This article was written for CJCI by Patricia Gostick, author of McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More (see below for ordering information).
As a vintage costume jewelry collector, you have probably heard of McClelland Barclay (1891-1943). You may have seen his Art Deco/Art Moderne pieces, as well as his sterling silver jewelry.
When talking about my own discovery of McClelland Barclay jewelry, I always say, “Blame it on Fred.”
I bought my first costume jewelry book in 1999. It was Fred Rezazadeh’s reference work, Costume Jewelry: A Practical Handbook & Value Guide, and his comments about McClelland Barclay jewelry were intriguing. He suggested that if you ever came across any McClelland Barclay jewelry, you should buy it immediately, because it was exceedingly rare and among the best costume jewelry ever made in America. He showed two pieces of jewelry as examples of Barclay’s creations, and they were remarkably different: a gold-plated late Art Deco necklace with red and clear rhinestones, and a sterling silver wishing well pin. I was hooked! Luckily, it was around the time that Rezazadeh’s book was published that eBay and other websites made McClelland’s jewelry more accessible, although it was still scarce.
McCLELLAND BARCLAY’S MEMOIRS
It was while I was doing online searches for his jewelry that I discovered that McClelland was also a painter, a sculptor, a naval artist, and a designer of metal arts products and fashions. I wanted to find out more about this multi-talented man, but what little was written about McClelland was often contradictory or cursory. I was convinced that I had to follow whatever leads I discovered in order to locate original source materials. Several of the leads were dead ends, but I was able to purchase materials from the estate of Mardee Hoff, McClelland’s last model and girlfriend, who died in 2004. Included in the boxes of McClelland’s personal effects were his memoirs. These memoirs, handwritten in pencil on paper brown with age, are sometimes difficult to decipher, and they are incomplete. They cover Mac’s childhood and youth, and his adult years until about the mid 1930s. Memoirs might not even be the best term for these pages; they are more like jottings of selected anecdotes, told in a lively style, but not always in chronological order, and with many gaps and omissions. Nonetheless, these personal reminiscences gave me insights into McClelland Barclay that I would not have had otherwise. They revealed how passionate he was about living to the fullest. It was this passion that drew me in, and that led to my own passion that has sustained me through years of meandering research into the life of McClelland Barclay. Sleuthing for this book has taken me to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and California.
INTERVIEW WITH HOWARD WEINER, 2006
My original plan was to write a book about McClelland’s jewelry. I wrote an article that appeared in Vintage Fashion & Costume Jewelry (VFCJ) magazine in the Fall of 2005, “McClelland Barclay: A Signature Style,” which looked at the different signatures found on his jewelry. I also wrote online articles about the details of McClelland’s jewelry – the findings, colors of stones, and styles. But what I have never before written about is my meeting with Howard Weiner (1920-2013) on August 22, 2006 in Providence, RI. Howard was the son of the co-founder of Rice-Weiner & Company, and its CEO until it ceased operations in 1956. Howard told me secrets about his family’s business that only an insider could know. Howard had not planned to enter the family jewelry business. He had wanted to become a lawyer. However, when his older brother Jerome Weiner was killed during WWII, Howard eventually replaced him in the family firm. Howard said that he named the Rice-Weiner Jeray line in honor of his brother Jerome, as a lasting tribute to him. Howard also told me secrets about McClelland Barclay jewelry, and I have been holding onto these secrets since we met in 2006. I reveal them for the first time in my book.
It is kind of a miracle that these secrets are being shared at all. In the years since I first started my research, much has happened in my life. I have lost both parents, my two daughters have had health issues, and I have had cancer. I was diagnosed with smouldering myeloma in 2012, and in 2016 I began chemotherapy. I had a stem cell transplant in March 2017, and in July of that year, I was diagnosed with endocarditis, a potentially lethal heart infection and was hospitalized for about three weeks. My compromised immune system made me vulnerable to the infection and made its cure challenging. When the heart surgeon told me that I might require heart surgery, which was tricky and had a high mortality rate, my first thought was, “I can’t die. I have to finish my book!” Luckily, the strong antibiotics that I was given cleared up the infection before it completely attached to my left valve or migrated to other organs, and surgery wasn’t required.
I may still not have completed this book, had Norman Platnick not intervened. Norm was a world-renowned arachnologist (specialist in spiders), a serious collector of illustration art, and the author of 27 Enchantment Ink Collector’s Guides about famous, and not so famous, illustrators. Norm was also a very inspiring, humble individual who died in April 2020. In 2016, Norm asked me to collaborate with him in authoring More Than Pretty Girls: A Collector’s Guide to the Illustrations of McClelland Barclay. This required that I haul out my huge collection of period copies of Barclay’s art and illustrations and review it. Norm knew of me, because I had published an article about McClelland’s illustration art in the Fall 2009 edition of the magazine, Illustration. I had already decided that I could not ignore all of the other facets of McClelland’s creative output, and my book idea had evolved from a jewelry book into a biography. After completing the Enchantment Ink illustration guide, I decided that it was now or never to finish my book. I am in remission, but my Multiple Myeloma will be active again in the future. I made a giant push to complete my almost-finished manuscript. In 2018, I hired an editor to evaluate what I had written, worked on revisions for the next year, and finally hired a photographer and a design and layout team in 2019. It took until December 2020 to declare this book project “finished.” It will be printed in a limited edition here in Canada in April 2021, and then I will be able to proudly share my work with the world. This is the first time that McClelland Barclay’s life story will be told.
McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More is an illustrated biography of the life of this multi-talented man. There are chapters about his commercial and naval art, his fine art and sculptures, his jewelry and fashion designs, and the women in his life. Be prepared for some bombshells! For updates about this first retrospective of McClelland’s career from the Art Deco period until his death in 1943, please follow me on Instagram @patriciagostick. In the meantime, watch the book trailer on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VpjztZbV2UM.
McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More ordering information:
Hardcover Book with Dust Jacket – 8.75 x 11.25 x .87 inches
200 pages with more than 400 color photos
Available April 2021 in Patricia Gostick’s Ruby Lane shop, Bijoux Vintage, $85 US, including shipping https://www.rubylane.com/shop/bijouxvintage.
For prices in Canadian currency and book pick-up, or further information, please email Patricia at [email protected].
Images in this article are copyrighted. Photos courtesy of Patricia Gostick.