This Silver Iron was originally constructed as a response to the Sterling Silver Design Competition that was sponsored by the major silver companies in the 1970’s and early 1980’s as a way to revitalize a waning industry. The exterior was constructed entirely from sterling silver. The interior details utilize etched copper floor, nickel silver, lacquer airbrush, and color Xerox.  

As the Silver Iron is opened the ironing board automatically stands up as the figure of the artist (me), Harriete Estel Berman slides into place with a hammer in my hand.

Below you can see a close up image of the sliding mechanism.

Silver Iron close up of mechanism

The appearance of a wooden floor is actually an etched copper construction. As the Silver Iron is open or closed the ironing board automatically stands up.

Photos circa 1979 of the artist Harriete Estel Berman for Silver Iron

Look closely at the figure in the photos below. These are the original photos that were taken of me for inside the Silver Iron. Don’t forget at the time that everything was film. For a project like this you took a whole roll of color film and then had the roll of film processed for a selection of images.

I am wearing a grid pattern dress to make fun of grids and minimalism in the art world which was largely a male domain.

Photos of Harriete Estel Berman 1979 for Silver Iron

I am holding a hammer in my hand. This was inspired by a comment from my graduate school professor Stanley Lechtzin who said that I was “hammering as if I was ironing.” At the time I made all my own clothes which were all rather elaborate inventive outfits which I loved to iron. Notice the lace bloomers peaking out below the skirt. Notice the pin on the front of the dress. It was an image of an ironing board with a small iron.

The location was outside the metalsmithing studio at the old Philadelphia campus for Tyler School of Art, Temple University where I was going to graduate school. This is 1979.

Berman-silver-iron-front-1200 .jpg

Silver iron shown above is a sterling silver hollowware construction with dark, black patina so that the sterling silver looks like iron. The handle is carved epoxy resin. ( I poured the epoxy resin myself and cut the handle to get that color.)

As mentioned earlier, I made this Silver Iron for the Sterling Silver Design Competition held in New York City. The previous year I went to see it and was so provoked by the bright and shiny silver mentality that I constructed Silver Iron. Do I have to tell you that I didn’t even get into the Sterling Silver Design Competition? They didn’t think the black oxidized silver exterior looked like silver.

The figurative narrative and silver patina-ed to look like iron were radical for the time. It broke all the metalsmithing rules. Believe me when I tell you that the jewelry metalsmithing world had a lot of rules.

Silver iron was also a very personal narrative. Growing up in the 1950’s there was still the expectation of growing up to fulfill the tractional domestic role of women. My name Harriete actually means “mistress of the home.” I loved to cook and sew. Staying home and taking care of my home was very fulfilling, yet as I grew up, I understood that women could be so much more. We could burn our conforming rigid bras and get an education. How does one person deal with these conflicting messages? For me it was was in construction years of work including a wholes series of domestic appliances “The Family of Appliances You Can Believe In.“


Silver Iron 1980
7" height x 4" width x 7" depth when open

Private Collection


© Harriete Estel Berman, 1980