December Railyard Art Walk

RSVP on Facebook.

Santa Fe’s leading contemporary art galleries are located seven blocks southwest of the downtown Plaza in the historic Railyard District. On the last Friday in December, come explore form & concept and our neighboring spaces Blue Rain Gallery, Charlotte Jackson Fine Art, Evoke Contemporary, LewAllen Galleries, photo-eye Gallery, Tai Modern, William Siegal Gallery and SITE Santa Fe. Thais Mather’s solo exhibition Reckless Abandon, the Smitten Forum wearable art exhibition, and Wookjae Maeng’s new body of work BALANCE will be on view at form & concept.

Reckless Abandon: Performance

RSVP on Facebook.

The gallery will accept a sliding scale donation of $5-$10 in support of the artists.

Thais Mather unites activist and feminist artists for this special holiday event. Todd Ryan White, David Mcmaster, Tim Reed, Ekalos Reed and Niomi Fawn will join Mather to present a series of performance vignettes among the artworks of Reckless Abandon.

Reckless Abandon is Mather’s first major show in Santa Fe, though she hesitates to call it a solo exhibition—at least in a traditional sense. “I feel like the concept of the male genius artist, presenting his solo magnum opus is a Greenbergian farce. Everything you create is influenced by other artists, by your mentors, by your relationships, by the music and literature you adore.” she says.

Mather considers the participating performers—and gallery visitors—to be collaborators when they cross the show’s threshold. The exhibition will evolve through these contributions and interactions, inspiring community members to return multiple times and experience new surprises. Inspired by the art movement called magical realism, Mather aims to weave moments of transformation into everyday life.

Reckless Abandon Events

Opening Reception | Friday, November 24, 2017 from 5-7 pm — RSVP on Facebook
Reckless Abandon: A Reading | Saturday, November 25, 2-3 pm — RSVP on Facebook
Reckless Abandon: Performance | Friday, December 15, 5-7 pm — RSVP on Facebook

Learn more about this exhibition.

Part of the proceeds from Thais Mather: Reckless Abandon will benefit the ACLU of New Mexico and the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter

Reckless Abandon’s Evolution.

Thais Mather- 200,000- Reckless Abandon Show- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, 200,000, stoneware, 3 x 3 in. each.

Thais Mather’s Reckless Abandon is not an exhibition that you would call “on view,” in a passive sense. In fact, it’s a show that views you in many cases. It unfolds and evolves, pulling viewers and other artists into its orbit in compelling ways. For example, gallery visitors are free to interact with the ceramic masks in Mather’s installation 200,000During the opening reception, there were audible gasps in the crowd as people reached across the platform and plucked faces from the vast field of sculptures. If a visitor decided to acquire a mask, they were allowed to take it with them that evening, leaving a gap in the grid. In this sense, the arrangement of artworks in Reckless Abandon has changed every day since it debuted late last month.

The exhibition will transform yet again on Friday, December 15, when Mather unites feminist and activist artists for a series of performances among the artworks. Todd Ryan White, David Mcmaster, Tim Reed, Ekalos Reed and Niomi Fawn will each add their artistic voices to the show. “I feel like the concept of the male genius artist presenting his solo magnum opus is a Greenbergian farce,” Mather explains. “Everything you create is influenced by other artists, by your mentors, by your relationships, by the music and literature you adore.”

Thais Mather- Thaumaturge- Reckless Abandon Show- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, Thaumaturge (detail), shou sugi ban, 16 x 21 x 8 in.

This new paradigm could also redefine the role of the storytellers who have reflected on Reckless Abandon since its opening. Perhaps they too should be considered collaborators, directing channels of the show’s conceptual river in fresh directions. In her review of Reckless Abandon for Pasatiempo, Iris McLister analyzed the show’s sweeping scale and individualized impact:

Feminist and universal, political and primitive, ancient and hyper-contemporary. Alchemical. These are just a handful of words that aptly describe artist Thais Mather’s exhibition Reckless Abandon, now on view at Form & Concept. Though the entirety of the gallery’s cavernous downstairs is filled with her work, the art’s intentionality never seems compromised by its quantity. During a recent tour of the show, Mather said, “I want to make art that will last. It feels really important to me to have the discipline to make things that endure.”

