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Betty Cooke – Modernist Artisan

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I have been collecting Betty Cooke jewelry since the early 1980s and have always been attracted to the elegance and simplicity of her designs, which gives her jewelry a timeless quality.

Betty has been designing jewelry since she graduated from the Maryland Institute in 1946.  Back then she and her husband, Bill Steinmetz, renovated a house on Tyson Street in Baltimore, Maryland and built a studio for the selling of her designs.  Her first important recognition came when the Walker Art Center included some of her pieces in their “Good Design” show in the mid 40’s.

I was lucky enough to meet Betty Cooke in the early 1990s.  She was full of energy and very much on top of her game.  I  purchased many pieces from her over the next 20 years.

In June of 1995, there was a major restrospective show of Betty’s work at the Meyerhoff Gallery of the Maryland Institute, College of the Arts.  It was a stunning exhibition.

I went to the opening night of the show by myself.  Upon entering the show, Betty came over to me, took my arm and we walked the show talking about her pieces, while she introduced me to many of the patrons who attended the event.  I had only known Betty, for maybe a year at that point, and felt very honored.

I still collect Betty’s work.  A few pieces from my collection are shown below.  I especially love her earlier jewelry, the concepts and construction are incredible, the soldering, seamless.

Betty has won many awards over her career and is considered one of America’s top leading designers of modernist jewelry for the past almost 65 years.

An excellent source for vintage Betty Cooke can be found at Auerbachmaffia.com

Here are some examples of her work.

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Antique Jewelry of Java, Indonesia – Ethnic Jewlery

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On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC I came across a fascinating and unique display of antique ethnic gold jewelry from the Island of Java in Indonesia. All of the pieces in the exhibition originated from the 8th to the early 10th century and they provide a fascinating glimpse into the art of jewelry that existed in that locale at that time. Necklaces, hair ornaments, earrings, rings and bracelets were cast, embossed and decorated with a fine precision that has been lost through the centuries.

In eight century  Indonesia, gold was not simply a precious metal but was revered as sacred. Skilled goldsmiths employed techniques such as granulation, filigree, sheet work, casting, weaving and repousse. Gold was treated with alum and salt to redden it until the 19th century when craftsmen turned to nitric acid to produce the desired effect.

Many of these  early forms and variants of decorative techniques have survived through the ages and we can see styles and techniques that have influenced the jewelry of today.

Please enjoy viewing pictures from the Eilenberg – Rosen exhibit that I’ve included below…………………..

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Francisco Rebajes – Master Modernist Jewelry Artisan

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A native of The Dominican Republic, Francisco Rebajes emigrated to the US in the early 1920’s. In the early 1930’s, while the nation was in the grips of the great depression, Rebajes was selling his small hand made metal sculptures on the streets of  New York  just to survive. Then one day, at the famous Washington Square Outdoor Art Show, Juliana Force, director of the Whitney Museum of Art, spotted his work and bought his entire inventory. With this seed money he was able to open his first shop on West 4th street in New York’s Greenwich Village.

As time moved on Rebajes opened several other stores in the Village gradually becoming a part of the overall artisan culture that was thriving there during the 1940’s and early 50’s.  Sam Kramer, the famed surrealist jeweler, and Rebajes were friends and you can see Kramer’s influence in some of Rebajes’ designs from this period. Kramer’s influence is evident in the biomorphic brooch pictured below.

Rebajes eventually became very successful and in the early 1950’s opened a gorgeous upscale shop on 5th Avenue. By this time Rebajes’ copper and silver jewelry was very popular and was being marketed to shops all over the country. It took a workshop of 100 people to churn out these mass produced designs.

Rebajes was a true master artisan. I especially appreciate his earlier works. The hand crafted pieces that were made before his jewelry went national and  mass produced are truly masterful.

Here are some examples of earlier hand made and rarer cast items…………………..

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Lisa and Scott Cylinder – Jewelry Artisans

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After searching major craft shows for years, I finally made my find.

While most contemporary craft jewelry is fairly similar in style, Lisa & Scott Cylinder’s jewelry is exciting and innovative, which touched my soul.  Their jewelry from beginning to end finishes well, like a good book.  From their creativity & techniques, the materials and vintage found objects, down to their handmade pin backs, the art jewelry pieces are true gems.

The Cylinders have been creating jewelry since 1988, directly upon graduation from major university jewelry programs.  In the last 10 years, they’ve ventured into creating more serious and substantial one of a kind pieces that has truly expanded their focus and will be the reason they will soon be recognized as major American jewelry artisans.

A few years back, my local paper featured Lisa & Scott Cylinder’s art jewelry in the weekend section for an upcoming, upscale local craft show.  I wanted the piece that was pictured on the front cover.  It was love at first sight.  I planned on being first in line opening day and couldn’t sleep the night before.  I rushed to their booth and to my disappointment found out the piece I desired was sold weeks before.  My heart dropped, but soon I felt better when I found another great piece that was for sale.  I bought my first piece of their jewelry and have been collecting their works ever since.

Lisa & Scott Cylinder creates a very limited number of art jewelry items.  All the jewelry is one of a kind.  They have been working on an exhibition – “Transpositions” – this past year, which will be opening at Velvet Da Vinci Gallery, in San Francisco, Ca., Aug. 11 – Sept. 17, 2010.

If you are lucky enough to be in San Francisco at this time, you must stop by the show and feast your eyes on some incredible creations.  A better idea would be to purchase a piece of their art jewelry, (a great investment).  See the Cylinder’s work soon in a museum near you.

Here are a few examples of the Cylinder’s jewelry…………………

Find more examples of Lisa and Scott Cylinder’s jewelry at Auerbachmaffia.com

Written by km.