Carolyn L.E. Benesh was co-founder, co-editor and co-publisher (along with her husband Robert K. Liu) of Ornament Magazine, the leading magazine covering wearable art, since its launch in 1974 until her death in 2020. Ornament embraces all forms of personal adornment: contemporary, ancient and ethnographic. Carolyn’s expertise was in contemporary jewelry and clothing. She edited and published hundreds of articles on these subjects, as well as speaking about them at museums and related organizations. Carolyn served as a juror for many of the nation’s top craft shows, including the Smithsonian Craft Show (2008, 2017) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show (2014). She served as a judge for the Saul Bell Design Award, one of the most prestigious design events within the jewelry industry (2010 and 2012).
Carolyn was a past president and served as a board member of the PBS series Craft in America since its beginning. She was very involved in the planning of Craft in America’s episode titled “Jewelry.” Craft in America’s “Jewelry” webpage has this tribute to her: “Carolyn, who died in late 2020 from Stage IV breast cancer, was a scholar and celebrated collector of contemporary jewelry who shared her love of adornment in her writings and her collections. She was also a champion of craft artists around the world.”
Carolyn Benesh was a longtime friend and supporter of both the Smithsonian Craft Show and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee (SWC) in its mission to fund grants to the Smithsonian. Ornament Magazine is the sponsor of the Smithsonian Craft Show’s annual Award for Excellence in Jewelry and of Craft2Wear’s annual Best in Show Award. Carolyn attended both SWC Craft Shows every year and chose the award winners. Thanks to Carolyn, Craft Show attendees were treated to free copies of Ornament. She was always available for advice and information on issues that we were wrestling with and built a friendly relationship with many SWC members. Carolyn was a strong advocate for both craft and the artists who create it, and an engaging and erudite speaker. Her warmth, her impish smile and unforgettable laugh are greatly missed. She was a true champion of the Craft Show and a staunch supporter of the SWC and its members!