Comprising sculpture, drawing, video art, printmaking, and more, Reckless Abandon could feel sprawling, but instead it’s immersive and intimate. Describing a central theme for the show, Mather wrote in her artist statement, “I’m really contemplating humanity: how culture began, where we are now, and where that might evolve.”

McLister also touched on the show’s highly collaborative ethos:

Mather is transparent about relying on the knowledge and help of others in making this show a reality. Friends and peers, including local artists Sandra Wang, Ron Pokrasso, and Chris Collins, were instrumental in helping Mather learn and execute new techniques. This must partially inform why she doesn’t like what she has called the “farce of the solo show.” For her, the experience of art — whether making it or viewing it — is most rewarding when it’s collaborative in nature.

Thais Mather- My Own Two Eyes- Reckless Abandon Show- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, My Own Two Eyes (detail), porcelain, 1 x 1 in. each.

Mather spoke with John Shannon of KSFR about the importance of empowering her audience:

I’m trying really hard… to not give too much information, because I really think that what viewers perceive in the work is a really valuable asset to the work itself. The one thing that I will say about it is that I deeply researched feminism, and that’s where my background comes from in terms of the theoretical aspect of what I’m interested in.

Kathryn Davis also interviewed Thais, for THE Magazine‘s online feature about Reckless Abandon. She talked about her hopes for the ultimate impact of her work:

 I find social change important in work, trying to change and challenge my audience and myself… We are learning, we are failing, and sometimes we get it right. Mostly I hope we can think about the rest of the world—not just humanity, but the planet. 200,000 years is a short time within a four-billion-year-old process. I just keep looking and asking, and knowing very little in return. It feels good, so I just keep doing it.

On a similar note, Eliza Lutz of Matron Records talked about the show’s ability to inspire across mediums and disciplines in the record label’s December newsletter:

Though Matron Records is clearly an entity with music front and center, we are constantly exploring the many ties between various disciplines and perspectives, ranging in everything from sound and design to performance art and printmaking to storytelling and feminism. Reckless Abandon, the multi-discipline exhibition by Mather featuring hundreds of artworks, navigates the space between these ideas, dismantling traditional & patriarchal art narratives to create a show that re-imagines human history and what it might become.

[…]

Given the current political climate, with a recent resurgence of the #MeToo campaign setting the tone for a radical cultural shift in many male-dominated fields, Reckless Abandon could not come at a better time. The immense body of work and interconnected series of performances and events tackle the full weight of the past and present while still offering a magic and radical vision for the future. “I think people are getting these catastrophic feelings, that this is the end,” says Thais Mather. “I don’t believe in that. I think this is a beginning.”

Join us for Reckless Abandon: Performance this Friday, and return on Saturday for an improvisational performance by Tara Khozein and Rhonda Taylor in the exhibition.

Learn more about this event.
RSVP on Facebook.

Thais Mather- Mine and Thine- Reckless Abandon Show- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, Mine and Thine, shou sugi ban, 20 x 63 x 10 in.

Colorful Collections.

Happy holidays from form & concept! Discover colorful, wearable creations by some of our favorite jewelers, and browse vibrant offerings from our book nook.

