Work in Progress

Translating feelings into jewelry

Jewelry artist Barbara Giles says the magic happens in the creative process

November 11, 2007|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun reporter

At her in-home studio in Catonsville, jewelry artist Barbara Giles creates deceptively simple pieces of stone-and-metal, which she sells online (barbaragiles and from elegant small display cases in local boutiques, such as Art and Artisan on Main Street in Ellicott City.

They are beautiful pieces meant to be worn -- smoothly polished cut opal; softly colored sea glass connected with sterling silver; magnificent jade petals in pinks and oranges; amazing lasso necklaces of crocheted sterling silver perfect for twisting, tucking and tying.

"Jewelry is subjective, obviously," says Kevin E. Smith, owner of Bella Sorpresa, a new lingerie boutique on Charles Street that clamored to sell Giles' pieces after seeing her work in another shop in Federal Hill. "But hers is art."

To prove that point, Giles will be taking her penchant for simplicity up a notch -- and focusing more on metalwork -- at the Maryland State Arts Council's m'Art show, to be held Dec. 6-8, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel, 700 Aliceanna St., second floor.

IN HER WORDS --For the m'Art event I am considering using a lot of the same design elements I am already incorporating into my jewelry. I will be adding brooches, cufflinks and larger pieces to the collection. [Also,] I will be concentrating more on the sterling, the pearls and some beautiful little diamonds.

THE CONCEPT --The concept is to let the surfaces of the metals show in all their glory. Some of the elements I am making are little modern sculptures. A few of the pieces can stand alone, or be layered for a more gypsy or talisman look. I'm also very much into lariats for necklaces: no hooks, no clasps. Simple is my motto.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION --I have pieces which force the wearer to be involved. The necklace length is adjustable, as are the elements; they slide on a nylon coated steel cable. I want the wearer to decide where she wants the elements to hang in relation to each other. I guess this is what you'd call audience participation.

HER INSPIRATION --Everything inspires me: I'm a sponge. Music, art, fashion, nature, the materials themselves. They all inspire. From the time I started making art, originally as an illustrator, my goal has been to translate my feelings into a work of art. I hope these pieces communicate a peaceful, quiet, Zen-like energy.

THE TECHNIQUE --For these pieces the techniques are pretty basic. Each marquis shape is made from two equal lengths of silver, which I curve and solder at the ends. I file the edges -- a lot -- and then solder onto the piece whatever is appropriate, like a post or a ring, so that it may be used as an earring or part of a bracelet. The piece then gets cleaned and tumbled and polished. Unless I am putting patterns on my metal, the process is pretty much across the board. Shaping, sawing, soldering.

LOCAL MATERIALS --I find most of my materials right here in Baltimore. Terra Firma in Pikesville is one of my second homes. I have searched and found wholesale jewelry suppliers for other raw materials. They are all over the country.

JEWELRY AS ART --I approach jewelry as I do any of the art I've made. I am not a planner; I am all about process and feeling. I start with a vague vision, more like how it would feel to wear a certain piece, and I go from there [to] how can I get my materials to represent this feeling. I plan minute to minute: How do I connect this piece to the other? What weight chain works with what weight metal, etc.? I work instinctually with metal as I did with my painting. I add, I take away until something feels and looks right to me. I consider the act of creation to be an art -- when you are making something with the intention of transporting yourself or others to another place of feeling or energy. ... When we work to perfect something, we are all making art.

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