Once Upon a Time

Renk, Merry
Merry Renk is best known for her highly inventive forms of jewelry: necklaces and brooches, and especially her complex, often whimsical, wedding crowns and hair ornaments.  Her imaginative forms frequently allude to natural phenomena (atoms, stars, trees, blossoms, animals and birds) or to fairy tales, fantasy, and myth.

Born in New Jersey, Renk studied painting at the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton from 1937 to 1942.  Wanting to pursue a career in industrial design, she moved to Chicago in 1946 to study with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy at the Institute of Design.  Moholy-Nagy had taught at the Bauhaus in Germany and moved to Chicago in 1937 where he founded the Institute of Design, the so-called “New Bauhaus.”  While in Chicago, Renk and two friends opened 750 Studio, a commercial gallery dedicated to contemporary art, photography, and design.  She also taught herself to enamel and developed a particular interest in the plique-à-jour technique.  She moved to San Francisco in 1948, began to focus on jewelry, and in 1951 was a founding member of the Bay Area Metal Arts Guild.

Renk’s work has been exhibited throughout the country including solo shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1954), the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (1971), and the Palo Alto Art Center (1981).  In 1994 she was inducted into the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows.  Her work is currently represented in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA, and the Oakland Museum of California.