Desk Set, c. 1902–05<img alt="" src="/sites/GovernorsMansion/Exhibitions/PublishingImages/Art-of-Illinois/Preston-Desk-Set.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />Desk Set, c. 1902–05<div class="ExternalClassB37FD863E94E452C825EF29EB57ED042"><p>"Miss Jessie Preston is a young Chicago artist, the maker of a candlestick that promises to light her path to fame," predicted a newspaper reporter in 1900, describing its ingenious floral form: "Three stems rise from a base of twining fish. They are turned naturally as they rise about 15 inches from the base. The stems separate and branch off, and small blossoms at the top form the candle holder."1 When her new design went on sale, four dozen were ordered in less than a week.</p><p>Jessie Marion Preston first gained recognition as a designer of cast bronze candlesticks and candelabrum whose graceful lines incorporated art nouveau sinuousness in the form of water lilies, thistles, morning glories, or similar floral motifs. She went on to become one of the country's foremost craftswomen in the new field of art jewelry.</p><p>Born in Oak Park, Preston was one of the first female graduates of the School of the Art Institute's decorative design course to earn her living as a metalsmith and jeweler. After graduating in 1896 and completing a year of postgraduate study, she opened a studio in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue, where she fashioned her distinctive candlesticks in brass, copper, and silver. It was there she also made silver and gold jewelry set with semi-precious stones.</p><p>Preston exhibited her handwrought jewelry and metalwork in the Arts and Crafts exhibitions held annually at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1902 through 1911 and in similar shows in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and other midwestern cities. A teacher as well as a practitioner, she offered instruction in jewelry-making to readers of <em>The Sketch Book </em>in 1905 and taught metalworking at Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts in 1907 and 1908. She offered her work through the Artists Guild of Chicago after 1911.</p><p>During World War I, Preston contributed her skilled hands to the war effort. In 1918, she closed her Chicago studio and moved to France under the auspices of the Red Cross, where she taught vocational crafts and assisted Chicago artist Grace Gassette in making prosthetics for wounded soldiers. After the war, she registered the graves of American soldiers in France.</p><p>Preston studied at the Sorbonne and made jewelry in Paris until 1934, when she returned to the United States to live in New York City. Under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), she conserved rare books for the New York Public Library. Her retirement years were spent in the small town of Baldwinsville, New York, where she died at the age of 88 in 1962.</p></div>GP0|#0950b208-ced8-4027-a648-94d20085a25d;L0|#00950b208-ced8-4027-a648-94d20085a25d|Jessie M Preston;GTSet|#6a9f5109-021d-478a-ae73-864102492159;GPP|#b8008031-8d86-41bf-8c8c-657f66f046d4;GPP|#be65f490-4890-487c-bb16-c396d99511f7Other;#TemporaryBronze;#Chicago, IllinoisBronze; Inkwell: 11 ¼ × 7 ¼ × 4 3⁄8 inches, Box: 4 3⁄8 × 2 5⁄8 × 1 ¾ inches, Letter opener: 8 inches in length, Ink wipe: 2 ¾ × 2 inches. Collection of Crab Tree Farm, Lake Bluff, Illinois