Sum & Substance: Nancy Worden

Sum & Substance: Nancy Worden

Nancy Worden Mantle For Textual Assault

Mantle for Textual Assault, 2015, steel, aluminum, copper, brass, wool felt, 23k gold leaf, found objects, 11.75 x 18.75 x 6.5 in.; Photo: Rex Rystedt

Nancy Worden draws on history and mythology to tell modern stories. “Her works often address the experience of rapidly changing roles and responsibilities of women in American culture,” says Rock Hushka.

How she got started: I was lucky my high school offered a jewelry class. It was love at first sight.

Her training: It began in high school and then continued through college and graduate school. After that, I spent five years as a bench jeweler working with master craftsmen. 

How she describes her work: I make jewelry about human behavior using traditional metalworking techniques and cultural artifacts from the 20th century.

What makes her work unique: A very specific vocabulary combined with an implied narrative. A lot of artists work with found objects, but no one does it quite the same way I do.

Why she makes jewelry: I choose to make jewelry because it is an intimate art form steeped in ritual and relevant to the lives of everyday people.

Her biggest challenge: My greatest challenge is how to assemble with elegance and grace all of the information and objects I use to communicate my idea. Creating art is hard, but creating art that can be worn is extra-hard.

Her biggest reward: The biggest reward for me is when someone tells me that one of my pieces has given them comfort or encouragement. A man confessed to me that my necklace Conjugal Bushwhacking helped him work harder on his marriage. A woman told me that my necklace Frozen Dreams inspired her to restart her own art career. When people tell me stuff like that, I know that I’m doing something right.

Her artistic influences: My aesthetic influences are historical and ethnic jewelry. Reading mythology has provided me with imagery, plus insight into archetypal human behavior.

What she’s working on now: Ideas around aging, because I recently turned 60.

What’s next: I work on several things at once. A large piece about the predatory practices of Big Pharma is in progress on my design table, along with some asymmetrical torques with eyeglass lenses.