Page 1

JOA N TE NENB AUM: Memory and Light


Joan Tenenbaum: Memory and Light November 2016 at Stonington Gallery

When I was in the first grade our teacher would put Johann Strauss’s “Tales from the Vienna Woods” on the record player in our classroom and have us finger-paint to the music. I can still remember her gesturing arms in the front of the room, just as a conductor would do. My finger-paintings were so unique and expressive that I was chosen to be in a government-produced documentary being filmed at our school. Even today, that music brings me back to that classroom. Certain experiences in our lives: kicking crispy leaves while walking to school, moonlight shimmering on water, yellow cottonwoods beside a river running through an ancient pueblo, an evocative sunset sky…these moments are etched in our memories by the quality of the colors, the sounds, the light. Here is a collection of stories about those memories and the colors that surround them. -Joan Tenenbaum

Stonington Gallery Contemporary Masterworks of the Northwest Coast & Alaska 125 South Jackson Street, Pioneer Square, Seattle WA 98104 | Open Daily | 206.405.4040 | All artwork and writing by Joan Tenenbaum, 2016

C R E V A S S E Within the eons-old strata compressed in glaciers lie the tales of ten thousand years. Silt and gravel from hundreds of miles distant lie within, along with remnants of tools, clothing and beings long lost. Layer upon layer are compressed into moving rivers, the ice within so dense that it absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Photographs of deep crevasses and ice caves reveal every color of blue imaginable. To me these images are spectacularly compelling in both their beauty and their danger, intensifying their visceral excitement.

Crevasse Enameled Pendant Sterling, Fine Silver, CloisonnÊ 2 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 5/16�

Crevasse Enameled Earrings - Long

Crevasse Enameled Earrings - Square

Sterling, Fine Silver, Cloisonné 1 3/4 x 5/8 x 1/2”

Sterling, Fine Silver, Cloisonné 15/16 x 15/16”

C L O I S O N N É : Enameling technique. Delicate strips of gold, brass, silver, copper, or other metal wire are soldered to a metal plate in the shape of a design, and the resulting cloisons (cells) are filled with vitreous enamel paste (glass) that is fired, ground smooth, and polished. The earliest surviving examples are six 13th-century BC Mycenaean rings. The technique reached its peak in the West during the Byzantine Empire. Chinese cloisonnÊ was widely produced during the Ming and Qing dynasties; in Japan it was popular in the Edo and Meiji periods. Excerpted from

Wirework completed.

3rd firing of enamel completed.

5th firing of enamel completed.

Sketch for setting, bail and chain.

7th--and final--firing completed.

Showing depth of the enamel.

Light in Falltime Enameled Necklace Fine and Sterling Silver, Enamel, 18” Chain. 2 3/8 x 4 1/4 x 1/4” x 18”

LIGHT IN FALLTIME Many years ago I read a Peanuts comic strip in which Snoopy observes a leaf gracefully fall to the ground and remarks, “A leaf knows how to die.� Everywhere I have ever lived, from the tree-lined suburbs of Cleveland to just below the Arctic Circle, I have been captivated by the colors of fall: the crimson willow leaf alongside a tundra rivulet, the maples and oaks of the Ohio countryside, or the blueberry bushes in my own back yard. Who can resist jumping into a pile of newly raked autumn leaves?




Memories fade as mountains dim in the distance, but there are a few who remember the old songs, the stories, the place names, the rituals, and the language. Carrying on tradition keeps continuity in cultures, and leads the way to the future. It is after sunset but before twilight. Light is fading but it is not dark yet. A lone eagle soars, and an inuksuk stands to remind us of the ancient ones. We are not alone. There is still time.

The Song Carrier Enameled Pendant Fine and Sterling Silver, 24 Karat Gold, CloisonnÊ, Sapphire. 2 1/16 x 1 7/8 x 1/2�

Cloisonné Enamel on “The Song Carrier”

Testing colors for enamel section.

After second firing. Each layer and subsequent firing adds depth and brightness to the color.

Wirework completed. The wires act as compartments to separate the colors during firing.

After fourth firing.

Metalwork on “The Song Carrier�

Choosing gems and metals for the setting.

Ravens (at the corners) cut out of textured metal.

Base of textured silver stock.

Putting together the bail, with tiny sapphire.

