Ellie Rose Link-able Design
Designer • Razine “Ray” Wenneker
Age • 85
Home • St. Louis County
Family • Alvin, husband of 64 years; two children, Mark, 58; Barbara, 56; and five grandchildren.
What she makes • She calls them “geometric adornments” because she links beaded hexagons, rectangles and squares into necklaces, rings and brooches for an Art Deco-influenced aesthetic.
How to reach her • Contact her at email@example.com.
Full-time charity • For years, Ray Wenneker donated pieces to nonprofits for fundraising efforts after she retired from teaching. After a fruitful second late-life career in art, she began to reassess her business model. A nasty fall four years ago that affected her physical health permanently also meant that she couldn’t work as rigorously as she used to. “I’m fortunate, my husband has taken very good care of me, and so I thought this was the time to give back … 100 percent. My children are grown, and the grandchildren are on their way, and I know that there are a lot of people out there who need help,” she said. So if she could only make a few special pieces each month, she wanted those pieces to go to special causes.
Metals to weaving • Wenneker founded the Society for Midwest Metalsmiths in 1995 and remains a member but no longer a metalsmith. She once sold her work for four-figures in galleries here and in Santa Fe. She now practices a delicate beadweaving that she finds challenging and exciting in new ways. Now she uses a range of hundreds of colors to create tactile mesh pieces out of Miyuki seed beads. “The beads are just really beautiful the way they fit together,” she said. “I miss metals, but this is beautiful stuff.” Wenneker can’t sit for long periods, so the beadwork allows her to stop and start without affecting the work. “But sometimes if I’m really close to finishing, I’ll just take a couple of Tylenol and power through it. I just can’t be idle.”
Art museum sale • Her work will be part of the Jewelry in July international artist trunk show at the St. Louis Art Museum gift shop from July 15 to 17. She made coordinated jewelry sets for the event, and the museum will keep 100 percent of the proceeds. Any nonprofit organization can contact her for jewelry donations. She recently crafted items for the Logos School in Olivette (her children attended when it was known as Central School) .
No direct sales • “I don’t do commission work for individuals anymore,” she explained. “But if you have a designated charitable organization, I’ll make it for them.” Some of her works have gone to benefit breast cancer, Crohn’s disease, the Women’s Scholarship Fund at Washington University and the Jewish book festival, Wenneker said that she likes to aid a variety of causes.
Still teaching • She taught first grade for 11 years, specializing in reading, writing and arithmetic after she graduated with a degree in art education from Webster College in 1985. Wenneker was an artist “from a very young age.” Now that her work time is so precious (because of her limitations in sitting), she said that she’s happy to donate everything. “It also makes me feel good to show that you can still do something very useful with a little time.” Wenneker said that some artists retire or think they can’t do anything useful because of age but as long as you’re able, you can always find a purpose.