William and Marianne Hunter

Longtime Peninsula residents, this well-crafted couple finds artistic inspiration in nature and each other.

Two of America’s most accomplished artists live, work, and occasionally collaborate in their Rancho Palos Verdes home.

Married for 30 years and South Bay residents for the past 12, William and Marianne Hunter have pursued separate yet complementary artistic visions. He, an acclaimed sculptor working in exotic hardwoods, and she, a jewelry designer doing innovative work in enamel and metal, have between them elevated traditional “crafts” into the more rarefied realm of fine art. They both have pieces in the collections of the Smithsonian Institute, LACMA and other museums around the country.

William creates “deconstructed vessels” in rare woods like Brazilian rosewood, Purple Heart, pink ivory wood, ebony, tulipwood and satinwood, turning each piece on a lathe. “I can look into a log or a piece of wood and see a window into its possibilities.”

The possibilities he explores as he deconstructs his urns and bowls and vessels are sensuous shapes and fluted and pieced surfaces. He exposes the rich grain of the wood, allowing light and shadow to dance across it. “When I am sculpting a vessel, I like to defy gravity and allow the viewer’s eye to move inside and around it,” says William. “The power and the colors are exhilarating.”

Exhilarating color also plays a central role in Marianne’s art. Recognized as one of America’s pre-eminent enamellists, Marianne’s jewelry is a collage of textured metal and shimmering, translucent colors. She highlights colored stones like turquoise and boulder opal in hues like the wild peacocks that roam the Hunter’s neighborhood and the ocean beyond, and baroque pearls and tourmalines, stones she selects for their dazzling colors rather than their value as gemstones.

“I don’t make very formal pieces,” she explains. “Women who live around here don’t dress up a lot or wear a lot of jewelry. I make pieces that can be dressed up or dressed down.”

They work autonomously. “We don’t design by committee,” says William. However, Marianne is working on a piece she is designing around a specimen of pink ivory wood William had put aside.

The couple will take their art to the high seas this spring when they are featured as the guest artists on the inaugural cruise of the SS Paul Gauguin, a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly luxury cruise ship sailing to Tahiti. They will discuss and demonstrate their respective arts, and Marianne will accept commissions, using rare South Sea pearls passengers have purchased during shore excursions.

The journey should prove inspirational for both Hunters, as they share a deep affinity for the ocean, what brought them here in the first place. Says Marianne, “Living close to nature is important to both of us.” ­ For more, visit hunter-studios.com.

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