Robert Ebendorf- Holiday Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

“I enjoy reconstructing these found objects into my world and bringing them out into the universe for another life, another journey. There’s something about putting it back out in another configuration that’s very caring.”
Robert Ebendorf

Kelsey Simmen- Holiday Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

“I get inspired by unusual materials, science, repetition and shapes. Experimenting with traditional and nontraditional materials, I have found joy in creating pieces that are vibrant, thoughtful and cheeky.”
Kelsey Simmen

Kat Cole- Holiday Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

“I look to the built environment of the city where I live for the formal qualities of my work: materials, forms, colors and surface quality.”
Kat Cole

Laura Tiffin- Holiday Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

“The Rabbitneck collection is influenced by the Swiss Style, Art Deco, Bauhaus and De Stijl. It’s a formal evolution of my conceptual sculpture and paintings utilizing a variety of materials.”
Laura Tiffin

Form & Concept Gallery- Holiday Art Books- Santa Fe New Mexico

Click here to browse the form & concept book collection.

Press | Thais Mather: Reckless Abandon

Thais Mather’s Reckless Abandon opens TONIGHT from 5-7 pm—with a reading from 2-3 pm on Saturday—and the artist has been hard at work installing the show and engaging the press in a conversation about art, history and feminism. Watch the latest clip from our video preview series above, and check out links to press about Reckless Abandon below.

Thais Mather Artist- Reckless Abandon- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, Mine and Thine (detail), 2017, 5′ 3″ x 20″ x 10″, Shou Sugi Ban.

Alex De Vore of Santa Fe Reporter talked to Thais for this week’s Three Questions feature. From his intro:

It’s not every day that a gallery as spacious as the Railyard’s form & concept opens up an entire floor to just one artist, but Santa Fe’s Thais Mather has a massive body of multi-disciplinary work and a whole hell of a lot to say. With Reckless Abandon, Mather examines the ideas of humanity, feminism, activism, the end of days and so much more through visual works, collaborative performance pieces and readings.

Thais Mather Artist- Reckless Abandon- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, 200,000, 2017, ceramic, ~ 3 x 3 in. each.

Megan Bennett of Albuquerque Journal North wrote an awesome preview of the exhibition. A little excerpt:

[Mather’s] mixed-media work, inspired by mankind’s evolution over time, with its art and symbols, ranges from resembling something that could have been made by cave people to more modern conceptual pieces. All of it, she says, is meant to encourage the audience to reflect on what’s worth holding on to and what’s not.

“There’s a point we’re coming to as Americans that our privileges are going to run out,” said Mather. “It just doesn’t matter any more. It’s a globalized world, and there’s going to have to be some complete reimagining with how the culture functions and how the global culture functions if we really plan to survive.”

Kathryn Davis interviewed Thais among the artworks of Reckless Abandon for her media platform ArtBeat Santa Fe:

Emily Van Cleve of Santa Fe Arts Journal wrote up the show earlier this week in an article aptly title A Vision for Humanity. Here’s a blurb:

Mather describes the process of making art as her product. “The show was birthed as an exploration of material and self, with the self as material and the material as self,” she adds. “I pushed the limits of what I knew but tried not to manipulate any material beyond what it was teaching me. So I worked with clay and let the clay converse with me. I worked in watercolor and we talked and didn’t fight. I just spent time and got lost and found in the process.”

Click here to learn more about Reckless Abandon, and make sure to RSVP on Facebook for updates. We’ll see you tonight from 5-7 pm! Our shows Smitten Forum and MICROCOSM Small Works Invitational also debut this evening.

Thais Mather Artist- Reckless Abandon- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Thais Mather, Mine and Thine, watercolor and pen and ink, 33 x 53 in.

Preview: Pussy Bites Back Jewelry Launch

It’s no mistake that Laila Farcas-Ionescu’s launch party for the Pussy Bites Back jewelry line falls just before the anniversary of last year’s presidential election. The series is filled with imagery of fierce felines, in reference to the Pussyhat phenomenon and the political scandal that incited it. Still, Farcas-Ionescu would rather look forward than back. “It’s more than just a visceral reaction to the political situation, it’s a symbol of empowerment,” Farcas-Ionescu says. “At this party, everyone will have the chance to release some pent-up energy with a good, long roar.” The Pussy Bites Back launch party is on Saturday, October 28 from 5-7 pm. Ionescu will unveil rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants from the new series, along with a powerful manifesto and some fun surprises.

