Paul Evans II
Paul Evans, photo courtesy of the Evans Family Collection
BORN: May 20, 1931, Newtown, PA
DIED: March 7, 1987, Nantucket Island, MA
One of Evans’ lasting contributions to the world of art furniture in his enthusiastic and pioneering embrace of new technology and his courageous use of revolutionary materials. Unlike his neighbor George Nakashima and his friend and mentor Phil Powell, who both shunned new technologies and nontraditional, nonorganic materials, Evans embraced technology, making it his own. – Collecting Modern, pg. 90.
Paul R. Evans II was internationally recognized for his unique residential furniture. He trained as a silversmith, and also learned the art of the goldsmith and blacksmith. His innovative mind eventually led him to creating extraordinary metal furniture. He is best known for using his welding, metallurgy, and jewelry design skills to create collage-like metal furniture with sculpted, high-relief abstract forms.
His unique furniture designs found homes in the collections of Prince Binder Fisal of Saudi Arabia and Mrs. Aileen Vanderbilt Webb, among many others.
In 1952 Evans became the first American to win the Booth Fellowship, which allowed him to attend the Cranbook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He then moved to Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts where he worked in a working history museum as a living craftsman demonstrating various aspects of silversmithing. He also sold designs to the Raymor Company and various European design firms.
Seeking change, Evans moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania in 1955 operating temporarily out of his garage. In 1956, he began sharing a showroom with Phillip Lloyd Powell of New Hope. Powell encouraged him to take his metallurgy skills apply them to furniture, a stark contrast to Powell’s more organic designs. They worked closely together and their creative partnership lasted for ten years. In 1966, Evans needed additional space and relocated his growing operation to Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania. During this time he employed a staff between thirty-five and eighty people, depending on production demands. According to his children, most of his pieces were signed and the custom built pieces were signed and dated. In 1979, he opened an additional showroom on East 61st Street in New York City. He created full lines of furniture as well as exclusive museum-like pieces for design company Directional Furniture. His work was shown at the America House in New York for more than a decade beginning in 1962.
In addition to his creative partnership with Phillip Lloyd Powell, Evans worked closely with Dorsey Reading. Reading, a young machinist from Lambertville, came to work for Evans in 1959. He initially began as Evans’ apprentice, but quickly became his most relied-upon employee, shaping Evans’ drawings in physical pieces. Evans found the texture of certain materials almost unbearable to handle and he worked closely with Reading to have him create prototypes of his designs.
Evans’ major efforts can be broken down into eight significant design choices: Copper, Bronze, Pewter; Sculpted Steel; Argente; Sculpted Bronze; Verdigris Copper; Sculptures; Cityscape; and Mulligan Stew.
On March 6, 1987, Evans drove north to Massachusetts to be with his wife and begin his retirement. The following morning, while watching the sunrise he suffered from a fatal heart attack. It was mentioned that friends and family were not surprised, Evan was happiest when he was busy and creating. Phillip Lloyd Powell said during his eulogy, “Paul Evans danced on the edge of the volcano.”
Works of Paul Evans II are on display in the James A. Michener Museum’s permanent installation, Intelligent Design, which opened in 2012.