Betty Cooke Biography - Short

Betty Cooke is a seminal figure in American Modernist studio jewelry. Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1924, she has been designing and creating one-of-a-kind works and multiples since the 1940s, and continues to do so today. Cooke’s timeless forms and distinctive visual vocabulary merging architectural simplicity, geometry, logical proportion, and aesthetic clarity have earned her a prominent place within the canon of design history among influential figures such as Alexander Calder, Harry Bertoia, Margaret De Patta, Paul Lobel, and Ed Wiener.

Cooke studied at the Maryland Institute of Art (now MICA)/ Johns Hopkins University, from 1942 to 1946 and earned a BFA in education. Upon graduating, Cooke taught at MICA, a tenure that lasted 22 years, while establishing a studio/shop on Tyson street and later with her husband, artist and designer Bill Steinmetz, the Cooke & Steinmetz Designers & Consultants company, which specialized in “good design.” Their clients have included architectural firms, the Department of State, and the American Institute of Architects, for its 100th anniversary exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. In addition to these efforts, Cooke and Steinmetz founded The Store LTD, an iconic and long running object- based design store that carries Cooke jewelry as well as items of functional beauty with understated complexity that transcend the limitations of the wall.

Widely recognized both nationally and internationally for her contribution to the social and art historical context of the decorative arts movement, Cooke’s work can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts. She has won many prizes including the prestigious DeBeers’ Diamond award in 1979 and again in 1981. She exhibited in the 1950 “Good Design” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art as well as the 1950 “Young Americans” show in NY. In 1951 Cooke was included in the "Textiles, Ceramics, Metalwork" exhibition at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1955 and 1959, at the Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts “Messengers of Modernism” exhibition in 1997, and at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in 2008. A retrospective exhibition at MICA in 1995 celebrated Betty’s enduring relevance over a span of 50 years. At 87, the artist was elected to the American Craft Council’s College of Fellows.

Featured in many books such as Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960, American Art Jewelry Today, and Form & Function: American Modernist Jewelry, Cooke is credited with stimulating the acculturation of craft-based mediums within the context of fine art.