j e w e l r y   a r t i s t


b y
Pa t r i c k   K a p t y

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with and enjoying the hospitality of contemporary jewelry luminary, Yumi Ueno and her husband, Hiro Ueno. The rumor of Yumi had preceded her in the form of her sculptural and colorful jewelry creations, but I'm glad to admit that rumor hadn't told the full tale of the diversity, ingenuity, and sheer whimsy of the body of her work. 

During the course of an enjoyable afternoon, I was struck not just with the breadth of the work, but also with the genuine humility and connected-ness of both Yumi and Hiro. Artistic expression for Yumi has an almost mystical element in which she grapples with age-old concerns and concepts while retaining an edge of youthful vigor and humor that prevents her work from becoming too dark or self-absorbed.

top, right:  "Kodama," Brooch, c.2000; 22,18K Yellow Gold, Sterling Silver, Fossilized palmwood, Tourmaline, Peridot.

left, above:
"Legend," Brooch c.1999; 22,18KYG, S.S., Bronze, Drusy onyx, Tourmaline, Citrine, Iolite, Rhodolite-garnet.

left, below:  "Magic Hour," Necklace, c. 2002; 22,18KYG, S.S., Agate, Tourmaline, Iolite.

Born and schooled in Japan, Yumi seems to share in the innate artistic sensibility of that nation. However, Yumi's early schooling wasn't in jewelry making, but in the allied field of graphic design.


While attending Musashino Art University in Tokyo Yumi met her future husband, Hiro Ueno, where, both Hiro and Yumi humorously admit, Yumi wasn't the best of students, mostly due to the two-hour (each way!) train trip that was required for her attendance.

above right: "Color of Universe," Brooch, c. 2001; 22,18KYG, Chinese turquoise, Lapis lazuli Australian boulder opal.

left: "Untitled," Earrings, c. 1997; 22,18KYG, S.S., Drusy onyx, Tourmaline, Iolite, Fossilized palmwood.

Yumi worked in the fashion world in Japan for the next few years, but it wasn't until after coming to the US in 1986, and her subsequent training in metalsmithing at Barnsdale Art Center in Los Angeles, that
Yumi found her calling.

right, above: "Spring Sky," Brooch, c. 1997; 18,14KYG, S.S., Willowcreek jasper,Amethyst.

right, below: "Meditation," Brooch, c. 2000; 22KYG, S.S., Drusy agate, Tourmaline.

"Even long before I started making my own jewelry, I had a definite image in my mind of what kind of jewelry I would like to wear. This desire led me to start designing and making my own jewelry". This statement is borne out by some of Yumi's earliest designs that encapsulate all of the elements of her inimitable style.


above, left: "Untitled," Brooch, c. 1991;  S.S., Brass, Jasper.

right: "Untitled," Brooch, c. 1990 ; S.S.

(Both brooches were made while Yumi was a student at Barnsdall Art Center)

Yumi's work is a curious blend of two seemingly opposing themes. On the one hand, much of Yumi's jewelry is an interesting exploration of three-dimensional geometric abstraction that seems to owe a debt at least in part to the Italian design school, Memphis. On the other hand, Yumi enjoys creating jewelry that is instantly accessible to everyone, such as her whimsical designs that include cartoon-like houses or medieval castles under attack by marauding space aliens in flying saucers. Yumi says of the latter category, "These designs remind me of my childhood, and make me very happy".

left, above: "House in Fairytale,"  Brooch, c. 1999; 22,18,14KYG, S.S., Bronze, Labradolite  Agate. 

left, below: "Rainbow Castle," Brooch, c. 1998;  22,18,14KYG, S.S., Lapis lazuli,Citrine, Peridot, Amethyst.

below, right: "Peaceful Mind," Brooch,  c. 1997; 18KYG, S.S., Amazonite, Peridot, Amethyst.

Though her earliest creations
are primarily of silver, over the years Yumi has added many other materials to the palette of her expression in jewelry

Often the nature of a particular gemstone before her will indicate the direction that the final work will follow. Yumi says, "Because each gemstone has it's own character…color, shape, pattern…my decision as to whether to make an abstract or concrete (literal) design is based on the 'character' of the gemstone".  Yumi has also added gold in different colors and karats to her work in the last few years. Every piece of jewelry from Yumi's studio is completely hand-fabricated, and one-of-a-kind.

left, above: "Precious Moment," Necklace, c. 2002 22; 18KYG, S.S., Chinese turquoise,Amethyst, natural copper.

left, across: "Silence of the night,"  Brooch, c.1997; 18,14KYG, S.S., Brecciated jasper,Peridot.

Yumi is the recipient of several awards; most notably 'best of show' award at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art at the ACC show in San Francisco.

right: "Telepathy", Brooch, c. 2001; 22,18KYG, S.S., Labradorite,  turquoise.

Yumi's work has also been on exhibition at several prestigious museums and galleries around the country. Her work is sought-after by collectors with an eye for the best in new and upcoming young artists.

Paul Klee was a big influence on Yumi's developing aesthetic sensibility, and Wendy Ramshaw is the jewelry-artist that she credits as having the most impact on her career and direction as an artist-jeweler. Yumi sees her work as an expression of the mysterious and primeval forces of nature, such as "light, wind, space, and time." In the future Yumi wants to concentrate more on sculpture, a direction to which her unique oeuvre is well suited. 

left, above: "Cosmic," Bracelet,  c. 2001; 18KYG, S.S.

left, below:  "Untitled," Earrings, c. 1998; 22,18KYG, Vesuvianite, Tourmaline,

left, bottom: Yumi Ueno















You can contact Yumi online at her upcoming website www.yumidesign.com 

Yumi will be showing her work at the following craft shows and exhibitions:

6/14-16 Contemporary Craft Market at Santa Monica Civic.

6/28-30 Vail Arts Festival , Vail, CO.
7/26-28 Bellevue Art Museum Fair , Bellevue, WA.

8/9-11 ACC Craft Show, San Francisco, CA. (Waiting)

9/14-15 Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, Mill Valley, CA

12/6-8 ACC Craft Show, Sarasota, FL

August Irvine Fine Arts Center 


Article by Patrick Kapty
“Patrick Kapty California Dreamin Retro Modern”
(760) 671-4879

Photographs by  Hiro Ueno
with additional photographs by Patrick Kapty
Web design by Marbeth Schon
 Copyright ©  Modern Silver magazine 2002

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