MOON OVER SIXMILE LAKE II: Headlands in Moonlight VI When I climbed down out of the small airplane that brought me to Nondalton that very first time in 1973, I stepped into a world I knew only from books. Up until that moment I had been a city girl my entire life. In my first days in the village I told people I was there to write their language down and make a dictionary. But everyone, to the last person, said, “You can’t write our language—it will come out backwards!!” But I told them that I could, and that I would show them. During my first weeks in Nondalton I would watch the moon rise over the mountains across the lake. In the velvety darkness the reflection made an ever changing path across the water. After freeze-up my friends asked me to walk across the lake with them. I was curious to see what was on the other side of the lake that I had been gazing at daily for several months, but I was afraid as well. With trepidation, I walked out on the ice, further and further, till I was in the middle of the huge expanse of water frozen solid. It was the first time in my life that I had walked on a large frozen body of water. I turned around and could look back and see the entire village at once, in a vast wilderness landscape. I was standing on what until then had been deep, cold, blue water!

Moon Over Sixmile Lake II-Headlands in Moonlight VI Pendant Sterling, Fine Silver, 18, 22 and 24 Karat Gold, Diamond, Quartz, Enamel. 2 1/8 x 1 1/2”

Process & Technique: Moon Over Sixmile Lake

1. Planning design, color, and gems.

15. Keum Boo glimmers completed, enamel added on top.

5. Positioning wires for score and bend fold forming

21. Moon cut out and domed.

9. Bending on scores to 90 degrees.

26. Settings soldered on.

14. Preparing to keum boo gold foil

31. Patina completed.

32. Aligning, ready to set all parts.

Sixmile Lake Enameled Earrings - Long Keum Boo (Fine Gold and Silver), Enamel, Fine Silver, Sterling Silver, 14k Gold 2.5”h x .88”w x .25”d

Sixmile Lake Enameled Earrings - Short Keum Boo (Fine Gold and Silver), Enamel, Fine Silver, Sterling Silver, 14k Posts 1”h x .75”w x .5”d

Tundra Patterns I Enameled Bracelet Color Study 4 Cloisonné Enamel, Sterling Silver 1.38”h x 2.18”w x 5.88”d $2,150












In the fall of 2014 I made my first ever trip to the pueblos of the American Southwest. There are many things that stand out from that journey: walking the streets of an ancient city perched on the high precipice of a mesa, learning how the traditional pottery is made and seeing the astounding pottery designs, meeting some of the local artists, eating traditional foods. But perhaps the most striking memories are from the sun-washed afternoon visit to Taos Pueblo: One of the things that made the place so beautiful was the shape of the structures with multi-stories built atop each other, the rounded corners and edges, the doors painted an intense electric blue, and the singular beauty of a place where the walls, roofs and streets were all of the same color and material, adobe brown. The thick adobe walls of the pueblo were only really comprehended when entering the homes with their wide rounded corners, heavy ceiling beams and the welcome warmth radiating from the open fireplaces built into the thick interior walls. The young men repairing the mud walls high on the third story were striking to look at, wearing their traditional kilts over their work pants. I remember the shadows deepening across doorways, the slanting lines from the many edges, corners and protruding beams, and in the center of the wide expanse, the river flowing amidst overhanging cottonwood trees. Any other river in the center of a historic, major city has long been built up with seawalls, concrete bulkheads and monumental architecture. Think: Chicago, London, Paris, Budapest. But here was a river looking exactly as it had for centuries: simple, uncomplicated and serene.

Pueblo Light Enameled Pendant Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, 24K Gold Wire, CloisonnÊ, Sterling Chain. 1 1/4 x 1 1/2�

Pueblo Light Enameled Earrings - Long

Pueblo Light Enameled Earrings - Short

Cloisonné Enamel, Fine Silver, 14k Post, Sterling Silver .88”h x .5”w x .5”d

Cloisonné Enamel, Fine Silver, 14k Post, Sterling Silver .88”h x .5”w x .5”d

Hopscotch Series Earrings Orange/Lavender Cloisonné Enamel, Fine Silver, 14k Post, Sterling Silver 2.31”h x .88”w x .5”d

Hopscotch Series Earrings Chartreuse/Plum Cloisonné Enamel, Fine Silver, 14k Post, Sterling Silver 2.38”h x .88”w x .5”d

Hopscotch Enameled Plaque 1959 Copper, Enamel, Wood 6.75”h x 5.5”w x .31”d










“Hopscotch” is actually a continuation of a series I started in the fall of 1959, my freshman year of High School. I didn’t know then that it would be a series! The piece that started it all, a small plaque, was actually my very first enameled piece. I vividly remember working on the layout for the piece, moving colors around, waiting for the design to be asymmetrical but balanced and for there to be just enough repetition without pattern and for each color to make its own statement. The piece won an award in the Scholastic Art Competition that year—my very first award.

