2001 SOFA Speaker

By United States

In 2001, Nancy Worden gave a lecture at SOFA Chicago. This lecture was sponsored by AJF.

Art lovers often ask artists, ‘Where do your images come from?’ At SOFA Chicago, Nancy Worden, wearing a vintage dress given to her by her grandmother, treated her audience to a chronology of her creative influences and creative output.Worden credited the encouragement of her family and the mentorship of five influential instructors with fostering her youthful creative urges.

Worden grew up in small-town Ellensburg, Washington where her art-loving parents were professors at Central Washington University. In her family, though, it was her grandmother’s love of ‘nice things’ that inspired her deep appreciation for jewelry. Her creative life as a studio jeweler began when she was a gifted high school student taking college classes from Professor Ken Cory at C.W.U., who reluctantly allowed her to take his class and whose program was significantly influenced by Ramona Solberg and Don and Merrily Tompkins. Cory challenged her to explore concept and meaning in her jewelry design. Cory’s mentorship grew into a deep friendship. After his untimely death, Worden curated a major retrospective exhibition and co-authored a publication of Cory’s work.

Worden credits University of Georgia master craftsman Gary Noffke with stregthening her technical competence and teaching her to work intuitively. She credits the years she spent at a jewelry-store bench with instilling the ability to work quickly.

While working for the Northwest Folk Life Festival, Worden was exposed to a multitude of cultural forms of costume and adornment. Across all cultures, jewelry is a personalized art form used to communicate real or desired status, commemorate significant achievements, events or rites of passage. She credits this experience with motivating her to work in a more personal and narrative style, to creatively assert the relationship between her artistic expression and her cultural context as a contemporary American woman. Her work demonstrates an ability to articulate her life experiences, deep curiosities and heartfelt passions while simultaneously striking a universal chord among an appreciative audience.

Today, Worden’s career is that of a relevant and established artist with a master’s ability to deliver cultural commentary. A retrospective of her work is coming in 2008 to the Tacoma Museum of Art. Her work is in major private and public collections in the United States and Europe and has been published in books and magazines such as OrnamentMetalsmithAmerican Craft and Sculpture. She lives in Seattle with her husband, daughter and three cats.

To collectors she offers this advice: ‘Buy things you absolutely love, understand that you are a caretaker of the object, plan for a proper home for the work upon your demise and most important – wear it!’


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