Iconic Southfield-Based Textile Designer Ruth Adler Schnee Dies At 99!

Ruth Adler Schnee Dies: Ruth Adler Schnee was an American designer born in Germany and lived in Michigan. She died on January 5, 2023. Snow was best known for her modern prints and abstract patterns with organic and geometric shapes.

With her husband, Edward Schnee, she opened the Ruth Adler-Schnee Design Studio in Detroit. It stayed open until 1960. The studio made textiles, and then Adler-Schnee Associates started making home decor, interior design, and furniture.

Iconic Southfield-Based Textile Designer Ruth Adler Schnee Dies At 99!

Ruth Adler Schnee, a textile designer from Southfield who helped bring a whole movement to Michigan with her modernist designs, died on Thursday. She would have been 100 years old in a few months. She turned 99. The famous designer worked for more than seven decades, and she did not stop until she was in her late 90s.

Ruth Adler Schnee Dies
Ruth Adler Schnee Dies

In 2015, she was named an Eminent Artist by the Kresge Foundation. “Ruth Adler Schnee is one of a small group of Detroiters who have helped shape an international design sensibility,” said Rip Rapson, President and CEO of Kresge at the time. Rapson also pointed out that Schnee was successful in a field that men once dominated.

“Her life and work are a great example of how to live.” In a statement about Schnee’s death released on Friday, the Cranbrook Educational Community called her “an innovator whose keen eye for making modern designs helped shape the look and feel of the midcentury modern movement.”

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The Maxine and Stuart Frankel director of Cranbrook Academy of Art, Paul Sacaridiz, said that Ruth Adler Schnee’s life and work had been honored there for a long time. “She was a designer who saw the beauty and color in the world and had the hard work and talent to turn her vision into designs that brightened the lives of millions of people during her lifetime and will continue to inspire generations for years to come.”

Deborah Lubera Kawsky, an art historian, said that Schnee, along with Charles and Ray Eames, Minoru Yamasaki, Eero Saarinen, and others, was a pioneer of modern design. “The loss is felt most deeply in Metro Detroit, where Ruth lived and worked for most of her 99 years, but it is lessened by gratitude for the huge impact she had both in and outside of this community,” Lawsky wrote an email to The Detroit News.

In 1938, Schnee’s parents took her from Nazi Germany to Detroit, where she now lives. Even though she had degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and the Cranbrook Academy of Art, she couldn’t find a job in architecture. So she turned to textile design. One of the first women to graduate from Cranbrook was Schnee.

Schnee told The Detroit News in 2015, “Architecture offices didn’t hire women.” “That’s how I started working with fabrics. I needed to make money.” She was probably best known for the store she and her husband opened in 1948 called Adler-Schnee.

The interior design store she opened to make extra money on top of her design business was in Harmonie Park until it was sold in 1979. It was unusual for its modernist style. It brought to Detroit companies like Marimekko, Dansk, Copco, Costa Boda, Orrefors, and Hertzberg.

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