Dirk van Erp
Dutchman in the Bay Area
Born in Leeuwarden, Netherlands in 1862, Dirk van Erp immigrated to the United States in 1890, settling in San Francisco. Soon thereafter, he married Mary Richardson Marino and the couple had a daughter, Agatha, in 1894. After failing to make his fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, van Erp returned to San Francisco, where he gained employment as a coppersmith at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. In 1901, the van Erp family welcomed a son, William. In his spare time, van Erp started to create vases from shell casings that he obtained at the shipyard.
Arts and Crafts Coppersmith
Leaving behind his initial, ornate Victorian style, van Erp transitioned to developing pieces with an unadorned Arts and Crafts appearance. In 1908, van Erp opened the Art Copper Shop and the following year he began an important collaboration with Elizabeth Eleanor D’Arcy Gaw, who had trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While their partnership lasted only a year, Erp drew significant inspiration from D’Arcy Gaw for his iconic lamp designs and implemented shades with mica panels at her suggestion. Works from this period bear a stamped windmill with the names of van Erp and D’Arcy Gaw beneath.
World War I and Legacy
After exhibiting at the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco, van Erp largely curtailed his output during World War I to assist with military mobilization. Sustaining his artistic production through the 1920s, van Erp and his wife Mary both died within hours of each other on July 18, 1933. Their son William kept the Art Copper Shop open until his death in 1977. Now widely considered the premier Arts and Crafts coppersmith, van Erp’s lamps, vases, bowls, and other items have continued to appreciate in value over the past century given their high quality and lasting beauty.Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers