A jewelry artist rooted in the outdoors

Arizona Daily Sun (December 6, 2020) by Sam McManis

Something of an alchemic transformation, both magical and very much real, took place one recent morning behind the bright red door of a Flagstaff studio with a rich history of artistic imagining.

Scooted forward in her big red chair, back ergonomically straight but neck craned over her workbench, Ryanne Sebern slipped a dime-sized pendant of silver and copper onto the thin blade of a jeweler’s saw, also red. With an overhead lamp casting a halo of light upon her, Sebern pinched the pendant with pliers in her left hand, and with her right hand grasped the saw firmly.

Then, with a series of precise and vigorous motions, pausing only briefly to steady herself, Sebern cut a thin vertical line in the pendant, curving just slightly to the right near the top. A delicate turning of her wrist, just so, and a tiny pyramid-shaped base suddenly was formed. Then, one after another, three horizontal lines appeared on the left, two more on the right. She leaned in to inspect, her face betraying neither satisfaction nor consternation, just concentration.

Sebern had, in the time it takes to execute maybe a few computer keystrokes, fashioned a tree — branches and trunk and all — onto this small disc of silver, beginning a bucolic outdoor scene. There would be more work to do, of course: better defining the copper silhouette of the mountain range, adding a winding river to the scene, perhaps even implanting a stone of turquoise or other gemstone to depict the rising sun.

In time, after much sanding and rubbing and buffing, the 46-year-old Flagstaff jewelry artist will have added yet another piece to her growing collection of necklaces, earrings and other wearable art that depicts her abiding interest in the outdoors and the stark Southwestern landscape.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, with art festivals canceled and gallery shows limited, Sebern remains hard at work in the studio once owned and occupied by the late Don Bendel, noted ceramicist and Northern Arizona University educator. She’s there most every morning, before dawn, sketching out scenes, sanding stones, manipulating mixed metals into patterns once just imagined in her mind’s eye.

Currently, she has teamed with the Arizona Trail Association on a fund-raiser to help preserve the 800-mile scenic path traversing the state. Her special edition Arizona Trail earrings and necklaces are available on the AZT website, with 40% of the sale going to the organization’s efforts.

It’s altogether fitting that Sebern has channeled her artistic muse in such a way. Even when she’s holed up indoors in Bendel’s erstwhile “shed,” attached to her home near Fort Valley Road, Sebern transports herself to the outdoors she so loves. She has found a way, like many who call northern Arizona home, to fuse her passion and profession.

When she’s hiking the canyons or running the trails, that’s not just recreation; it’s creation; it’s research. It’s inspiration for her art. It’s what she lives for.

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