Irena Brynner

Irena Brynner was born in Russia in 1917 and grew up on a Russian naval base in Manchuria. She studied sculpture for a short time in Switzerland and returned to China in 1939 to study painting; her family was forced to leave China in 1946 and she re-located to San Francisco, where she continued her studies in sculpture and pottery. After seeing jewelry by Claire Falkenstein, she was inspired to start creating contemporary jewelry and she apprenticed with local jewelers in the Bay Area. In 1950, she sold her first jewelry works to the upscale shop Casper's and she began showing works at art and craft fairs, where she met other contemporary jewelrers such as Margaret De Patta and Peter Maccarini; she later joined the Metal Arts Guild. Throughout the 1950s, while prodigiously creating jewelry, she also regularly taught adult education classes in the evening.

Brynner visited New York for the first time in 1956 to meet with Georg Jensen, who was selling her works, and was inspired by an exhibition at MoMA of Antoni Gaudí's work, as well as the energy and architecture of the city. She relocated to New York soon after, and lived there until the 1970s, when she moved to Switzerland and, along with jewelery, created and exhibited ikebana designs (Japanese flower arranging). She again settled in New York City in the 1980s, making jewelry and performing in cabaret clubs (she was an accomplished mezzo-soprano) until her death in 2003.

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