New and classic pieces by designer of Telluride’s “sorority” necklace

It’s a sorority necklace of sorts – minus the Greek. The asymmetrical arrangement of sterling silver beads, gold leaf-like charms and miscellaneous precious stones is worn by a trendy group of Telluride women, all fans of jewelry Cheryl Rydmark, who seems to have developed a cult following.

Rydmark, a featured jewelry designer at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, is in town for a show of new and classic pieces. The opening is Thursday, July 5, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., in conjunction with Telluride Arts‘ First Thursday Art Walk, when venues all over town stay open late until 8 p.m. to showcase regional talent.

The “sorority” necklace is part of Rydmark’s Rubato series. “Rubato” is a jazz term meaning “an unexpected rhythm,” which the artist translates into metal and stones and, by varying the elements, creates a snap, crackle and pop on the chain.

The arrangement also looks a lot like water drops on a long spider web which once hung near Rydmark’s shower.

“The water would collect and space itself so that the drops looked 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.”

“Charm necklaces” were inspired by shells and other thingamajigs Rydmark picked up on the beach near her home in Mendocino.

There is a subtext to all of Rydmark’s designs. Three diamonds in a ring symbolizes two people and one relationship. Ribbons of diamonds give the illusion of rope. The entwining of two lives.

A classically-trained-painter-turned-metal-artist, Rydmark’s creation are 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, works that convey the idea that, in the hands of a master, complex concepts can be successfully conveyed simply. After 35 years on the job, Rydmark is a true master, often described as a “jeweler’s jeweler” for her uncompromising quality and sensitive handling of the materials.

Just like the jewelry of ancient Rome, Rydmark’s work takes its form from nature: seaweed, raindrops, sea pods, sand, shells, leaves, spider webs, and constellations. “Baron Munchausen,” one of Rydmark’s favorite movies, is another influence. Whimsy and myth pervades her work, which is the opposite of heavy, self-important and glitzy. The idea the artist can limit her materials and design, take advantage of what is there by making use of what is not, comes from a study of Taoism.

Currently celebrating  about 38  years as a metalsmith, Cheryl maintains a studio on the Mendocino coast, where she practices her craft in between bouts of gardening, teaching, and hiking the logging trails with her dog Lola.

To learn more about why the designer switched to metals from oil, her technical training as a metal artist, how a show at the Minneapolis Art Institute changed the direction of her work, and why she opted out of becoming a botanist, choosing jewelry instead, click the “play” button and listen to a conversation I had with Rydmark in 2009.

1 Comment
  • Elinor London
    Posted at 09:06h, 05 July

    Susan, thank you for the gift of your insightful and always probing interview, in this instance, of a very special and wonderfully creative Cheryl Rydmark. Over the many years of my residency in T’ride, having conversed with her briefly on her visits to Will and Hillary’s oasis of artistry,I was enthralled to be able to hear her most comprehensive recount of her experiences leading up to her new and different creations. Yes, I agree with her that addition of some color will be a WOW! It was a treat to hear your voice, read your words and I wish Cheryl continued success in all she does.

    My very best regards, Elinor