The Andy Warhol Experience.
Not long after arriving in New York City in 1953, a young artist named Andy Warhol began to make his way in the world of commercial illustration. Edelman Leather was one of Warhol’s first clients and over the course of several years he worked closely with owners Arthur and Teddy Edelman, producing everything from advertisements to showrooms. Their relationship culminated in a coloring book that could have only come from the mind of Warhol, created especially for clients' children for Christmas in 1961. Now back in print, A Coloring Book: Drawings by Andy Warhol (1961/2011) will amuse and charm a new audience, both young and old.
We recently had opportunity to speak with the Edelmans (if the name sounds familiar it's because they're our CEO's parents) about Warhol and what is was like working with the young commercial illustrator who would go on to become the most famous pop art artist in the world.
DWR: Describe the first time you saw Andy Warhol.
Arthur Edelman: We found him outside a shoe designer’s office. In the hallway. He looked different…his shoes were covered with colors like a Jackson Pollock painting, or better still, like the colors of the floor in our coloring room at our leather tannery. His hair was askew and he was wearing black pants, a white crumpled shirt and a black jacket, also crumpled. I said “Hello.”
DWR: Did you hire him then and there on the spot?
Arthur Edelman: No. It was perhaps two weeks later (by this time I had seen his drawings and loved them) that we met again. I asked him if he could do graphics for our company. He said "Yes."
The next day he arrived at our offices and Hannah our receptionist was shocked by what she saw . . .
Teddy Edelman: In those days, if you weren’t wearing a suit and tie you were considered odd. But she [our receptionist] was smart enough to know that it must be one of Teddy and Arthur’s “friends.”
DWR: What types of things did he design for Edelman Leather?
Teddy Edelman: Well, he designed graphics for just about anything we needed, from advertisements to sample cards to tote bags to a booth for a leather show – he designed that in a week.
DWR: How did the booth for the leather show turn out?
Teddy Edelman: Well, we were promoting our new metallic leather series, and we needed to decorate our booth, so Andy went out and bought 38 boxes of silver aluminum foil – enough to cover the entire booth. Then he rented two metallic motorcycles, and we draped the metallic leather over top of them. It was incredible.
DWR: What was it like to work with Warhol?
Teddy Edelman: Every moment was exciting, but Andy didn't really talk much. When he liked something it was “Wow!” When he really liked something it was “Wow. Wow!” He was very literal and very deep. He had incredible taste and an ability to immediately comprehend the intended direction of a project. Everything he did was meaningful and always had a sense of humor.
DWR: He created numerous designs for your business, but did he ever do your portrait?
Arthur Edelman: One night after a late appointment at our office, he said he wanted to do our portrait. We said “Wow!” for a change.
We took a taxi to a Photomat on 42nd street. He sat the two of us on the little chair and directed us: “Move this way” … “Move that way,” and he kept dropping quarters in the slot. At the end we had about 10 strips of pictures of Teddy and me. And here I made the huge mistake of asking him what the portait would cost, as this was a personal expense. He quoted “$2500,” and we were shocked.
Teddy Edelman: For graphics and illustration he charged much less, $200 a project, but you see, this was his artwork.
Arthur Edelman: We told him we’d have to think about it. We had six kids in private school and business was a little slow. We never did proceed.
Teddy Edelman: But we still have the photos.
DWR: But you did have all of his sketches and graphics, etc., that he created for Edelman Leather. Do you still have those?
Teddy Edelman: For many years we had them in stacks on the bookshelf. We put them all together for the kids as a gift one year, but then we donated pretty much everything we had to the Warhol Museum. In fact, the covering on the museum’s ticket booth was designed by Warhol for Edelman Leather.
Arthur Edelman: End of story.