Born in August, 1943, Gary Lee Noffke grew up in the small town of Sullivan, IL. He received a Bachelor's (1965) and Master's degree (1966) in Education from Eastern Illinois University.
While he initially studied painting, he shifted his focus to metal, earning a Master's of Fine Arts in metalworking from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1969. Studying under Brent Kington, Noffke was influenced by abstract impressionism, attacking the surface of his metal objects with obsessive and intricate detail consisting of stars, letterforms, arrows, crosses, dollar signs, eyes, and other significant symbols.
Known for his versatility, technical prowess, and originality, Noffke is a blacksmith, coppersmith, silversmith, goldsmith, and toolmaker. He has produced gold and silver hollowware, flatware, forged steel knives and implements, cast iron, bronze, gold and silver objects and made jewelry with a variety of processes. Noffke is noted for his technical versatility, his pioneering research into hot forging, the introduction of new alloys, and his ability to both build on and challenge traditional techniques. He has been called the metalsmith's metalsmith, a pacesetter, and a maverick.
In 1971, he accepted a position at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens. Noffke devoted himself to the development of UGA's jewelry and metals program and helped launch the Jewelry and Metals Studies Abroad curriculum in Cortona, Italy. He has influenced the field of metal design for fifty years. Today he is retired from formal teaching and lives and works at his studio in Farmington, Georgia.
During the course of his career Noffke received numerous awards and honors. In 2005, Noffke was selected as one of the Fifty Outstanding Alumni of Fifty Years of Graduate Education by Eastern Illinois University. In 2001, he was elected to the College of Fellows by the American Craft Council; in 1990, he was honored with an NEA Visual Artist Fellowship in Craft; and in 1988, he became Master Metalsmith of the Year, a distinction awarded by the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, TN.
From April to September 2011, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, presented a major retrospective of his work, Attitude and Alchemy: The Metalwork of Gary Lee Noffke. This exhibition was the first major-museum-organized project about Noffke and featured over 120 pieces of his oeuvre, including silver and gold hollowware, flatware, jewelry, and objects forged in steel.
Gary received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of North American Goldsmith's in 2016.
Learn more about Gary here.