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Evelyn Ackerman helped shape the California mid-century aesthetic. She approached her designs with an appreciation for folk stories, antiques and toys, creating tapestries, mosaics, wood carvings and pottery that came to embody the modern American arts and crafts movement.
Born in Detroit in 1924, Ackerman studied art and art history at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, where she met her husband Jerome, who was studying ceramics. They married in 1948 and she received her MFA in 1950. In 1949, Evelyn and Jerome visited the Detroit Art Institute and saw the influential exhibition For Modern Living, curated by Alexander Girard, which piqued their interest in modern design. In 1952 The couple moved to Los Angeles and established Jenev Design Studio to produce their own works, beginning with Jerome's pottery. After endorsements by leading designers like Paul McCobb and features in House & Garden and the Los Angeles Times, the couple expanded their enterprise, opening a mosaic studio in Mexico for Evelyn and renaming their venture ERA Industries. Evelyn took on most of the creative work of designing while Jerome managed the business and production.
Evelyn's style ranged from geometric abstraction to whimsical figuration, with a keen eye for global folk craft techniques and motifs. She was also known as a scholar, publishing several books on dolls, antiques and craft.
Though Evelyn and Jerome slowed ERA Industries production in the 1980s, both continued to work in the modern folk aesthetic they helped bring to prominence. They received the Henry Award for their contributions to California design from the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles in 2008 and a retrospective of their work followed in 2009 at the Mingei International Museum, San Diego. Evelyn passed away in 2012 and Jerome in 2019, leaving behind an influential body of work.