Born in 1921 in Sycamore, Illinois, accomplished Chicago silversmith William Nicholas Frederick grew up on a 255-acre farm and attended local schools. Rather than work in the family business, Frederick earned a bachelor's degree at the Gallagher School of Business in Kankakee, Illinois and worked briefly for the Chicago & Burlington Railroad before joining the United States Navy during World War II. Frederick achieved the rank of ensign in 1946 and moved to Boston to finish his officer's training at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering. Following the war, Frederick returned to Sycamore to work for the Turner Corporation as an industrial designer.
During this time, Frederick took a drawing class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he went on to earn a bachelor's and master's of fine arts in the 1950s. One of Frederick's instructors in metalworking at the Art Institute was Daniel H. Pedersen, who had long been part of Chicago's Kalo Shop, a preeminent American Arts & Crafts silver and jewelry studio. In 1958, Frederick trained further at Rochester Institute of Technology with Hans Christensen, a Danish silversmith who had worked previously for Georg Jensen. At his first workshop, Frederick used a metalworking stump from his family farm followed by one from the Kalo Shop, after its closing in 1970. Frederick initially bought his tools from the Dixon Company, but he later acquired others from Daniel Pedersen, the Kalo Shop, and Renard Koehnemann. After starting on Chicago's South Side in Hyde Park, Frederick moved his workshop to Old Town on the North Side, where he worked for several decades until his passing in 2012.
Frederick's style reflects the Arts & Crafts influence of the Kalo Shop, Danish silver design, and Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Consequently, works by Frederick display an artful blend of traditional, hand-hammered techniques and sleek, modernist finishing, but they seldom appear overly polished or perfected. Rather than removing the human element, Frederick favored letting traces of his craftsmanship show in completed examples. Among Frederick's many commissions were ecclesiastical items, including chalices, tabernacles, menorahs, and pendants. He also produced a range of distinctive, secular forms, like chandeliers, candelabra, vases, coffee and tea services, and mugs. Some of these were made for notable clients, such as McDonald's, First Bank of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago Heart Association, and American College of Surgeons.
Auction Results William N. Frederick