If It Ain't Got That Swing

From Sculpture to Jewelry: The Lives of Hollie Ambrose

Date April 26, 2009 at 10:00 PM

Author Kathryn M Davis

Categories Performing Arts


When it comes to jewelry by Hollie Ambrose, say adiós to the linear and hola to the sculptural. Bid adieu to precious gems and bon jour to vintage French buttons, recycled watch dials, and flea-market glass. Truly, with Ambrose at the designing helm, you really can’t count anything out with finality. For this artist, everything “has a compelling history, a certain energy—I like to think about who could have worn” the items she recycles into her work.

Also an interior designer—she likes to test paint hues and finishes in her own home—and a sculptor who used to collaborate with her husband, Wil Stubenberg (a restaurateur who regrettably doesn’t have time for art now: “I miss him in the studio,” says Ambrose), and an art collector, Ambrose’s home is, as you might expect, an explosion of warm color and bold accents. A pair of large vases covered by the artist in mosaic stands astride the entrance to the house, masks from around the world take a place of honor in the kitchen, and an orange, feathered headdress from Camaroon adorns a living-room wall. Having lived in Santa Fe for the past eight years, Ambrose and Stubenberg designed their own home, and they don’t give any indications of slowing down. She’s been on her own for two years now since their collaboration gave way from offbeat sculpture made by the duo to jewelry by Ambrose alone. In what Ambrose calls her “jewelry epiphany,” she realized, “I can do this; this is just sculpture, scaled down.”

Ambrose has a wide-ranging and full résumé of exhibition experience: from the venerable Elaine Horwitch Gallery in the ’80s to Origins (the retail store for wearable art) today, she also enjoys working with fashion designers. She says about the practice, “I like deferring to the designer, making notes in the symphony of their outfits.” For Experience Design in September, she teamed with designer Ezra Estes, and her dangling red-bead earrings were standouts—in both versions. One was topped with flower-shaped corkboard pushpins from the ’50s. The beads themselves are new—red is not a color one generally finds in vintage pieces. And who wouldn’t love a pair of sterling silver-leaf-backed capiz shell earrings?  Teamed with Estes’s filmy-necked dress in a mauvey gray, they were simply elegant.

The jeweler herself looked zippy—which suits her personality—in a pair of multicolored square earrings set with recycled and vintage miniature Italian mosaic tiles. Backed with gold leaf to construct an armature for the mosaic process, Ambrose was pleased with the look. She noted, “I like the coming to be as good as the going.”