For the past twenty-five years, Robert Ebendorf has been re-purposing existing materials by devising ingenious uses for the discarded and discovering ways to make the used into the new. Known for jewelry that includes everything from buttons to crab claws, he continues in his investigations into “representations.”
Ebendorf’s conceptual approach to jewelry questions the nature of adornment itself and explores alternative materials and ideas about the preciousness of jewelry. The creativity of his jewelry lies not only in the intellectual repositioning of familiar objects, but more in the physical transformations of materials that astonish the viewer. It is exactly this sense of astonishment that gives his pieces their value. The profound incongruity between what his pieces are made from, and what they become in his hands, engages the imagination.
Ebendorf’s objects are not simply about refashioning the mundane, they elevate the value of what might otherwise be thrown away or overlooked. By reassessing the meaning of the artifacts of daily life, his pieces often reverse the idea of what is precious. If the purpose of art is to locate and reaffirm values in our world, then this work is a most relevant mode of contemporary expression.
Ebendorf was born in 1938 in Topeka, KS. He received his BFA in 1960 and his MFA in 1962, both from the University of Kansas, Lawrence. Following graduation, he received a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the State School of Applied Arts and Crafts in Norway. He has taught at the University of Georgia (1967- 71) and State University of New York at New Paltz (1971-88).
Ebendorf received the Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant in 1966/67. In 1995, he was awarded the American Craft Council Fellowship for his achievement in craft and commitment to the craft movement. He is a co-founder and past president of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG).
He is represented in many worldwide collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Mint Museum of Craft Design in Charlotte, NC, Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs de Montreal, National Museum of Wales and The Schmuck Museum in Pforzheim, to name a few.
Current exhibitions include “Jewelry of Robert Ebendorf, A Retrospective of Forty Years,” held at the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin. He serves as the Belk Distinguished Professor in the Arts at the East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. While living in North Carolina, he received the 2010 North Carolina Governor’s Award in the Arts. Ebendorf was recently invited by the Smithsonian Institution to participate in its Archives of American Art Oral History Program.
LINKS: Video Profile Smithsonian Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection Museum of Art and Design Collection Victoria & Albert Museum Collection Smithsonian Oral History Interview