Laila Farcas-Ionescu- Pussy Bites Back Jewelry Line- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rings from Pussy Bites Back.

“There’s something cathartic about Laila’s new line that inspired us,” says Clara Holiday, Sales Director at form & concept. “The work has a serious bite to it, but there’s also a genuine sense of humor there that’s been missing from much of the national discourse over the past year.” The launch party lands on the Friday before Halloween, and though it’s not a costume party, cat-inspired decorations, hors d’oeuvres and performers will create a festive atmosphere. Ionescu will hand out free Pussy Bites Back merch, including stickers and temporary tattoos with a bold, hot pink logo of a snarling cat. She’ll also display her Pussy Bites Back manifesto, which you can preview above.

Laila Farcas-Ionescu- Pussy Bites Back Jewelry Line- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Pendants from Pussy Bites Back.

Farcas-Ionescu employs a palette of hot pink, gold and silver in the Pussy Bites Back line. Snarling cat heads and gleaming claws feature prominently. It’s a departure from Ionescu’s collaborative work with her husband, Ion. Under the moniker Ionescu Designs, the duo creates opulent jewelry with 18 and 22 karat gold, platinum, high quality pearls and a multitude of precious and semi-precious gems. The New York Times Style Magazine has hailed them as “style-makers,” and they’ve received a number of other accolades and awards, including the first place AGTA award for “Evening Wear” and the 2014 “Fashion Forward” award among many others.

Laila Farcas-Ionescy- Pussy Bites Back Jewelry Line- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rings from Pussy Bites Back.

Originally from Transylvania, Farcas-Ionescu arrived in the New York City by way of Romania in the 1970’s. In addition to her work with fine jewelry, she is also a sculptor with degrees in fine art from Hunter College and the Pratt Institute. Now a resident of Santa Fe, she continues to weave fantastical and deeply personal stories and characters into her sculptures and jewelry.

“Laila is a world-class artist and designer, and this launch party is definitely up to her standards of fabulous,” says Holiday. “She has a few tricks up her sleeve that are sure to surprise and delight our visitors.”

Preview this exhibition.
RSVP on Facebook.

 

New Artwork: Rebecca Rutstein

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Lazaro Cardena Canyon, acrylic on panel, 10 x 30 x 2 in.

This summer, Rebecca Rutstein mounted a solo exhibition at form & concept called Fault Lines. The smallest paintings in the show measured 36 x 36 inches, and the largest canvas was 7.5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. In a series of paintings and prints that just arrived at the gallery, the Philadelphia artist works in a more intimate scale. Many of the pieces are no taller than 10 inches. However, her subject matter—and vivid color palette—remains as vast as an ocean or mountain range.

In Rutstein’s case, we mean this quite literally. A series of long, narrow images reflects the undulating topography of the Pacific Ocean floor, drawn from her recent residencies at sea. Other works evoke rivers, volcanoes or continents, markers of the artist’s far-flung travels that have inspired her to envision geologic forms and phenomena as a highly personal symbol system. The work’s titles hint at events in her personal life that metaphorically align with the natural forces she studies. “The stories I tell about geology are always interwoven with my own personal psychology,” she tells us. “I’m [also] exploring formal abstract ideas.” Scroll down to browse Rutstein’s work, and check out our studio visit blog post for a video, interview and more.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, I Don’t Want to Lose You, acrylic on panel, 10 x 10 x 2.25 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Awful Bliss, archival pigment print, 10.75 x 21.88 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, In the Absence of Fear, acrylic on panel, 10 x 10 x 2.25 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Breathing Under Water, archival pigment print, 11 x 22 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Eclipse, acrylic on panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Nicoles Caldera, acrylic on panel, 10 x 30 x 2 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Bold as Love, acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 x 2 in.

