Remembering: Ron Ho

Remembering: Ron Ho

Published on Friday, September 15, 2017.
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Ron Ho with Lloyd Herman

Ron Ho with Lloyd Herman at Sofa Chicago in 1998. 

ACC Archives

We are sad to learn that jewelry maker, educator, and ACC Fellow Ron Ho died September 7 at his home in Seattle; the cause was cancer. He was 80 years old.

Ho was born November 1, 1936, in Honolulu to Chinese parents raised in traditional households. Ho attended college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in art education and began his teaching career in public schools in Hoquiam, Washington. In 1960, he began teaching in the Bellevue, Washington, public schools, where he stayed until his retirement in in 1992. Along with the demands of his teaching schedule, he found time and energy to develop and create his distinctive jewelry, which incorporates found objects, a possibility he discovered when he began taking evening classes with Ramona Solberg.

Ho was frequently recognized for his artistic achievement. He was named Asian Artist of the Year by the Wing Luke Asian Art Museum, and earned the Outstanding Achievement in the Arts award from the Bellevue Arts Commission, and Lifetime Achievement awards from the Northwest Designer Craftsmen and the Seattle Metals Guild. He was named to the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows in 2010.

He also received many honors as an educator, including as one of 100 Outstanding Alumni and the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year from his alma mater, as well as Educator of the Year from both the National Art Education Association and the Washington State Art Education Association.

Ho began his art studies focusing on painting, but in his final term of his master’s in art education at the University of Washington in 1968, he met jewelry maker Ramona Solberg, and enrolled in her evening courses at Bellevue Community College. The two became fast friends. As Ho recalled in an interview for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, “Ramona was an interesting person in that she never actually liked pearls and diamonds and that kind of thing. . . [I] had never thought about the fact that you could actually use found objects. Ramona started showing me the fact that you could use other kinds of things to make jewelry.”

Solberg and Ho shared an interest in international travel, and both used their expeditions to gather artifacts for use in their jewelry making. Solberg also encouraged Ho to incorporate his own cultural roots in his work. “I was using kind of normal objects that most people wouldn't think of to make jewelry,” Ho recalls in the interview. “But she eventually said to me, ‘You know, Ron, I think you should sort of examine your Chinese heritage, because really, you drink too much Coca-Cola.’ It was too American . . . that was the turning point in my life.”

Chinese themes are heavily reflected in his work, including in exhibitions such as “On Becoming Chinese” at the Honolulu Museum of Art in 1955, and in “Dim Sum at the On-On Room,” a retrospective exhibition at the Bellevue Arts Museum in 2006.

A 30-minute biographical video on Ron Ho’s life and work is being produced by Northwest Designer Craftsmen as part of their series called The Living Treasures Project