For the past twenty-five years, Robert Ebendorf has been repurposing existing materials by devising ingenious uses for the discarded and discovering ways to make the used into the new. Known for contemporary jewelry that includes everything from buttons to crab claws, he continues his investigation of “representations.”


The artist’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. Ebenorf’s objects are not simply about refashioning the mundane, as 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, Kansas. 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), and currently serves as the Belk Distinguished Professor in the Arts at the East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He has received many awards over the last several decades, such as the Louis Comfort Tiffany Grant (1966/67), the American Craft Council Fellowship for Achievement in Craft and Commitment to the Craft Movement (1995), and the North Carolina Governor’s Award in the Arts (2010). He is a Co-Founder and former President of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), and was recently invited by the Smithsonian Institution to participate in its Archives of American Art Oral History Program.


Numerous collections worldwide house Ebendorf’s work, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Mint Museum of Craft Design, North Carolina; Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Montreal; National Museum of Wales and The Schmuck Museum in Pforzheim.