Traveling Communion Service (silver vessel)
Robert W. Ebendorf (American, born in 1938)
Object Place: Fredrikstadt, Norway
Overall (silver vessel): 11.8 x 4.1 cm (4 5/8 x 1 5/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The seamed cylindrical vessel has a friction-fitted cover that is used as a cup. A flat circular disk secured to a cork stopper with a link and ball sets into the vessel. The cup decoration consists of equal-sided crosses soldered in a frieze on the exterior; the interior is gilded. A single equal-sided cross is soldered to the underside of the cup (which becomes the lid when assembled); the background has been oxidized to create contrast. A hidden container at the base of the cylinder is used to store holy wafers.
Robert Ebendorf has had a long and successful career as a silversmith and jeweler. Following his studies at the University of Kansas under Carlyle Smith (see cat. no. 364), in 1963 Ebendorf traveled on a Fulbright grant to Norway, studying at the State School for Applied Arts and Crafts. He returned there on a Louis Comfort Tiffany grant in 1966 – 67, working at the Norway Silver Design workshop, in Fredrikstadö, under the supervision of Erling Christofferson. By day, Ebendorf worked on production jewelry, and by night he was allowed use of the shop to create his own silver. This communion set, made during his second trip, demonstrates the formative influence of Scandinavian, and particularly Norwegian, design. The use of a simple cylindrical form, the shaped rosewood case, and the even-sided cross that ornaments the cup and pins of the wooden case all recall the ancient and contemporary aesthetic of Nordic peoples.
Other works fashioned by Ebendorf while at Fredrikstadö show his fascination with texture and pattern, as contrasted with smooth surfaces. A tea infuser from 1967 is ornamented with links and small ball ornaments that are closely related to the stopper of this service. His hand gavel and striker block (1965) and umbrella handle (1967) are covered with intricate patterns of positive-negative space that enchant the eye and delight the touch. Both are related to the cup in this traveling service.
Ebendorf left hollowware and the Scandinavian design aesthetic long ago to work almost exclusively in jewelry, which he crafts from nonprecious and discarded materials. An appropriationist at heart, he has made these unorthodox creations a hallmark of his career. He often juxtaposes society’s detritus, such as bottle caps, sea glass, and chicken wire, with twigs, shells, and other natural scraps. Beautiful, strange, and never ordinary, these unique works may well be his major contributions to the field.
In 1971 Ebendorf became professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he taught for twenty years, working with Kurt Matzdorf and Jamie Bennett. He was a founding member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths, serving as president from 1972 to 1977. He was made a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 1994. Ebendorf is presently Distinguished Professor of Art at East Carolina University in Greenville.
This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.
Fish and "925S E" struck; and "R EBENDORF / 1967" engraved on base.
Given anonymously to the Museum in 1992.
Reproduced with permission.