Kenneth Cory, 50, Professor Renowned For His Art Jewelry

An informal potluck will be held in Ellensburg tomorrow to remember Kenneth Cory, one of the Northwest's most renowned makers of art jewelry. He died in his sleep from heart failure at his home in Ellensburg on Jan. 16.

Cory, 50, whose work was included in a show of art jewelry last year at the Seattle Art Museum, was for 20 years a professor of jewelry and metal working at Central Washington University.

A Seattle native, he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and earned a master of fine arts from Washington State University.

He taught two years at the California College of Arts and Crafts before becoming a professor at Central Washington University.

His brooches, necklaces and bracelets were prized for the imagery he worked into them as well as for the craftsmanship. His work was exhibited around the nation and in Europe and was included in a traveling exhibit organized by the Smithsonian.

"Ken was a phenomenal craftsman, but that wasn't his goal," said Nancy Worden, a Seattle art-jewelry maker who studied with Cory during the '70s.

"He was a true academician and was very interested in archetypal imagery. He was very, very knowledgeable about symbols."

Vicki Halper, Seattle Art Museum associate curator of modern art, said Cory's work fell into several stylistic periods.

In the '60s, she said, he often juxtaposed fine metals with such commonplace materials as car reflectors and styrofoam cups.

In the '70s he used traditional jewelry-making methods, such as cloisonne enameling, to make larger objects, including light-switch plates and ashtrays.

During those decades his work was often tinged with humor and frequently had a slightly subversive tone, said Halper.

In recent years Cory had moved on to using mostly fine jewelry materials, such as precious metals and gemstones, in a sculptural way. "He was a sculptor who worked in miniature," said Halper.

Those who knew him said that his reclusive public persona was at odds with his well-honed sense of humor.

Survivors include his parents, Robert and Susan Cory of Ellensburg, and a sister, Beverly Cory of San Carlos, Calif.

The informal potluck gathering will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. tomorrow Jan. 30 at the home of Dick Elliott and Jane Orleman, 101 N. Pearl St. in Ellensburg. For information call (509) 925-3224.