A master of the champlevé enameling technique, Zachery Lechtenberg produces graphically bold contemporary jewelry. His images range from humorous and playful to dark and mildly unsettling. A multi-talented designer, he has also produced packaging for his jewelry as well as plates, t-shirts, ashtrays, boxes, stickers, postcards, and other useful and decorative items. He is especially interested in bringing a new, more youthful audience to the contemporary jewelry field and he sees imagery based in popular culture as a means of achieving that goal.
An exceptionally imaginative metalsmith and designer, Lechtenberg uses the saw and solder champlevé technique to create traditional jewelry forms, such as brooches and necklaces with distinctly non-traditional imagery. Inspired by street art, cartoons, comic books, and all aspects of popular culture, his brightly colored subjects are funny, raw, gutsy, and wonderfully strange. His other sources of influence include animated television programs such as The Simpsons; the work of Japanese contemporary artists Yoshitomo Nara and Takashi Murakami; the Pencil Brothers – Ken Cory and Les LePere – and the work of his friend and mentor Robert Ebendorf.
Beyond the influence of popular culture, there is a personal narrative and rich, layered content in much of Lechtenberg’s work. Whether questioning his own personal life decisions or celebrating the ties that bind him to a larger artistic community, Lechtenberg explores a wide array of ideas and issues in his highly complex compositions.
Born in 1989 in Quincy, Illinois, Lechtenberg started drawing at a very young age. Although encouraged to take drawing classes, he found them too restricting and returned to his more informal way of working. He dew images of GI Joe battling monsters and others epic narratives that fueled his young imagination. Over time his imagery became more complex as he challenged himself to fill each sheet of paper in his sketchbook with as many characters as possible.
Lechtenberg attended Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville (SIUE) where he studied printmaking, drawing and illustration. While there, he was encouraged to take a jewelry class. Paulette Myers, one of his professors, introduced him to enameling. He ultimately received his BFA in Metals and Jewelry in 2011 with enameling having become his principal interest. He later pursued graduate studies at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina (ECU) where, after studying for a semester in Italy with ECU enamelist Linda Darty and her assistant Marissa Saneholtz, he worked with Bob Ebendorf and Ken Bova. He embraced champlevé because he found in it a way he could meld his interest in drawing, metal and enameling. He was awarded an MFA in 2015.
Most of Lechtenberg’s fastidiously constructed pieces are elaborately worked on both the sides and the reverse with imagery that usually relates to the figures depicted in enamel on the front. Starting about 2011 he adapted a moniker to sign his work: Yotburd, sometimes shortened to ¥B. “Yotburd,” a combination of the word “yot” meaning to unite, fasten, or rivet and “BURD,” which stands for Buried Underground Residential Distribution. It represents an ideal of connecting disparate groups of people to form a community of sorts. Yotburd is Lechtenberg’s alter-ego who, in making his artwork, seeks to find a common ground for people to connect and interact.