by Daniel Kuether, Heavy Metal fan
When it came to objects d’art, the Martin family gathered pieces from everywhere. This included work by local artisans, Japanese prints, and pieces given or sold specifically to the family by Frank Lloyd Wright. A group of pieces in the Martin collection of particular interest to Buffalonians and Arts and Crafts enthusiasts is a series of metalware vessels bearing the maker’s mark of a local craft shop: Heintz Art Metal.
In 1903, Otto L. Heintz left his Buffalo family business - the Heintz Brothers jewelry shop - and bought the local Arts & Crafts Company. He changed the name to Art Crafts Shop in 1905 and, finally, to the Heintz Art Metal Shop in 1906. The shop quickly grew in popularity for its distinctive designs. The business would be short lived however, and after the death of Otto Heintz in 1918, the company closed for good following the stock market crash in 1929.
The Arts and Crafts Movement was in full swing by the time the Martins were preparing to make their home on Jewett Parkway. The styles and motifs of this movement can be seen in many of the local craftsmens’ works, including the products of the Roycrofters and their charismatic leader Elbert Hubbard, a dear friend of Darwin Martin’s.
Heintz Art Metal gained prestige primarily for its popular silver-on-bronze decorative overlays. Darwin Martin owned a desk set of this signature Heintz variety. What’s unusual about the Martins’ set of five Heintz vessels is that they look nothing like this popular style, though they still bear the Heintz stamp. Each has a brass, acid-etched finish producing an irregular design, but there is no trace of the famous silver - or the earlier colored enamel - overlay.
|The Martins' set of five Heintz Art Metal vessels|
So where does that put the Martins’ Heintz metalware vessels? The acid-etched pieces were produced prior to the popular silver overlay wares. They most likely belong to the early transitional period between 1903 and the company’s name change in 1906. Their finish has become known to dealers and collectors as a “Tiffany-type patina,” referencing their resemblance to works by the Louis Comfort Tiffany Co. This would be a sign of the times and the competition between the two metalware companies.
The Martins’ vessels are quite unique, and few similar pieces exist. Their presence in the Martin House collection is an important example of Arts & Crafts design tied to local Buffalo history.
|Bottom of one of the vessels, showing the Heintz shop mark and "IRM" monogram (Isabelle Reidpath Martin)|