Ruth von Buren
When silversmith Ruth Von Büren enrolled in her first metalwork classes at the Rochester Institute of Technology after coming to the U.S., she hardly spoke any English. It turned out not to matter because neither did the teacher. “A famous silversmith from Denmark was the teacher,” she says. “Since he couldn’t speak much English, he’d show us how to do something, and then we’d try to do the same.”
Von Büren moved to Rochester from her native Switzerland in 1964 when her husband began teaching at the University of Rochester. “If I’d stayed in Switzerland, I’d not have had the opportunity to learn jewelry-making once I left school because the educational system is different there,” she says. “I did do some craft things before I moved here such as work in a jewelry store, but I didn’t make things.”
After completing the coursework at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Von Büren opened a studio where she specialized in jewelry and small sculptures, made the rounds of craft fairs to begin selling her pieces and taught silversmithing.
Today, the 84-year-old works out of a studio at her home in Eugene, Ore., where she and her husband moved after he retired.
Von Büren, who makes intricate, contemporary brooches, cuffs, pendants and bracelets set with stones and gems, rarely begins a project with a firm idea of how it will end up. “I go into my studio and sit down,” she says. “I don’t draw or anything. I just begin working and after a while the design comes. I prefer working with my hands to most other activities.”