We love C. Jeré. Who is C. Jeré, you ask? C. Jeré (also commonly referred to as Curtis Jeré) is actually not a person, but rather a pseudonym concocted by two men, Curtis (‘Kurt’) Freiler and Jerry Fels, as a play on joining their respective first names to create one representative name. Freiler and Fels were brothers-in-law and started a sculptural art business together in 1964 under the C. Jeré name with the stated goal of producing “gallery-quality art for the masses,” and surely had no idea that their metal sculptures would have the kind of staying power fifty years later to be highly sought after by collectors and design aficionados.
Under the parent company, Artisan House, C. Jeré sculptures came into being with Freiler as the head of production and Fels as the head of design, with production of the metal sculptures based in California. As the business grew, additional designers joined the team, all designing under the C. Jeré name. Freiler and Fels sold Artisan House in 1972, following which the business was sold numerous times. Additional décor pieces such as mirrors and lamps were also produced under the brand, and production eventually moved overseas to China in 2003. In recent years, Jonathan Adler entered into an exclusive partnership with Artisan House to reissue some of the most popular C. Jeré designs, such as the ‘Rain Drops,’ ‘Urchin’ and ‘Sputnik’ sculptures. Both Fels and Freiler are now deceased; Fels passed away in 2007 after a brief illness, and Freiler passed away just last month at the age of 103.
Whether you’ve realized it or not, you have almost certainly seen C. Jeré pieces around, perhaps in the work of your favorite interior designers or on TV shows like Mad Men, or maybe you’ve even stumbled across a piece at an estate sale or thrift store.
Our editor scored the C. Jeré clipper ship below for a major steal in Palm Springs on Craigslist, so it’s worth running periodic checks online. (Tip: use generic search terms like “metal sculpture” or “brass sculpture” in order to find hidden gems from sellers who may not know the provenance of their goods).
So how do you know if you’ve found a real C. Jeré piece? The C. Jeré catalog of designs from the last fifty years is extremely vast, so it is hard to identify all of the specific designs or shapes to look for. While the more abstract starburst, urchin and rain drops designs are among the most popular these days, there are also numerous more realistic pieces such as ships, birds, bridges and plant life, as well as some more kitschy pieces like café scenes and hot air balloons. Real C. Jeré sculptural pieces will generally be signed “C. Jeré” directly onto the metal and dated with the year of production. Knockoffs are often described by sellers as “in the style of C. Jeré” or “attributed to C. Jeré,” so pay close attention to the wording when you are not examining the piece in person. Authentic C. Jeré pieces can be found relatively easily through 1st Dibs and reputable vintage décor and art dealers, but you will typically pay a pretty penny for these pieces ($800 – $6,000 depending on the piece), so it’s worth doing some sleuthing for deals. Happy hunting!