In August, I flew out to California to teach a stone setting workshop at the Mendocino Art Center. That’s the place where for about 15 years, I helped run the jewelry program with my good friend Susan Wood. Susan and I went to college together and years later came together again to make something magic happen - a vibrant jewelry program in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Mendocino is about 3 hours north of San Francisco. It’s on a small peninsula that juts out into the ocean, which makes it feel like you’re on an island. Lots of movies & TV shows have been filmed there over the years because it’s so exceptionally picturesque.
Susan died of cancer in 2006, not long after I started my Dartmouth position. She was from Mendocino and pretty much grew up at the Art Center. It was a central part of her entire life. She truly loved the place. It was a very fitting gesture that after she died, the school named the jewelry studio after her.
Over the past couple of years, the Mendocino Art Center has completely remodeled and expanded the Susan Elizabeth Wood Jewelry Studio. It’s an impressive transformation with an expanded space that more than doubles its size and has bucket loads of new equipment. It’s nothing like the funky jewelry studio with a dream that Susan and I made happen with our little $5000 loan. It’s a real kick-butt facility. Huge kudos goes to Nancy Gardner, the new Jewelry Studio Director, Lindsay Shields, the Executive Director, John Cornacchia, Board President and everyone else who contributed to this magnificent transformation.
Because it is a radically new space, the Art Center wanted to have a rededication ceremony to Susan Wood and they timed it to happen during my workshop time. About 20 artists created handcrafted letters spelling out Susan’s name to create one of the most imaginative signs that you’ll ever see for the studio front door. Lots of people came to the ceremony that have been supporters of the Art Center and also of Susan. Jack and Marilyn Da Silva, Cheryl Rydmark, Tara Turner, Jima and Carli Abbott, Dennis and Mariana Toth, Dana Driver, Irene McGuckin are some of them. It was a fantastic toast to a new space and to Susan Wood, an amazing woman whose spirit will live on with every hammer blow, file stroke and melted chip of solder in that jewelry studio by the sea.