The Highlight of the Month program at The Indian Craft Shop focuses on a particular craft area, region or artist family/group. Our aim is to illustrate the diversity of tribal groups and the wide variety of artistic expressions and traditions in the country today.
Kenneth Johnson draws from his Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole background to blend historic designs and shapes in eye-catching contemporary jewelry. He uses precious metals — silver, copper, gold and platinum — stamping images from the moundbuilder culture, Seminole patchwork designs and other Native American motifs. He also uses unusual stones, especially those mined from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, such as peridot, andradrite, chrome pyrope garnet and green garnet druzy.
Kenneth is known for transforming old coins into wearable art with such work as an 1886 US gold five dollar piece made into a hair tie and an 1886 Morgan silver dollar made into a pendant. In addition to pendants and necklaces, Kenneth makes, boxes, hair ties, buckles and gorgets. His designs are based on the disc shaped gorgets made of shell found in the Mississippi Valley Mounds and the large, crescent shaped neck ornaments presented by British and French officers after battles or during treaty negotiations.
While growing up, Kenneth attended Indian boarding schools in Oklahoma. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Oklahoma and then moved to New Mexico to continue his studies. Once in Albuquerque, Kenneth met Choctaw metalsmith Johnson Bobb who became his mentor. "I hung around his shop a little bit too long and he put me to work," says Kenneth. After a few months there, he set off on his own, selling moccasin buttons to the local Pueblos at feast days. He has been making jewelry now for 13 years.
Kenneth volunteers with several arts organizations. He serves on the Southwest Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) Board of Directors and chairs the Council of Artists. He served as an Artist in Residence at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York, and received the prestigious SWAIA Artist's Fellowship. He is now curating an exhibition for the Smithsonian Institution, Southeast Spectrum: Contemporary Movements in Creek and Seminole Art.
©The Indian Craft Shop 2001