ORNAMENT Volume 29 No. 3


Susan Brooks A Mesmerizing World. 
2006 Smithsonian Craft Show
Karen McCreary Galaxy of Light. 
Beadwork Traditions of the Columbia River Plateau Honor and Identity. 
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.


You could say Susan 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.


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 & 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.


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.


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.


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.