Wolfgang’s career as an artist started in 1986. Throughout his exploration of different media over the years; starting with painting, followed by sculpting, finally designing and fabricating jewelry, and most recently adventuring with enamel; the expression of his art remains the same – translating his experiences of natural landscapes. Through his artworks, he shares his profound connection with nature as well as encourages the viewer/wearer to feel and connect to their own valuable memories and experiences with nature.
By 2012 Wolfgang was working as a serious studio jeweler; after the move to southern Arizona had rekindled his childhood fascination for gems and minerals. He draws from his previous sculpting and painting techniques to create unique, scaled-down wearable artworks. His jewelry is collected and featured in exhibitions and galleries nationwide and abroad.
In terms of formal training, he shortly attended Munich’s Kunstakademie after finishing high school in Germany; however, he soon left dissatisfied with what the art institute had to offer. Instead, he looked to the Namib desert – Namibia being his country of birth – in search of his voice as an artist. Thus, Wolfgang’s art career started; leading him back to Germany and then to the US.
Over the few years, Wolfgang’s jewelry works have been prestigiously recognized. In three consecutive years, he’s been a Saul Bell Design Award winner (2016 – 2nd place, 2017 – finalist, 2018 – 1st place). He has been a Niche finalist (2016), was named Centurion’s Emerging Designer winner (2018), and was published in SNAG’s (Society of North American Goldsmiths) first JaMS publication (Jewelry and Metalsmithing Survey). In 2018 he was placed 1st and received Honorable Mention in the MJSA Vision Awards.
Wolfgang works with ethically sourced materials, such as recycled silvers and most notably Placer gold- the unrefined gold flakes and nuggets with smoothened edges from the tumbling action in the rivers- he fuses to various silvers (ex: Argentium, Sterling, and/or Fine). Much like gemstones and roughs, he purchases the placer gold directly from the prospectors who mine with minimal environmental damage. This ethic reinforces Wolfgang’s theme of nature and the empathy he feels for our natural world.
“I consider myself a translator. An interpreter who allows for the spirit of nature to be conveyed through my works. Since high school, back when climate change was just a creeping shadow, I have felt and sought to express my concern for the earth on which we live.
In recent years, my vision has largely turned towards the aspen tree. The aspen groves, beautiful and mystical, enchant us with filtered golden light and dancing leaves. However, there is more than just the gorgeous leaves of these quaking trees. An aspen stand is one living organism, connected by a single root system. These trees are an epitome of connectivity, supporting each individual tree. Thus, I feel inspired to engage the viewer and/or wearer to connect with nature, themselves, and precious memories.
These organisms also represent a larger part of our ecosystem, especially in the west. Although fires are not much a threat to these resilient trees, climate change can and does devastate the aspen- drying them out, as their shallow roots cannot tap deeper waters, and severe flooding causes terrific landslides. Nature is our sustainer; without the natural world we all risk extinction. Suitably, my jewelry-works engage us to be a steward of our natural world; awakening concern and awareness.
Do not be mistaken, however, my intent is not to depress, rather spread love and joy for nature. As an artist, I strive to transfer the heart of nature through my jewelry creations. It is my hope that the serene appeal of the engraved scenes rejuvenates, filling the wearer & viewers with inspiration and meditative hope… That others truly feel and experience nature, understanding the vital importance of it and the profound connection all us living beings share with this earth.”
Wolfgang Vaatz, interviewed by his daughter Katja Vaatz