Four blocks of fun, Durango Herald, Aug. 14, 2007

Santa Fe family of jewelry artists make splash at arts festival.

Photos by Leanne Goebel
Left: Best of Show winner Mitch Berg creates sculptures like “Enough for Everyone” from recycled metal, wire and glass.
Right: Pendants created by Ravelle Robertson.

I like art fairs. I like meeting the artists face-to-face. I like that art in a tent is less intimidating than art in a gallery. And I like to see people buying art because it touches them, moves them or makes them laugh.

This year, the 14th annual Durango Arts Festival unfolded along four blocks of Main Avenue with 108 artists displaying their work. One-fourth of the exhibitors were jewelry artists, so it wasn’t surprising that the Best of Craft award went to a jewelry artist. Not just one jewelry artist, but a family of jewelry artists: Humberto, Denise and Ravelle Robertson from Santa Fe.

I first saw the work of the Robertsons at the Contemporary Hispanic Market in Santa Fe a few weeks ago. The jewelry stood out then, and it stood out again in Durango. The work is textural, layered and made from mixed metals like silver, brass, copper and gold.

The Speakingrock collection is designed by Humberto and incorporates ancient Mimbres and petroglyph symbols. Humberto is half Hispanic and half Navajo. Silversmithing is in his DNA, and he learned from his parents. Denise has been making jewelry for 16 years and was taught by Humberto. He calls her the “saw woman” for her masterful ability to saw thin and curvy lines in metal. The Happy People Collection is a collaboration between Denise and the couple’s almost 17-year-old daughter Ravelle. The images are mainly from Ravelle’s drawings, and Ravelle does all the texturing and riveting.

Ravelle Robertson has been making jewelry since she was 8 years old. She already has sold her jewelry in two galleries. She paints jeans, makes dolls, knits hats and sold her drawings as bookmarks before incorporating them into jewelry. It is difficult to distinguish the work of this “art goddess” from the more experienced work of her parents. It takes a trained eye and knowledge of traditional jewelry-making techniques.

Until recently, Ravelle was home-schooled and allowed to pursue each of her interests fully, exploring and merging her passions and ideas. She loves animals, Egyptian philosophy and art.

“Ravelle prefers not to photograph petroglyphs,” Humberto said. “She wants to make her own history.”

Best of Show winner Mitch Berg is also making his own history.

Berg creates fused glass and metal sculptures. His work is playful, satirical and fun. Berg is a self-taught artist. He started out as a journalist with a passion for writing but he struggled to earn a living and worked other jobs to make ends meet.

Six years ago, his wife, Shannon (the family member with the bachelor of fine arts), started making glass beads. She taught Mitch how to use the torch and make the beads. He admits that his never turned out quite right; they always had a bump that looked like a nose, and so he turned them into faces. It was therapy for him – a way to play and deal with the stress of a bad job selling doors and his frustration with journalism.

When he chose to take a month-long kayak trip through the Grand Canyon and lost his job, it changed his life. When he returned from the river, there was an invitation in the mail to participate in a craft show in Berkeley, Calif. Mitch made his figurative glass pieces and took off for Berkeley. He sold everything and has made a living playing with glass and metal ever since, even developing a technique for fusing metal into glass.

“The people who buy my work have that same dream of being a creative person,” Berg said. “Some of it is goofy, and it makes you laugh. I consider myself an artist, but art is serious, you know? And my work is anything but serious.”

Berg’s work is figurative. He sees the figure in found objects, glass, rocks, just about everything. And now, all he writes are the great titles for his work. “The body does what the head tells it to.” “Making friends with Windmills.” “Can’t stop it, but I’m starting to enjoy it.”

Yes. I enjoy art fairs.

artsjournalist@centurytel.netLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the visual arts.

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