Star-Ledger, Nov. 2, 1992

Home | First | Previous Picture | Next Picture | Last

Monday, November 2, 1992

Creating jewelry with art and soul

By Joan Babbage
Ceramic sculptor Yoki Ben-
Israel's love of jewelry has turned
into an impassioned pursuit, as she
spends 14-hour days in her West
Windsor Township home studio
meticulously creating one-of-a-kind
necklaces, earrings and pins.

    The artist, who has become well
known for her realistic and amusing
ceramic pieces, turned her abundant
talent to making unique "Art-to-
Wear," three-dimensional, sculpture
jewelry, a year ago and exhibits her
work at top galleries and shows in Del-
aware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

    Ben-Israel will join the 150 partic-
ipants who are displaying their diverse
art at the five-day Creative Crafts '92
show, sponsored by Temple Emanu-el
at the temple's Social Hall, 756 E.
Broad St., Westfield.

    "Although I have been involved
with ceramic sculpture for the past 17
years, jewelry is the focus of my work
right now," she explains. "I love dra-
matic pieces and I decided to create
them for myself. The public seems to
like the work and people have asked
me to make earrings, necklaces and
even bola tie designs."

    Vivacious and svelte, Ben-Israel

is her own best model as she wears
outsize, dangle earrings and a match-
ing necklace, fashioned from clay and
embellished with enameling, gold and
silver luster and pearls.

    "I like to make an artistic state-
ment with a large piece of jewelry. No
two pieces are ever alike, otherwise I
would become bored," she confides. "I
just cannot repeat and I never want
my work to become commercial."

    Indeed, her vast collection of
wearable art is amazingly varied. Each
jewelry piece has a different shape,
luster, color and design.

    A self-confessed workaholic and
perfectionist, the artist sometimes
works all night in her spacious studio.

    "Before I start my jewelry, I make
detailed sketches of each piece, con-
stantly changing the designs until I
get exactly what I want. And then I
spend hours cutting metal, such as
copper, with a coping saw. Enameling
and creating glazes are demanding
processes, too."

    However, the artist is well pre-
pared for the challenging art. Interest-
ed in painting ever since she was a
small child, she has studied pottery
and ceramic sculpture at the Art Insti-
tute of Chicago and the University of

Delaware, where she was awarded a
bachelor of fine arts degree with

    A scholarly approach is a way of
life for Ben-Israel, who has been a
teacher for the past 25 years or so.
Born in Israel of Lithuanian parents,
she is a sabra, a first generation of the
new state. After serving a compulsory,
two-year stint in the Army, the artist
taught elementary school in Israel.

    Married in 1964 to her husband,
Adi, she came to the United States the
following year. The couple first settled
in Evanston, IL, then moved to New-
ark, DE., in 1976. For the last four
years they have lived in New Jersey,
where Adi is professor of Operation Re-
search at Rutgers University.

    Ben-Israel is currently Resident
Artist in New Jersey, Delaware and
Pennsylvania Schools, a program
sponsored by the State Council on the
Arts and the National Endowment for
the Arts.

    "I love to teach," she enthuses,
noting that she has conducted more
than 100 workshops for youngsters
and adults. She frequently gives lec-
tures and has appeared on television.

    "And I love children," she con-
fides. "I encourage youngsters to be

creative when they work with clay."

    The ceramic artist also likes to laugh.

    "I am a serious person, but I have a
happy view of life. I like to make people
smile and be happy with my work. My
aim is to create a feeling of fantasy in my

    Ben-Israel points out that she finds
her inspiration everywhere, including
her frequent travels.

    She has just returned from a six-
week trip to China. She also visits
Israel at least twice a year to see her

    "I like to create and I believe art
should appeal to all the senses. I will
continue to develop my jewelry and
experiment, using ever more materi-
als. I have new ideas every day."

    Creative Crafts '92 begins with a
Gala Opening Night on Saturday from
7:30 to 11 p.m., continues Nov. 8-10
from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Nov. 11
from 11a.m. to 8 p.m.

    General admission is $3, $1 for
seniors, and students are admitted free.