When I was about eleven years old my father shared a design studio with Berthold “Tex” Schiwetz (1909-1971), a marvelously playful sculptor and one of his oldest friends at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, both before and after World War II. Their studio was actually a charming, slightly dilapidated, T-shaped greenhouse on what was left of Walter Briggs’ Walbri Estate in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
To get there you had to make a precarious fishhook-turn off Long Lake Road and descend a steep, crumbling asphalt driveway bordered by ancient Osage orange trees whose fragrant, bumpy-skinned fruit in late fall would drop from high above with a thud and roll down toward the glass front door.
Overgrown trees and vines covered the glass roof, so it was always slightly somber inside, the warm air thick with leftover peat moss and ancient condensation – a thriving environment for the few creepy plants that remained including my father’s beloved Night Blooming Cereus.
Dad’s drafting table with its extending, swing-arm lamp and assorted file cabinets and chairs were on the left side of the T while Tex, a gentle, rotund soul with twinkling eyes and a bushy gray beard fashioned his intriguing sculptures off to the right. Tex had studied and worked with Carl Milles, the famous Swedish sculptor, and after the war had lived in Italy and on Ossabaw Island, off the coast of Georgia, before returning to Michigan in the late 1960s.
My father treasured Tex’s “Dancing Faun” bronze, a mere four-and-a-half inches of elfin exuberance, and so do I as it daily reminds me of my father dancing and being silly.