The Stories They Tell 3

John Prip and Shop One

John Prip

John Prip was born in New York in 1922 to a Danish father and an American mother. When Prip was a child, his father moved the family to Denmark, where he managed Prip’s grandfather’s silversmithing factory. While in Denmark, Prip served an apprenticeship with Master Silversmith Evald Nielsen and earned a diploma from the Copenhagen Technical School. In 1948 he returned to the United States with his wife and infant son in order to teach at the newly founded School for American Craftsmen (SAC), in Alfred, NY. In 1950, SAC moved to RIT and Prip moved with it. Working with several other SAC faculty members, including Frans Wildenhain and Tage Frid, Prip founded Shop One, a gallery that not only provided the faculty of SAC and other Rochester area craftsmen an opportunity to sell their work without a middleman, but also served as a forum for the presentation of top quality avant-garde craftwork.

In 1955, Prip was on the move again, this time to Massachusetts, where he worked for the Reed and Barton Company, a hollowware and flatware manufacturer. There he acted as “Artist-Craftsman-in-Residence,” a title created exclusively for him by the company. Prip remained with Reed and Barton for three years before teaching at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for another three years, then moving to Rhode Island to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he taught until his retirement in 1981. John Prip passed away in from complications from Parkinson’s disease in 2009, at the age of 86.

Shop One

Shop One originally opened in a small shopfront on Ford Street in Rochester in 1953. It quickly outgrew this space and moved into a remodeled carriage house at 77 Troup Street, Rochester, NY. Established by John Prip, cabinet maker Tage Frid, and ceramist Frans Wildenhain (they were later joined by one of Prip’s former students, metalsmith Ronald Pearson), it was initially conceived as a retail craft outlet that would aid the four craftsmen in selling their work. This mission eventually evolved to encompass the work of other local craftsmen, including graduates of the School for American Craftsmen (SAC) at RIT.

The gallery area of the shop was arranged to resemble an upscale apartment, so as to give customers the chance to view the work in a homelike setting not unlike their own. The hope was that by doing this, a connection would be established between object, maker, and customer. This format was initially successful and was maintained even after Shop One moved again in 1972, this time to a house at 221 Alexander Street.

However, Shop One's success ground to a halt soon after its move to Alexander Street. High prices and increasingly avant-garde designs were cited by customers as reasons why they no longer shopped there, as well as recent changes to the shop’s format, which occurred, ironically, due to the decline in sales. A new manager had been brought in to make changes he deemed necessary to save the business, but rather than lowering prices or offering the public styles and items they were more comfortable with, he decided to change the space’s aesthetic, from "flea market" as he chose to call it, to that of a modern art gallery. When this change was met with resistance from the customers, who found the new aesthetic cold and unwelcoming, it was declared that Rochester simply wasn't ready for a modern, New York City-style handcraft gallery.

In an attempt to take a step back and recoup their losses, Shop One moved yet again, this time to 18 Maple St. in Scottsville. The storefront was tiny and manned by the owners and managers, but even cutting its overhead couldn't save Shop One, and it closed in 1976.

Today, Shop One’s legacy lives on in the form of Shop One2, which opened in 2010 in the Global Village on RIT’s campus. Shop One2 is a contemporary fine art, craft and design shop showcasing work by RIT affiliated artists including alumni, faculty and students, with the goal of representing the diversity of RIT design talent and creativity.