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