Bird Keum Boo Trillion Hoops Enameled Earrings Keum Boo (Fine Gold and Silver), Enamel, Fine Silver, Sterling Silver Ear Hoops

Bird Keum Boo Hearts Hoops Enameled Earrings Keum Boo (Fine Gold and Silver), Enamel, Fine Silver, Sterling Silver Ear Hoops

Hearts Hoops Enameled Earrings Small Purple

Hearts Hoops Enameled Earrings Large Shaded Plum

Copper, Sterling Silver, Enamel

Copper, Sterling Silver, Enamel

Hearts Hoops Enameled Earrings Small Shaded Green

Hearts Hoops Enameled Earrings Large Red

Copper, Sterling Silver, Enamel

Copper, Sterling Silver, Enamel

A linguist, an anthropologist, an award-winning jeweler, an artist and a poet—Joan Tenenbaum fuses her technical, intellectual and creative abilities into jewelry that is imbued with beauty, spirituality and mystery. From the age of 13 Tenenbaum’s first love has been jewelry-making. However, her path led at first to an academic life. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Research for her

dissertation took her to a tiny village in Alaska where she lived with Athabaskan Indians and wrote a grammar and dictionary of their endangered language. She also compiled stories her by book To24view more for of pieces joan Dena’ina tenenbaumSukdu’a:

Traditional Stories of the Tanaina Athabaskans. She please later visit lived with Yup’ik Stonington Gallery and Iñupiaq Eskimos in several other villages, teaching and coordinating programs for the University of Alaska. During all these years, she continued to make jewelry and never gave up her dream to one day be a full-time artist. In 1990 the artist moved to Washington State, where she now focuses on her jewelry and teaching. Tenenbaum was already winning awards for her jewelry when she was in high school in Detroit, Michigan. She has continued to add to her knowledge and skills, studying in such varied places as the University of Mexico, the Craft Students League in New York, the University of Alaska and in Oregon with a private mentor. She has shared her knowledge by teaching jewelry at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, in workshops and with many private students. Throughout her work there is a poetry of feeling and distilled emotion which intertwines through all the pieces as a sort of mystical leitmotiv. The work itself consists of detailed, culture- and nature-inspired wearable pieces that are hand fabricated using precious

metals and gemstones. She uses such techniques as engraving, chasing, repoussé, forging, roller texturing, foldforming, mokume gane, granulation, reticulation, damascene, keum boo, anticlastic raising and stone setting to create the fascinating textures, colors and contrasts that narrate her work. Many of these pieces are part of a series exploring a theme, and each is individually hand made. Her native culture-inspired pieces frequently take the form of a mask or human figure, symbols of the spirituality in the cultures in which she lived, or are translations of ancient stories or artifacts. In these pieces she pays homage to some of the last remaining hunting societies, which she feels have been kept alive by their deep connection with the Arctic land and animals that support them. Her pieces that speak of landscape and animals carry environmental messages. Her work is shown nationwide and has been featured in nine books as well as in Ornament, Lapidary Journal, Jewelry Artist, American Craft, Art Jewelry, Creating Linus Jewellery, American Style, AJM, Niche and Metalsmith magazines.

Stonington Gallery 125 South Jackson Street Seattle, WA 98104 206.405.4040 / All works and text by Joan Tenenbaum Photography by Doug Yaple and Ashley Genevieve Catalog Design by Sarra Scherb Š Stonington Gallery 2016

Joan Tenenbaum: Memory and Light - 2016 at Stonington Gallery  

Digital Exhibition Catalog for Joan Tenenbaum's 2016 Stonington Gallery exhibition. All work and writing copyright and courtesy Joan Tenen...

Joan Tenenbaum: Memory and Light - 2016 at Stonington Gallery  

Digital Exhibition Catalog for Joan Tenenbaum's 2016 Stonington Gallery exhibition. All work and writing copyright and courtesy Joan Tenen...