Belated congratulations to our old friend (and many-time Penland instructor) Bob Ebendorf (second from left), who earlier this month was given the North Carolina Award–the state’s highest civilian honor. The awards are given for outstanding achievement in art, literature, public service, and science.
Here’s what the Department of Cultural Resources press release said.
ROBERT W. EBENDORF – FINE ARTS
Master metalsmith, jewelry designer, and one of the leaders in the burgeoning crafts field, Robert Ebendorf brings distinction to North Carolina through his creative combination of traditional materials and found objects. Ebendorf fashions his widely collected works from broken bits of Formica, crab claws, lost keys, and rusted bits of metal.
Born in Kansas in 1938, Ebendorf recalls that his mother took him to weekly arts and crafts sessions in Topeka where he glued together shells and wrapped string around wine bottles. His father took him to visit his grandparents, laboring away in their tailors shop, setting for him examples of craftspeople doing precision work that would adorn the body. His formal education came at the University of Kansas where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and in Norway as a Fulbright Fellow and where for a year he studied jewelry design courtesy of a grant from the Tiffany Foundation. In 1969 he was a co-founder of the Society of North American Goldsmiths.
Ebendorf is an artist who works intuitively, learning in a primarily visual way when he turned his dyslexia, which remained undiagnosed until college, to advantage. His work has taken him to teaching posts at Stetson University, the University of Georgia, SUNY-New Platz, Guest Professor at the University of West England, UK, and since 1999, at East Carolina University, where he is the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor in the Department of Art. He suggests to his students, whom he views as collaborators, that they enlarge their view of art. Ebendorf has created necklaces, brooches, and even chairs, but considers his collection of crosses, using secular materials such as broken glass to create Christian symbols, to be among his strongest pieces.
Of North Carolina, where he has taught at Penland School of Crafts since 1962, Ebendorf says, “What a wonderful state that seems to thrive in the old and the new, and the exchanging of ideas.” His work is recognized well beyond the state’s boundaries and can be found in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Le Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Montreal, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was been the subject of a retrospective at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian and he has been honored by the 92nd Street Y Arts Center in Manhattan.
Bob Ebendorf and his wife, Aleta Braun, a painter and mixed media artist, live in Greenville.
And here’s Bob in his normal clothes, in an interview from last year (he has a lot to say about Penland).