed the furniture produced by Knoll and Herman Miller and lamps by Noguchi in addition to his own work), agreed to exhibit Evans’s pieces. Eventually Evans and Powell became business partners and shared a studio space. The two craftsmen even collaborated together on some designs for furniture, mostly private commissions for clients. More often than not, clients would have pieces by both Powell and Evans in their homes as their designs were so different yet complimentary.
It was during the late 1950’s that Evans began to experiment with metal furniture. Since he was a metal-smith by training it was not unfeasible for him to see the possibilities of making furniture entirely out of steel or aluminum. He was also a highly-skilled welder and decorated his cabinets and sideboards with sculpted steel forms. In 1959 Evans hired a young assistant by the name of Dorsey Reading who helped him do some of the decorative welding on his cabinets.
According to Julie Iovine, who profiled Evans for the book Modern Americana: Studio Furniture from High Craft to High Glam, “his best pieces exhibit the tension between his personal visions as a sculptor and his honed instinct for new looks and techniques.”
Evans first exhibited his metal furniture in a group show in 1957 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in New York. This was a pivotal moment in his career. In 1961, Evans, along with Powell, exhibited thirty one-of-a kind pieces at America House at 44 West 53rd Street in New York City, a shop which was considered to be one of the few remaining places where the work of the modern craftsman could be recognized and promoted. Their pieces received a lot of attention from the press. It is no surprise that Evans ended up at America House as he was a favorite of the shop’s founder, Aileen Vanderbilt Webb. Webb was the one that helped Evans land a scholarship to Cranbrook.
In 1964, Evans became the highly successful designer for the Directional Furniture Company (a New York showroom which belonged to manufacturer Sedge) this relationship lasted until 1980. This new venture resulted from the company purchasing six steel coffee tables from Evans, which all immediately sold. With Directional, Evans introduced various collections such as the “Argente” series, “Sculpted Steel” and “Sculpted Bronze” series, and the highly popular “Cityscape” collection.
Some of Evans’s most important clients were Paddy Chayefsky, the writer, and Shari Lewis, the television star and creator of Lamb Chop, the popular television character.
In 1981 Evans started designing furniture for Selig, a contemporary upholstery maker in Massachusetts, and also, that same year, opened his own showroom on East 61st Street and still kept his studio in Plumsteadville (which he opened in the early 1970’s after he left New Hope).
Evans’s work has become highly collectible within the last decade. Most of the pieces by Evans are signed and dated which makes it easy for collectors to place his work not just within the context of his own career but also in the scheme of the larger post-war American Crafts movement.
Evans died of a heart attack in 1987, a day after he retired.