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Blown Away, acrylic on panel, 20 x 20 x 2 in.
Rebecca Rutstein Artwork- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Rebecca Rutstein, Galapagos I, archival pigment print, 10.75 x 21.63 in.

Click here to view all of Rebecca Rutstein’s artwork in the form & concept collection.

Introducing Lisa Klakulak

Lisa Klakulak Artist Portrait- American Craft Magazine- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak. Photo by Michael Mauney for American Craft Magazine.

Lisa Klakulak first exhibited at form & concept this winter in Shifting Landscapes, our juried show with Surface Design Association. She’s a longtime member of the organization, and her work was a perfect fit for the place-themed show. Klakulak has traveled the world studying the textiles of diverse cultures, from Appalachia to India, West Africa and Spain. On her far-flung travels, she also takes in the flora, fauna and geography that surrounds her in search of inspiration. Her contribution to Shifting Landscapes captured the dynamism of glacial formations in a series of vivid blue necklaces:

Lisa Klakulak- Felt Necklaces- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico

Now Klakulak is one of our newest represented artists, and she draws inspiration from lava flows in a fresh series of wearable artworks. We’ve been eagerly learning about her travels and their impact on her work. It came as no surprise that she was featured in American Craft Magazine, in a lovely profile about her inclination for globe-trotting:

Travel is a crucial artistic resource for Klakulak. And yet art is not what compels her to leave home. “The places I’ve chosen to go are dramatically different from the world I live in. Travel turns my world upside down and challenges me,” she says. “My artwork is how I process these visual and emotional experiences. I wouldn’t say that I travel to make art; I make art because I travel.”

Klakulak has been artistic since she was very young, growing up in the suburbs of Detroit. Her interest in culturally diverse travel emerged in her teens. On one trip to the Caribbean with her father, she recalls being more intrigued by the people working at the resort than by the other guests. Then there was the eye-opening class trip to Nicaragua during her college years at Colorado State University, where she earned a degree in fiber arts in 1997. But it was two years after graduation, on a six-month spiritual and artistic quest with a boyfriend through India, Nepal, and Thailand, that she began to meld art and travel.

“It was the most monumental trip of my life,” she says. Forgoing the beaten path in favor of rural villages rife with textile traditions – once traveling a week by camel – she was taken by the “magnificence of work made with the simplest of materials. The poverty of materials and resources but the richness of the forms was totally inspiring,” she recalls. She gravitated to the highly ornamented Rajasthani embroidery of northwestern India and natural dye processes, as well as patterns in the landscape, and returned to the United States eager to expand her knowledge of fiber arts.

From there, Klakulak worked as a teaching assistant at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, where she took up the medium of felt in 2000. She went on to complete a two-year residency at the Appalachian Center for Craft in Tennessee. She taught felting and other textile techniques to public schoolchildren through the center’s outreach program, an experience that kickstarted her ongoing teaching work and advocacy for fiber art as an important component of the visual art curriculum. Now residing in a cabin in Asheville, North Carolina, she continues to create wearable textiles, accessories and non-functional sculpture. She also teaches workshops around the world, of course. “For me, the medium is life,” she told American Craft. “That’s the art; it’s what you do with your life.”

Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Tuff Ring Necklace, merino wool fiber, metallic silk organza, tulle fabric, cotton rope , cotton thread, found stones at Kalbarri Nat Park Western Australia, nylon netting wet felted, free-motion machine stitched, $900.
Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Intertwined Hoop Earrings, merino wool fiber, metallic silk organza, tulle fabric, cotton thread, found beach glass, sterling silver hoops, needle and wet felting, free-motion machine embroidered, $460.
Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Bracelet with 3D Tabs, merino wool fiber, cotton thread, waxed linen thread, stainless steel armature, leather, wet felting, naturally dyed with cochineal and osage, free-motion machine embroidered, hand stitched, $260.
Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Circuitous Path Choker, merino wool fiber, metallic silk organza, tulle fabric, cotton thread, found beach glass, wet felted, free-motion machine stitched, $1200.
Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Trampoline Earrings, merino wool fiber, metallic silk organza, tulle fabric, cotton thread, found beach glass, sterling silver hoops, needle and wet feling, naturally dyed with madder, free-motion machine embroidered, $430.
Lisa Klakulak Art- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Lisa Klakulak, Wool Bracelet, merino wool fiber, cotton thread, waxed linen thread, stainless steel armature, leather, wet felting, free-motion machine embroidered, hand stitched, $240.

