The artist and jewelry designer was raised on Cumberland Island, Georgia’s southernmost barrier island, with 38 year-round residents.
“I was surrounded by nature. We were always horseback riding and hiking. I would find [an animal] skeleton sun-bleached in the back of sand dunes. I was always wearing something on a string,” she said. “Horse skulls and alligator skulls adorned our bookcases.”
Ferguson left Cumberland to study textile design at the University of Massachusetts, and she was always interested in incorporating design from nature, using materials like shells or bones. Now, Ferguson, 61, has a successful 28-year-old jewelry business and currently has her collection on display at the High Museum of Art in Midtown.
“She has her logo which she developed early on [in 1978],” said the museum’s Curator of Decorative Arts and Design Sarah Schleuning. “It has three curving rattlesnake ribs with a vertebra in the center originally created out of bones.”
Schleuning said she admires the juxtaposition between the initial creation of the Gogo logo and the later version of it, which is elegantly cast in gold and silver.
“There are a lot of similarities but it shows how she has evolved. I think her work is so emblematic of place. It is so much about Cumberland Island. It is a national state treasure,” Schleuning said. “It represents so much of what’s there, and what our natural environment is about.”
Museum visitors walk through a tree-lined beach walkway, similar to that of Cumberland, before entering Ferguson’s exhibit.
“The video and the map of where Cumberland is in relation to Georgia; that was your introduction. Then you walk into all of her work and get to experience it,” Schleuning said.
The exhibit, “Gogo: Nature Transformed” showcases her different “families” of jewelry, including rattlesnakes, jawbone, ribs, armadillo, seaweed and alligator, Ferguson said.
“I am obviously extremely honored to be at the High Museum,” she said. “It’s just so wonderful to have people recognize that I’m a woman who designs from nature and transforms nature. It’s been a wonderful feeling.”
Ferguson’s jewelry is usually made from materials like dried seaweed, coral, shells, bones and seed pods.
“I just walk and every day, a resurrection fern will fall off and it will be just a perfect spiral, or the tide line is filled with new shells,” she said. “It’s a matter of getting out and really looking. I do sketch and document. My process is picking things up, bringing them back and sitting at my desk, laying them out and working with them.”
Ferguson’s daughter Hannah is now a designer and the president of the business, GoGo.
“She’s brought so much to the company,” Ferguson said. “We collaborate on everything. We get materials from everywhere we travel. I love New England because of the mussels and particularly the seaweed. The bulk of my inspiration remains on Cumberland, but we’re expanding a lot.”
She said they travel far and wide for trunk shows, too.
“I love teaching the process of where it comes from,” Ferguson said. “I want people to slow down and to just look at how perfectly beautiful nature is. ... In terms of function and form, it’s been evolving for millions of years. We seem to bypass how perfect in design and beauty it is.”
If you go:
o What: “Gogo: Nature Transformed”
o Where: The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
o When: now through July 7
o Tickets: $19.50 for adults, $16.50 for seniors and students, $12 for children
o Information: www.high.org