Originally recorded on 2 memory cards. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 58 min.
An interview of Niels Diffrient conducted 2010 July 28 and August 31, by Matilda McQuaid, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Diffrient's home and studio, in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Diffrient speaks of growing up in Detroit while spending his summers with his mother's family in Mississippi; the value of growing up on a farm; attending Cass Technical High School in Detroit; realizing that he did not want to work in a factory; learning about crafts at Cranbrook Academy; travelling to Italy on a Fulbright Grant; working with Italian versus American designers; designing office chairs; the state of education in America. Diffrient's wife, Helena Hernmarck, contributes to the discussion of craft, weaving, and textiles. Diffrient also recalls Hans and Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, Chuck Bassett, David Rowland, Henry Dreyfuss, Bob King, Carl Magnusson, Raymond Loewy, Henry Wolf, Elizabeth Whelan, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Niels Diffrient, 2010 July 28-August 31. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Niels Diffrient (1928-2013) is an industrial designer in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Matilda McQuaid (1958-) is deputy curatorial director, Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York, New York.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001