Lois F. Warren, a prominent Sacramento artist who was an influential modernist jewelry maker and teacher, died Nov. 5 of pneumonia, her husband said. She was 89.
With talented hands and innate creative vision, Mrs. Warren was widely accomplished in craft arts. Besides painting in watercolor, she was a master enamelist, ceramicist, silversmith and goldsmith. She wove fabrics and studied costume design and pattern design to make authentic period clothing for her husband, David, who dressed as King Tutankhamen, Julius Caesar and other historical figures in classrooms as a humanities professor at Sacramento City College.
As a leading forger of modernist studio jewelry, she heated and hammered metals to shape unique, free-form works of wearable art. Working on commission, she designed and created rings, pins, pendants and earrings in addition to flatwear, wine goblets, bowls and other fashion accessories and household items. Besides the homes of private clients, her works are in collections at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
“She was a great jewelry designer,” metal artist Marirose Jelicich said. “She could really raise a piece of metal. She was one of the very best in California.”
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Mrs. Warren inspired generations of artists as an educator and pioneering figure in modernist jewelry, which emphasizes abstract and asymmetric designs. She authored “Handwrought Jewelry,” a 1962 textbook that became an international resource for jewelry makers and collectors. She taught crafts, jewelry and ceramics for many years and was art department chairwoman for the Los Angeles City School District. She led workshops and seminars on jewelry and crafts and taught at California State University, Los Angeles, and Los Angeles Southwest College.
She taught part time for the Los Rios Community College District and at UC Davis after settling in Sacramento in 1971. Active in the Creative Arts League, she served several years as president and spearheaded “Living Treasures,” a major exhibition of works by senior craft artists, in 1985.
Born Aug. 1, 1924, in San Jose, the former Lois Franke moved with her family and grew up in Los Angeles “creating things,” including crocheting and knitting by age 6, she told jewelry collector and author Marbeth Schon. During World War II, she joined other women on assembly lines building P-38 fighter planes at a Lockheed plant.
“The innate joy I felt working with my hands was the catalyst for my eventual decision to become a crafts teacher,” she told Schon, who publishes an online magazine, modernsilver.com.
Mrs. Warren graduated from UCLA and earned a master’s degree in art from California State University, Los Angeles. She studied under renowned craft artists at Mills College in Oakland, Scripps College in Claremont and the 1951 Handy and Harman Silversmithing Conference. She was a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America and a fellow of the Gemological Association of Great Britain.
A warm, lively woman and lifelong athlete, Mrs. Warren won awards in ice dancing, golfing and archery. She met David Warren in Florence, Italy, and they married in 1971. The couple traveled the United States together and led 31 art and humanities tours to countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and New Zealand.
“She was an amazing woman who made living and loving an art form,” her husband said.
A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 2620 Capitol Ave., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Sutter Home Care Hospice Program, 8334 Ferguson Road, Sacramento, CA 95828.