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.
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