Playa Made: Jewelry of Burning Man at the Fuller Craft Museum

For several years at Burning Man, I took jewelry workshops at Oasis 47, where Karen Christians showed us how to add colored resins to a cast bronze theme pendant designed by Sumner Silverman. When Karen became aware of my playa jewelry collection, dating back to 1995, she suggested that we create a book, with George Post as our photographer, and in 2015, The Jewelry of Burning Man was published.

After seeing our book, Beth McLaughlin, the curator at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, felt it would be a terrific exhibition that would present a highly creative and personal genre of making at Burning Man — something that was bound to appeal not only to Burners but also to those who might be intrigued by the event and all that it entails. Beth asked Karen to come to the museum to talk about a show; she brought along a small selection of jewelry to review and discuss, and Beth decided to go ahead with the exhibit. We’re very grateful to  Beth  for recognizing the unique value of Burning Man jewelry, all made to be gifted at the event.

We’ve just returned from The Fuller Craft, where Playa Made: Jewelry of Burning Man opened to a capacity crowd. Several of the makers were present, including Ty Eckley, who flew in from Houston and surprised us; locals Kenn Kushner , Sumner Silverman and Adam Pozek, and Garrison Cohen of San Francisco. Many of our Boston regionals were present; there was a panel discussion to a full house — no empty seats! The show features 175 pieces of jewelry by 60 makers, ten of George Post’s historic photographs, a large satellite photo of Black Rock City, and a 7′ MiniMan built by Doug Ruuska, which arrived just in time for the opening.

The work ranges from handmade pieces by professional jewelers, such as Thomas Mann and Kenn Kushner, to pieces designed by burners and manufactured commercially. Materials include silver, brass, pewter and copper,  laser-cut steel, glass,  ceramic and Fimo. Three of Leo Villareal’s wearable “blinkies” that he makes in a limited edition and gifts on the playa each year are included, as well as three theme-based medals, patches and Awards of Excellence by Ty Eckley, blown glass medallions by Rodman Miller, recycled aluminum coins by Dan Macchiarini, and years of Kostume Kult pendants by Jim Glaser. Also featured are makers with bodies of work gifted over several years on playa, including Ruby Bettencourt, Tzipora Hoynik,  Mark Hammon, Ed Ingraham, Torrey Smith, Kenn Kushner, Donna Eck, Scott Dylewski, Marc Van Harn, Todd Andrews, Tod Johnson, Richard LaLonde, Nelson Geisecke and Les Seymour, Garrison Cohen, Fritz Liebhardt, and Maria Navarro. Also featured are single pieces of interest, including the very first piece of playa jewelry from 1993.

We had some great press coverage by WBUR, Boston’s local NPR station and AmericanTowns.com.

The show was very neatly summed up by maker Garrison Cohen: “It reinforces that Burning Man is about the art, not about commercialism or separating the hobbyists from the professionals, etc. It’s about coming together as a community to contribute what we can and to appreciate what others contribute. A perfect reminder here at the half-way point to the next Burn.”


Photos by George Post

About the author: Christine "Ladybee" Kristen

Christine

Christine Kristen (aka Ladybee) was Burning Man's art curator from 1999 to 2008, where she dealt with all things visual and aesthetic, including managing the art and the art grant program, photo-editing the Image Gallery, writing art content for the Burning Man website, working with the ARTery, managing the archives, and lecturing and writing about the art of Burning Man. She currently manages the art collection and works on the interactive environments around the Man- the Souk in 2014 and the Midway in 2015. She is the co-author of The Jewelry of Burning Man, with Karen Christians and George Post. She has an MFA in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago.

10 Comments on “Playa Made: Jewelry of Burning Man at the Fuller Craft Museum

  • George Post says:

    (most) Photos by George Post; someone else took the one of our panel, and a couple of the people snaps.

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  • Mari Stephenson says:

    Thanks so much for showing us the show in pics and for sharing your thoughts about it. (and for your years of collecting!)

    I love being able to see all the pieces in close up photos.

    Hope to make it to Boston to see it in person.

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  • It means a lot to leave someone with a symbol of the community we create together. Thank you for creating this forum!

    I love seeing what all the artists, makers, tinkerers, and creative spirits are inspired to bring forth and gift each year.

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  • Jerry "Klank" Hanson says:

    LadyBee, Karen and George, thank you for producing an incredible book on the Jewelry of Burning Man! LadyBee, congratulations on curating a remarkable show at the Fuller Craft Museum. I enjoyed attending the show vicariously through your photos and writing. Thank you!

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  • David Kemper says:

    The archive, the book, the community, the culture, the appreciation, and the love… And now a museum exhibition! LadyBee, you impress me continuously, and that’s hard to do. Thank you for all that you do for all of us artists, patrons, and burners, of which I am proud to be all three. Now, if you can only cook like you can curate — I’d call you perfect! xxoxo David

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  • Ty says:

    I was surprised to see a packed house (standing room only) for the panel discussion. Plus, 90%+ of the people attending were not Burners; just artists, patrons, and collectors from all over New England. That was amazing! Kudos to Karen and Lady Bee for putting a really credible Museum Show together.

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  • Excellent! I love it that FCM is recognizing and cellebrating BM artists as makers who not only do imaginative fine art pieces themselves but enable, through the BM event, participants to become makers themselves!

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  • Jewelry has been such a huge part of the gifting process , on the Playa and off. I’m happy to see the dedication and appreciation for this beautiful art form get represented in a museum. Thank you LadyBee for bringing this to the public eye with this lovely curation.

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  • Tzipora says:

    Lady Bee,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful collection, both for the Jewelry of Burning Man book and hopefully at many museums exhibitions across the globe. I feel honored to be a small part of it.

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  • Thanks for sharing this quality information with us. I really enjoyed reading.

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