Telluride Gallery: Cheryl Rydmark Of “Telluride” Necklace In Town, 6/29-7/1/2017
Cheryl Rydmark, the jeweler behind the coveted “Telluride Necklace,” will be at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art daily from June 29-July 1 with a very special collection, over 100 pieces, of 18k gold, sterling, and diamond jewelry. New drop styles for “huggie hoops.” New necklaces and charms to layer with that “Telluride” necklace. Reception with the artist, 5 – 7 p.m. nightly.
The design on her iconic necklace looks a lot like the water drops on a long spider web (which hung near Cheryl Rydmark’s shower): water would collect and space itself so the drops looked exactly like notes on a line of music.
“I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to take that pattern and hang it around a person’s neck,” said the artist.
Legions of Telluride women agreed: that rhythmic, asymmetrical arrangement of silver beads, gold leaf-like charms, and miscellaneous precious stones became a kind of Telluride sorority necklace.
Cheryl Rydmark is a highly regarded goldsmith with work in the permanent collection of the Racine Art Museum and an Excellence in Jewelry Award from the American Crafts Council. She is also a member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and the American Crafts Council. Described as a “jeweler’s jeweler” for her uncompromising quality and sensitive handling of the materials, Rydmark’s unglitzy pieces resonate with an elemental simplicity and sensuality reminiscent of ancient jewelry and ritual objects.
Which is no wonder: the artist has been creating fine jewelry for over 42 years, inspired by a disparate chorus of muses, including age-old Etruscan and Mycenaean pottery and jewelry.
“I have had a number of peak experiences at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of a case of Greek diadems. If you make it simple and comfortable and exquisitely crafted, then it all works. I keep the tools in my studio at a bare minimum. I want my jewelry to have a handmade feel, not look shiny or commercial. Just like old Roman pieces, my work generally takes its form from nature,” explains Rydmark.
The very idea she can limit materials and design for maximum impact is informed by the artist’s study of Taoism, to which she was first introduced in a philosophy class at the University of Minnesota. She cites the impact of one particular Taoist verse:
“’Thirty spokes converge at one hub. What is not there makes the wheel useful.’ Clay is shaped to form a vessel. What is not there, makes the vessel useful. Doors and windows are cut to form a room. What is not there makes the room useful,” observes Rydmark. “Take advantage of what is there by making use of what is not.”
The sculpture of Louise Bourgeois and Constantin Brancusi also rank among Rydmark’s influences –Bourgeois because of her mastery of the subliminal; Brancusi because his work reinforces the idea that large concepts can be successfully conveyed simply, without shouting, without excess in design or materials.
Ever seen Terry Gilliam’s classic “Baron Munchausen”? The movie is based on a German fairy tale. It is a favorite of Rydmark’s and, yes, this fantastical tale of adventure travels informs her creations too:
‘I love whimsy and myth. I always try to remember to keep things light and airy, instead of heavy and self-important.”
Many of Rydmark’s pieces are often also the result of dreams – though her technical grounding is rock solid.
Rydmark studied metalwork at the University of Minnesota and at San Francisco State University. She perfected diamond-setting at the revered Academy of Goldsmithing. She also worked at the Van Craeynest factory in San Francisco.
“The Old-World setting was wonderful. I was like Alice in Wonderland. I got to do a lot of different things, but basically I just played with metal. I came out of that place feeling there was very little I did not know how to do.”
A classically-trained-painter-turned-metal-artist, Rydmark’s creations feel as elegant and harmonious as Einstein’s theory of relativity, the architecture of Renzo Piano, Brancusi’s sculpture, Rothko’s paintings, and ancient Etruscan jewelry. In the hands of a master, clearly less is more.
“My studio practice is an exploration of ideas. Starting with the familiar: fragments from nature, memories or reflections, I begin by building studies. The process of making, from the choice of materials to how the piece is fabricated, continually informs and alters the direction of the work and in turn offers new possibilities, new directions. It is this sense of discovery that compels me to work. My hope is that my designs convey a poetic sense of the everyday and become intimate art forms that are worn, shared, and passed on for generations.”
Given that evident passion for her art form, imagine that Rydmark once considered a career in research botany!
“Making jewelry, I am not saving the world. But every time I create a wedding set for a couple, I think that’s pretty good too. I feel I am actually doing something that is kind of wonderful.”
Lots of women in Telluride concur.
Cheryl Rydmark maintains a studio on the Mendocino coast, where she practices her metal craft in between bouts of gardening, teaching, kayaking, and hiking the logging trails