Radical Jewelry Makeover Santa Fe

The sixth edition of Radical Jewelry Makeover held in Santa Fe, NM involved five jewelry programs, 104 jewelers and 150 jewelry donors!

By Susie Ganch and Christina Miller

banner with three pieces

Four hundred people from as far as El Paso, Texas, made their way to the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian on October 28th for the opening of Radical Jewelry Makeover.  Visitors were admiring and trying on jewelry from exhibition cases that were open for the night while jewelry donors talked to the professionals and students who made the work.  Some students saw their work in a professional setting for the first time and collectors from RJM NM Rose Matt Shellythe Santa Fe area came out to see what their favorite artists made from some of the estimated 300 pounds of unwanted jewelry given to the project.  This was an incredible turnout for the project and according to Cheri Falkenstein – Doyle, curator of the Wheelwright it may have been the best attended opening in the museum’s history.

Carlos and Susie at SFCCIt is clear that Radical Jewelry Makeover is bigger than any individual when a community comes out in such numbers to celebrate the culminating exhibition after a hard week of working together and two years of planning.  This edition was particularly unique because of the many ways Santa Fe’s diverse culture came together for the collaborative RJM experience.  What we hope as co-directors, is that a seed was planted and that the core ideas embodied in the project were shared by many, actually giving responsible material sourcing, design strategies for the future and new relationships the necessary ingredients to grow.  Only with time will we understand how the RJM community continues to grow, spread information, and continue to create responsible jewelry.

There are many reasons why we are hopeful that the Santa Fe community will continue to nurture RJM concepts. Several participants have contacted us since the making came to a close. Sabrinah McCaffery, a jewelry student and RJM participant at Santa Fe Community College, wrote to say,

“I feel SO GOOD about being able to contribute. I have always been an advocate for the planet and often felt that I was the only one. I have learned over the years that there are LOTS of people like me.  However, few ever take the actual steps to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!  THANK YOU!!  Not only have you made it possible for me to help save the Earth, make a beautiful piece of jewelry (that someone actually bought), and meet some great people, but you also increased awareness in our community and MY faith in humanity. I can’t thank you enough. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you or the group. I am more than willing!”

Professional jeweler, L. Eugene Nelson also voluntarily shared his perspective, Necklace by L. Eugene Nelson

“It was a good experience to be a part of the RJM project. As artists, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the week and each project and then the opening night events. Only in later reflections, we are reminded that the main purpose of the project is to raise awareness about the reality that what we do as jewelers does have an environmental impact somewhere in the world. Thanks again for the reminder.”

We’d like to thank all of the participating jewelers, jewelry donors and project hosts for such a special and rewarding event. Thank you for willingly taking on the challenge.  Soon we’ll be posting follow-up information to the Ethical Metalsmiths website and the official online catalogue of the event will be available late winter of 2012.  

Participating programs included: The Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe Community College, Poeh Art Center, New Mexico State University - Las Cruces and University of Texas - El Paso. Additionally several professional jewelers from the community participated. A complete list will be posted soon.