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Volume 29 No.3 2006

Ornament Magazine Volume 29 No.3, 2006

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2006 Smithsonian Craft Show. Karen McCreary Galaxy of Light. Beadwork Traditions of the Columbia River Plateau Honor and Identity. Susan Brooks A Mesmerizing World. Traditional Mauritanian Powder-Glass Kiffa Beads. Artist Statement Christi Friesen. Exhibition Art of Adornment: Tribal Beauty. Exhibition Thomas Mann: Storm Cycle, An Artist Responds to Hurricane Katrina. Marketplace Acme Designs.


2006 Smithsonian
Craft Show
by Carolyn L. E. Benesh

Aaron Macsai as featured in Ornament Magazine Toshie Chigyo  &  Marico Chigyo as featured in Ornament Magazine

While the development of craft in America occurred throughout the twentieth century, it gathered force during its last fifty years. And there was something especially extraordinary about the years dating from the 1970s—that period somehow both coalesced the movement and stimulated it, producing societies, conferences and symposiums, new craft programs in schools and colleges, workshops, books and magazines, craft shows and fairs. The crafted object achieved recognition for its own intrinsic value, emerging from the hands of artisans who created works with their unique spirit and animus. In all media, the Smithsonian Craft Show artists still honor their historical antecedents. Even though the contemporary craft movement places such a high value on self-expression and individuality, it also respects the universal language and communication of the handmade object. It is not a world that defines itself through a particular medium but through the connection made between the hand, the heart and the mind. The handmade object is inextricably linked by the critical interrelationship of its form (the way in which something is made) to its meaning (the purpose for which it is made). It is an artform that transmits itself directly and immediately with a timeless, inherent simplicity—the handmade object is beautiful not despite its usefulness but because of it. Images courtesy of the artists.


Karen McCreary
by Pat Worrell

Karen McCreary  as featured in Ornament Magazine Karen McCreary  as featured in Ornament Magazine

Star Trek meets the light sculpture Minimalism of the 1960s—a complex concept difficult to wrap your mind around until, that is, you experience the work of jeweler Karen McCreary. “My designs are influenced by my fascination with science and technology, my love of science fiction and my interest in light, color, transparency, and visual illusion,” she explains. McCreary explores light, color, transparency, and alternative materials in all of her pieces. In the decade of the sixties, artists interested in light began to use it literally, dealing with light as a form. Dan Flavin created new environments with his installations of fluorescent light fixtures. John McCracken fashioned geometric wood sculptures coated with resins in strong, beautiful colors. Cara Croninger began making jewelry in cast resin. “In Southern California, a lot of the artists were experimenting with resins, influenced by the aerospace industry,” McCreary explains. “I think of the sculptors who got into the technology of making fiberglass surfboards.” She garnered more inspiration from British and German artists working in plastics and resin but remember, she notes, the fun of Bakelite collectibles from the 1920s to 1940s and the oversized plastic jewelry of the 1960s.
Photographs by Karen McCreary and Hap Sakwa.



Beadwork Traditions of the
Columbia River Plateau

by Steven Grafe
Parade Bag, Yakama as featured in Ornament Magazine Woman's Yoke, Yakama as featured in Ornament Magazine

The American Indian peoples of the Columbia River Plateau have a long history of adorning their clothing and personal accessories with beads. These decorated items have been a source of pride and they have often contained subtle references to the identity of both makers and wearers.
The Columbia Plateau lies between the Cascade Range and the Rocky Mountains in the interior Pacific Northwest. It is a high arid expanse that is drained by the Columbia and Snake Rivers and their many tributaries. The indigenous peoples of the region share related languages and a common history and culture. Prior to the arrival of outsiders they lived peacefully and devoted themselves to fishing and hunting, food gathering, and trading. Horses appeared locally at the beginning of the eighteenth century. A sophisticated equestrian culture then blossomed and southern Plateau groups eventually developed larger horse herds than were present anywhere else in Native North America. Glass beads arrived in the interior Northwest during the late eighteenth century. Seagoing fur traders appeared on the Oregon and Washington coasts at this time and the beads they traded to coastal peoples soon found their way inland. Plateau residents had their initial direct contact with outsiders in 1805, as Lewis and Clark followed the Snake and Columbia Rivers downstream to the Pacific Ocean. Explorers then found that blue and white Chinese glass beads were in demand and being widely circulated. William Clark also noted that Nez Perce women’s dresses were “ornemented with quilled brass, Small peces of Brass Cut into different forms, Beeds, Shells & curios bones &c.” Photographs courtesy of Lee and Lois Miner, Yakima Valley Museum Association, Duane Alderman Collection, and Fred L. Mitchell Collection.


Susan Brooks
by Chiori Santiago

Susan Brooks  as featured in Ornament Magazine Susan Brooks as featured in Ornament Magazine

Near at hand lie a row of much-loved chasing hammers, their wooden handles long and slender as drops of water, smoothed to satin from wear. Susan Brooks flips a magnifying visor over her eyes and positions a small silver rectangle on the workbench. She reaches for her chasing tools, the slim metal rods tipped with the shapes of triangles and circles, or simply honed to a fine line like the end of a miniature screwdriver. She chooses one, places it on the metal and begins to tap with the hammer, the first in a series of taps that become the rhythm of her day. You could say Brooks is working, because this—hammering a Morse code of pattern, line and portraiture into silver and gold—is how she makes her living. Brooks would probably choose another verb to describe what she is doing—playing, meditating, daydreaming. She is also drawing, translating the sensibility of her paintings into jewelry. Brooks has managed to weave all of the things she loves into a business and a life. “I love what I do,” she says simply. Photographs by Kate Cameron and George Post.


Traditional Mauritanian
Powder-Glass Kiffa Beads
by Evelyn Simak

Powder-Glass Kiffa Beads as featured in Ornament Magazine Powder-Glass Kiffa Beads as featured in Ornament Magazine


Mauritania used to be part of the ancient Ghana Empire (750-1240 A.D.), which grew rich from the trans-Saharan trade in gold, ivory and salt. With the introduction of the camel, the region’s exclusive resources could be sent to population centers in North Africa and the Middle East in exchange for manufactured goods. Kumbi Saleh, whose ruins remain near the town of Kiffa, is believed to have been the empire’s capital, and in its heyday had a population of thirty thousand, mainly Arab and Berber merchants and their families. Glass beads are still found along the trade routes, in the vicinity of old trade centers of the Ghana Empire, such as Tegadoust, Oualata, Tichitt and Akrejit, or in the sand dunes covering the ruins of Kumbi Saleh, where women still search for ancient treasures during the rainy season. Many ancient beads recovered during archaeological excavations are believed to originate from the Near East and from Egypt. A number of these were used as models for creating indigenous powder-glass beads, also known today as Kiffa beads. (The term Kiffa bead is fairly recent, introduced by bead collectors during the second half of the twentieth century.) Images courtesy of Evelyn Simak and Robert K. Liu.



Our upcoming issue 37.4 contains


Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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