Interview: Fred Salaff of the Vera Company

You might have noticed that I’ve been on a real Vera “kick” lately.  It was so nice learning more about her from her nephew, Fred Salaff  that my enthusiasm for her work has just sky-rocketed!  And in honor of what would have been Vera’s 101st birthday, I want to share with you some of the more personal details of Vera’s life, as well as a showcase of great Vera items, most of which are still for sale!

Vera Salaff was born in 1907 and showed an early affinity for art.  She attended Cooper Union School of Art in New York City.  During the Depression she supported her family with her talent.  She retouched photographs and handpainted juvenile scenes on lampshades.

Vera married an Austrian immigrant, George Neumann, and in 1946 they began the venture that became the Vera Company.  After working from their Manhattan loft apartment for several years, they bought an old mansion in Ossining, NY, and converted it into their factory and home.  From then on the Vera Company grew, thanks to Vera’s talent and the business know-how of her brother, Philip Salaff who joined the company after the move to Ossining.

Vera was so successful she was featured in a book- Millionairess – which profiled her and nine other self-made female millionaires,  So Vera, the daughter of Jewish-Russian immigrants, was able to afford the finer things in life including  a home on Iziba and a world-class folk art collection.

But she is also remembered as an open and giving woman who supported a sick sister for thirty years and who encouraged young talent like Perry Ellis and supported schools with textile programs.  It was with that sister, Alice Siegel, that she wrote and illustrated a book titled Words Are Funny.  Alice’s words; Vera’s artwork.  And if you ever turn over a piece of Vera china, you might find quotes from the book on the bottom.

Vera had a very strong work ethic, usually working six and sometimes seven days a week.  You can see the result in the huge variety of designs she left to us.

In this gallery, you’ll see some of the many designs Vera did for scarves, clothing and linens.  Most are still for sell, so check out the links if interested.  Because there are so many Vera items available, prices have remained quite reasonable.  I think that Vera items are some of the best vintage design bargains on the market today.


Vintage Vera Blue and Gold Scarf

Thanks to Daisy Fairbanks

Vera Modern Abstract Scarf

Thanks to Joules


Thanks to AgesAGoGo

Vera Remarkable Op Art Vintage Shirt

Thanks to Joules

Thanks to pumiecat


Thanks to IkonicVintage

Vintage Vera set of 4 matching Linen Napkins

Thanks to RetroWear


Posted by Carol:

Very nice tribute! It’s always fun to find a Vera item. Little happy pieces.

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 12:26 PM

Posted by Maggie:

What a visual feast! What prolific inspiration! I didn’t realize she designed China patterns, were they for some other manufacturer, or her own company?

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 1:18 PM

Posted by Sue:

Such an amazing collection and range of
prints. Vera pieces DO make you smile! Thank you for a lovely tribute to her.:)

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 1:47 PM

Posted by Justine:

I agree that Vera’s items are one of the best bargains in vintage nowadays. The sheer volume and beauty of her work is amazing. I love that almost every Vera piece I come across is different from the last. Being in vintage for many years you usually come across the same styles or patterns after awhile and with Vera that rarely happens.

Beautiful tribute, Lizzie.

Thursday, July 24th 2008 @ 4:33 PM

Posted by Julie:

I have so much admiration, and respect for Vera’s body of work. Thank you Lizzie, for this terrific tribute!

Friday, July 25th 2008 @ 10:43 AM

Posted by samsara:

Thank you for this marvelous post about Vera. I’m the proud owner of one Vera scarf, and now I’m hungry for more. DeniseBrain’s musical Vera shirt is to die for. And I agree heartily with other posters that there is something about Vera’s work that makes ya smile.

Monday, July 28th 2008 @ 11:36 AM

Posted by Lizzie Bramlett:

Thanks everyone! I’m glad you all loved the show!
Maggie, Vera did products for several companies other than her own. Burlington made her sheets, and Mikasa produced the pottery line. Lizzie

Monday, July 28th 2008 @ 6:51 PM

1 Comment

Filed under Designers, First Person Stories

One response to “Interview: Fred Salaff of the Vera Company

  1. Pingback: Label Love: Carlette | Vintspiration

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