Click here to browse all of Klakulak’s work on the form & concept website, and make sure to read the rest of Melissa Reardon’s profile of the artist in American Craft.

Studio Visit: Robert Ebendorf

“It’s about not being afraid to put diamonds and pearls with broken glass and bone,” says Robert Ebendorf. The master jeweler’s mixed-media philosophy comes from nearly six decades of working with found objects. When you’re a self-proclaimed “gleaner,” life is an endless treasure hunt. Ebendorf’s innovative work has landed in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Now he’s form & concept’s newest represented artist. We visited Ebendorf’s studio to talk about his remarkable career, philosophy of design and day-to-day studio practice.

How did people react to your initial work with found objects in the 1960’s? 

I was in the forest by myself for quite a while, in a sense. I made such a radical swing from making jewelry with silver and stones—I was never big with gold and diamonds. So when that was happening, I kept thinking “Who’s going to be interested in this work?” I had to contemplate that and make that choice. I stayed with it an pursued it.

The thing is, I have been very blessed. Because I was a teacher at a university, I got a paycheck every month and that helped my studio practice. I could venture into the unknown and uncover my imagination.

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Lucky Fish Necklace, mixed-media, $850.

You’ve been a teacher for over 50 years. Could you reflect a bit on that experience?

One part of my journey has been mentoring. It’s been a gift to be that involved with young, enthusiastic minds. I was locked into a time zone of 22 years old to 29 years old. Each year I got older, I don’t know about any wiser, but I was locked into that time zone. I realized there was a lot of juice there. A lot of problem solving. Looking back on it, I realize it had a wonderful benefit of being with young people as they creatively try to find their way.

How do you organize your space?

If you look closely at my workbench, I try to make order out of chaos. Now, chaos is all this stuff in front of me. But order is designing, putting colors and textures together. What I call order, you might think doesn’t make any sense. It’s ugly.

There are certain tools I must find and put back on the rack exactly where they belong, so when I’m ready I can go back and it’s there. So I guess there is an order. My beloved wife looks at it, and says, “I don’t see any order.”

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Sea Spoon Brooch, mixed-media, $385.

You call yourself a “gleaner.” What does that mean to you?

When I’m walking, I’m picking things up and I’m putting things in my fanny-pack. At the seafood restaurant I might gather the claws from the table and bring them home. And in a month, I come back and begin to make a brooch out of it. 

Gleaning, finding the discard, I find very enjoyable. When I’m gathering things, I come home, lay them out, clean them, put everything in the right order. It’s my kind of meditative playfulness. There’s something about gleaning that’s been in my DNA since I was a small child.

What sorts of things did you collect when you were growing up in Kansas? 

I would go down the alleys with my little wagon. In Kansas, it was a dry state, but I’d go through trash cans and find liquor bottles and go, “Oh, they’re naughty. They drink.” I’d take these things back to my garage. It was a very early sense of gathering and gleaning objects.

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Yellow Oval Earring, mixed-media, $75.

I know your gleaning translates into a more holistic life philosophy for you. You speak about the objects you find with really powerful compassion. 

I often make reference to the fact that this has been discarded, someone ran over it, it’s been thrown in the dumpster, it’s on the way to the landfill. I enjoy reconstructing it into my world and bringing it out into the universe for another life, another journey. There’s something about putting it back out in another configuration that’s very caring.

