The Grandmother of Found Art Jewellery

Ramona Solberg Fibula

“Jewelry should communicate warmth and kinship. It succeeds best when it connects with people.” Ramona Solberg quoted in Adornment Newsletter, Fall 2001

Ramona SolbergRamona Solberg (1921 – 2005) liked a fast-paced mystery novel, a good martini, the company of friends and the riches of the world’s diverse material cultures. When she died  in 2005 at the age of 84, she had achieved wide notoriety for her jewellery’s innovative designs and her influence as a teacher, had received the National Metalsmiths Hall of Fame Award, and had been profiled as a “Living Treasure” in the documentary, Ramona Solberg: Jeweler, Teacher, Traveler.

Ramona Solberg KimonoCurator and writer Vicki Halper, who wrote the 2001 definitive book on Solberg’s work, Findings: The Jewelry of Ramona Solberg, said that the briefest synopsis of the artist’s life might read, “Born in South Dakota; visited India 15 times; enjoys life; makes necklaces.”

Solberg was the grandmother of found-art jewelry in the Northwest.

Ramona Solberg DominosMs. Solberg eschewed precious materials and made necklaces and pins out of found objects from cultures around the world — bottle tops, dice, sardine cans, dominos, beads, bone , tea whisks, beetle boxes, Polish amber, Persian petrified coal (jet), game boards and coins. The Sand Point apartment where she lived alone was jammed with boxes and drawers of such items, many of which she collected during her extensive travels. The resulting pieces were large and substantial, meant to be worn rather than displayed in cases.

“Ramona was never one to do trinky-dinky little jewelry,” her sister Eveleth Green told Halper in 2001. Solberg liked whatever was at hand and traveled the world many times to lay her hands on it.

Ramona Solberg Findings

Her dealer, Karen Lorene of Facere Jewelry Art Gallery says, “Sometimes she liked to wear the necklaces before giving them to me, and she didn’t always want to part with them. She’d say, ‘Karen, you’re not leaving me anything to wear.'”

Excerpted from Regina Hackett, Seattlepi, June 16, 2005

Fibula image: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Second and third images: Kimono and Dominoes

Dominoes from The Living Treasures Project

Celebrating 70 at Facere Jewelry Art Gallery

Lightbox at the Smithsonian


3 responses to “The Grandmother of Found Art Jewellery

  1. Cool. I especially love that first piece.

  2. I love this type of creation, although I’m not really into “jewelry” I love this type of wearable art. Wonder what became of her stash? I’d like to see more of her work.

  3. Wow, she is my kind of jewelry-maker– no “rinky dinky” jewelry! I, too, wonder what became of her stash. I’ll bet it was amazing. This is one of the people about whom you say “I wish I had known her”.

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