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Inside the Collection: David Pimentel

"David Pimentel was an active and highly visible member of the metalsmithing community. ...His presence was immense, and he will unquestionably be remembered by all who knew him.” -- Michael Croft (1)

David Delbert Pimentel, fondly known to friends and family as "Dave," was born on June 6, 1943, in Plymouth, MA. Raised in Kingston with his three siblings, Pimentel graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art (now the Massachusetts College of Art and Design or “MassArt”), Boston, MA, in 1965 with a B.S. in Art Education. For the next five years, he taught in public schools in Auburn, NY, and Lincoln-Sudbury, MA, and spent the summers working on Cape Cod. It was during these summers he met Judith Jones, who he married in June 1969. The following year, Pimentel decided to attend graduate school at the School for American Craftsmen, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY. Studying under Hans Christensen, he graduated with an MFA in 1972 and wrote the thesis, “The Exploration of the Decorative and Functional Use of Riveting in Hollow Forms.”

After graduation, Pimentel accepted a one-year position in Honolulu, HI, at the Kamehameha Schools, where he was covering the sabbatical for educator and fellow metalsmith Frances Pickens. He met Pickens while in Rochester, and she specifically requested for him to cover her sabbatical. In 1973, Pimentel accepted a teaching position in the School of Art at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe, AZ, where he educated students for the next thirty years, eventually rising to the rank of Professor of Art. A few years into this position, in 1976, his daughter Liesl was born.

During his time in Tempe, Pimentel began shaping ASU’s young jewelry and metalsmithing program into one of national prominence. According to friend and fellow metalsmith Michael Croft, “David was not only a prolific artist but a brilliant teacher who introduced students to his chosen field with a wealth of information. He eagerly shared and fostered a studio dynamic that students thrived upon” (2). He closely mentored his students, encouraging them to participate in workshops and conferences like the Yuma Art Symposium, an organization he was very active in. “Many of his grads have gone on to make names for themselves as teachers and studio artists,” said metalsmith Andy Cooperman (3). “That’s a wonderful legacy to leave.”

“His legacy of the exquisitely beautiful ceremonial mace and presidential chain of office which he created for Arizona State University in 1982 serves as a fitting memorial and a tribute to his skills as an artist and a commemoration of his 30 years of teaching.” – Michael Croft (4)

While a member of ASU staff, Pimentel was tasked with designing and fabricating ASU’s ceremonial mace and presidential chain of office, commissioned in 1982 in anticipation of ASU’s centennial celebration in 1985 (5). The pieces are only used or worn during ceremonies that requires full academic regalia, such as the Inauguration of the ASU President, University Commencement, Faculty Assemblies, Regent’s Professor Induction Ceremonies, and Convocation. Pimentel handcrafted both pieces with “austere elegance and traditional Southwestern motifs” (6). The chain of office features a silver woven rope with a 6” diameter medallion. ASU’s seal in gold and silver is on one side of the medallion, and the other is inlaid with turquoise (see images above). Pimentel designed the chain and mace with materials sourced from Arizona. The mace’s handle is a solid piece of mesquite wood, approximately 3.5 feet long. The head has four sterling silver blades and is banded with copper, Morenci turquoise, and a silver ring embossed with the words “Arizona State University.” The inlaid turquoise was cut and polished by Navajo jeweler Richard Charlie of Mesa, AZ. On the heel of the mace, the ASU seal is embossed in silver.

In addition to his legacy at ASU, Pimentel was known for being a master of raising, a metalsmithing technique in which hollowware is created from a single sheet of metal, which is hammered and annealed repeatedly to “raise” the vessel, creating a form with no seams. Pimentel was an innovator in this field and incorporated high impact plastics in raising, which replaced the traditional steel on hammers and stakes. He taught his students to use these plastic tools while raising, and many continue to use them today.

Shortly after he passed away, former student Lynette Andreasen photographed Pimentel’s studio at ASU before it was cleared out. She posted these photos on her blog, and I have compiled them here in this short video. By looking at these images, it is obvious how prolific Pimentel was as an artist by the sheer volume of work in his studio. If you look carefully in several of the pictures above, you can see the vessel Pushing It #3 which was donated to the Metal Museum by Pimentel’s wife Judi after his death.

Pimentel was a very active studio artist and exhibited his work in over 100 regional, national, and international exhibitions. His work was included regularly in faculty exhibitions at ASU, and he also participated in such national metalwork exhibitions as the 1997 American Masters of Hollowware in the Late 20th Century, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, GA; and the SNAG European Exhibition, which opened in 1979 at the Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul, MN, and toured around seven European countries in the early 1980s. He also frequently juried and curated exhibitions of contemporary jewelry and metalwork, including the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG)’s 1981 exhibition Metalsmith ’81, University of Kansas Art Gallery, Lawrence, KS; the 1984 National Jewelry and Unique Objects Invitational exhibition, Fine Arts Center of Tempe, Tempe, AZ; and the 1991 exhibition Copper III (Cu3), the third in a series of national copper artwork exhibitions, this one held at the Old Pueblo Museum, Tucson, AZ. Pimentel was also a Distinguished Member of SNAG and won several awards for his work, including the Juror’s Award for the 1985 exhibition Baskets, Boxes, Containers, Galeria Mesa, Mesa, AZ; and the Award of Merit, Arizona Biennial 1984, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ.

After an 8-week battle with cancer, Pimentel died in his Tempe home on October 1, 2004. He is remembered fondly by his family and many friends in the metalsmithing field. He was buried in his family plot in Plymouth. In 2006, two years after his death, the Mesa Arts Center organized a retrospective exhibition of his work and the work of his ASU graduate students entitled Legacy of an Artist and Educator: Dave Pimentel. His work is in the collections of the Hawai'i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Honolulu, HI; Racine Museum of Art, Racine WA; Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ; ASU Art Museum, Tempe, AZ; the Metal Museum, and numerous private collections.

The Metal Museum currently has three works by David Pimentel in our Permanent Collection, two vessels and a bracelet, in addition to two rosettes he made for our 10th Anniversary Gates. One of the vessels, Pushing It #3, was made from copper c. 2000 and donated by Judi in 2005. In his final weeks, David specifically requested that this vessel be donated to the Metal Museum, and it continues to astonish visitors and metalsmiths alike. The other Untitled vessel, also made from copper, dates to the late 1990s and was purchased by artist and jeweler Mary Lee Hu. She donated the piece to the Museum in 2017. Both of these vessels are on permanent display in our Visible Storage Gallery. The silver chased and repoussé bracelet was made from sterling silver, nickel silver, and copper sometime between 1975 and 2000. To see more of Pimentel’s jewelry, check out his entry in our SNAG Slide Archive.


I would like to thank Judi Pimentel and the staff of the ASU Art Museum, in particular Senior Curator Heather Lineberry and Windgate Curatorial Fellow Hannah Ziesmann, for contributing to the research used in this blog.

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