15 photographs of artist and designer Sascha
Brastoff, primarily in drag, from circa 1940 to circa 1965.
Sascha Brastoff, potter, metal sculptor, and jewelry designer, was
born Samuel Brostofsky in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 23, 1918. He attended
Glenville High School in Cleveland, and took drama classes under the future
Hollywood producer Ross Hunter. At age 17, he began studying dance with Edward
Caton, and later danced for several seasons with the Cleveland Ballet.
Impressed with his artistic abilities, his art teachers formed a small private
scholarship to enable him to attend the Western Reserve University School of
Art in Cleveland. In 1940, Brastoff moved to New York where he designed window
displays for Macy's and joined the Clay Club, where in 1941 he held a one-man
show of his terra cotta "whimsies". In 1942, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force,
where he designed costumes and scenery for Special Services events to entertain
the troops; he also appeared on stage, and became well known for his comic
interpretation of Carmen Miranda. In 1944, Brastoff moved to California, where
he signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox as a designer and
entertainer. In 1947, he opened his first ceramic plant in Los Angeles, selling
hand-painted earthenware. In 1952, with backing from Winthrop Rockefeller,
Brastoff opened a new factory in Los Angeles. It was destroyed by fire six
months later, and in 1953, Brastoff opened a new 35,000-square foot factory and
showroom that eventually employed more than 100 people. In 1960, the business
began to decline, and in 1962 Brastoff suffered a nervous collapse and left the
company, which continued to sell wares under his name until it finally closed
in 1973. After several years away from business, Brastoff returned in 1966 with
a one-man show of metal sculpture at the Dalzell Hatfield Galleries in Los
Angeles. He thereafter designed and produced lines for ceramic, jewelry, and
decorative arts companies. As his health declined after 1985, he increasingly
curtailed his artistic activities. He died after a long battle with prostate
cancer on February 4, 1993.Steve Conti is the co-author, together with A DeWayne Bethany and Bill
Seay, of Collector's Encyclopedia of Sascha
Brastoff (Paducah, KY: Collector Books, c1995).
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