 Color and composition are foundational to your process. What’s the lesson there?

I just did a workshop with 15 people. A lot of the other workshops at the conference are about technique. Everybody was eager to take a technique home. My group came together and made postcards. I wanted them to take paper, and collage their story together. What I’m trying to share with them is that they can be open to ideas and not be precious. Make mistakes, circle back around.

I was pushing and pulling with them to be more observant and also more loose and open. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. It comes back to the playfulness.

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Shell Ring, mixed-media, $325.

Do you find yourself puzzling over the lifespan of the objects that you find? Where have these objects traveled before they reach you? 

It’s interesting. This piece of copper that I buy in a sheet, I think, “How many lives did this piece of copper have?” It could have been stolen in the sixteenth century— a copper goblet—and then pilfered and taken away, then cut up and melted down, and hammered and maybe made into a tray, or a knife handle. How many different lives? How many wedding rings, or lockets? And now I have it here, and I can hammer it, I can bend it, I can melt it. That’s the magic about that.

There’s a dichotomy in your work, between craft techniques that have been passed down for generations and this radical, avant-garde use of materials. 

There is that dichotomy in my work. Maybe that’s why they call me the outlaw. But I do work hard to honor the craft. The workshops were a little different then, but we have the same tools. Fire, melting, hammering. I go to the museums and I look at these pieces that were done in Italy or Nigeria and I think, “These are my brothers and sisters. They are a part of my family.”

When I lecture, I talk about that a lot. It’s something that I honor and feel very joyful about. My grandfather was German. My grandmother was Swiss. They had their own mom-and-pop tailor store.

I remember being 9 years old and watching my grandmother cutting the pattern, getting ready to do button holes. My grandfather pulling out the fabric. Connect the dots. Measuring. Stitching. Fitting. Getting everything perfect. So I do come from a family of makers. Craftsmanship and honoring that—and getting that across to the students—is a biggie.

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Spool Pendant, sterling silver, copper, $375.

The places you’ve lived—from North Carolina to Kansas to Norway—have such interesting and diverse craft histories. What are some of the things you learned from journeys? 

I left the University of Kansas on a Fulbright to Norway, and then I went back as a Tiffany Grant honoree for another year, and then another as a guest designer. I think that during the Scandinavian design sensibility was coming into the United States in the 1950s. The highly polished silver bowls. Old textiles. Ceramics. Glass blowing.

Living there and going to school under the leadership of those craftsmen really honed me down into the “do it the right way” philosophy. I learned design sensibility and understood the beauty of the craftsmanship. Things being made just perfect.

When I got back, I did high-end commissions for presidents of universities and things for the temple or the church. Highly polished. I started feeling stifled. I was stuck in this one dance. It was very much a result of the Norwegian love affair. That’s when I started to peel the onion and become comfortable. Those were important years. They were the foundation.

When you’re in the process of composing a piece, how do you know it’s finished?

If I was being critical, I’d say I have a problem with editing. I have the tendency to overload. But I like it that way. 

That would be my main criticism of my work. More doesn’t always make the piece stronger. Like, do I put pearls here, here, and here. Or just one? I’m constantly struggling with that. 

Robert Ebendorf Jewelry- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico
Robert Ebendorf, Lager Brooch, mixed-media, $485.

You’re totally shaking up the hierarchy of objects, and the perceived value of different materials. 

My work is not about intrinsic value. The value is my sense of design and my language. 

When the Victoria & Albert Museum selected a piece of mine that’s on permanent display in their historic jewelry collection, it was nothing more than a paper necklace with decoupaged paper from the street and gold foil. It was not about something having high-end stones and precious metals. It was about celebrating design, and making a personal statement.

Click here to view more of Robert Ebendorf’s work, and stop by the form & concept shop to try it on!

Robert Ebendorf- Working in his Jewelry Studio- Form and Concept Gallery- Santa Fe New Mexico