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Cheryl R. Riley, Tudor Coin Encrusted Table, 1992

By Maeve Coudrelle | October 17, 2017
A square table made of wood, enamel, and brass, encrusted with coins and copper and gold leaf, standing on four short golden legs.

Cheryl R. Riley, Tudor Coin Encrusted Table, 1992, wood, enamel, copper leaf, coins, brass, gold leaf

Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; purchase from Decorative Arts Association Acquisition Fund; 1993-9-1-a,b

Cheryl R. Riley is a contemporary artist and furniture designer, whose work examines the stylistic parallels between distinct cultures. Riley is inspired by African diasporic iconography and subject matter, and its connection to other international and historical modes of cultural expression. Tudor Coin Encrusted Table, for example, references the adornment of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, as well as Maasai women – and the similarities in how both represent status through ornamentation. Studded with Nigerian coins and lined with gold and copper leaf, the table recalls the resplendent royal costumes of the 16th century in England, as well as traditional African masks. Riley often works with skilled artisans to execute her designs, incorporating their expertise into the production of her pieces.

My work is typically a mash-up of world cultures with materials that are highly embellished and ornamented, which I attribute to my mother’s home being furnished with reproductions of European furniture, porcelain Asian accessories, and the gilded frames on Baroque and Renaissance paintings. From a political standpoint, the gold discovered in West Africa by Europeans is a source of further inspiration.

Cheryl R. Riley

Riley was born in Houston and received her A.A. in Fine Art and Fashion from Columbia College. She initially worked in advertising and fashion, before opening her studio, Right Angle Designs, in 1986, designing custom furniture and lighting there until 1999.

More Object Details


America's Smithsonian: Celebrating 150 Years. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1996.

Kirkham, Pat, ed. Women Designers in the U.S.A.: Diversity and Difference. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

McClellan, Kelsey Dalton. “Cheryl R. Riley.” Emerge: Journal of Arts Administration and Policy, SAIC.

Sims, Lowery and Leslie King-Hammond. The Global Africa Project: Contemporary Design, Craft, and Art. New York: Prestel, 2010.