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In Remembrance: merry renk

Written by Baunnie Sea and Jennifer Cross Gans


merry renk was born in New Jersey in 1921. While in high school she attended Fine Art classes at the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, NJ. She attended the Institute of Design the American Bauhaus, Chicago from 1946-47, and left after completing the foundation course to open 750 Studio, a contemporary arts and crafts gallery with fellow classmates Mary Jo Slick and Olive Oliver. The gallery was one of the first of its kind and well-received by the press, showing the work of well-known artists such as Henry Miller, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan, and Margaret De Patta.

merry spent a year learning enameling techniques through trial and error.  She sold the gallery and moved to San Francisco, where she connected with local metalsmiths such as Peter Macchiarini and Margaret De Patta.  In 1951 De Patta invited her to attend the first meeting of the Metal Arts Guild (MAG).  merry became a founder of MAG as well as its President in 1954. She remained an active Lifetime member through her 90th year.

During the 1960s, merry lost the sight in her right eye and switched to constructing large sculptures of iron, bronze, copper and brass, using the same interlocking ideas she’d used in jewelry. In the spring of 1981, the California Crafts Museum hosted, “merry renk, Jeweler: A Visual Biography and Retrospective, 1947-1981”. After that, she resumed her jewelry production until 1983.

The San Francisco Art Commission presented merry an Award of Honor for her “extraordinary contributions to the Bay Area community,” and she was also named an American Craft Council Fellow. Her oral history is in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

merry’s work is in collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Arts & Design, e Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Oakland Museum of Fine Arts, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as in MAG’s Permanent Collection.


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