Talk Crafty to Me – An inside look into Arrowmont instructors’ connection to craft, Gatlinburg and studio practice.
Metals Artist-in-Residence Maia Leppo interviews instructor Barbara Minor – studio artist living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since Barbara’s first visit to Arrowmont in the mid-1990s, she has taught over ten workshops. She often teaches with her husband, Christopher Hentz. Barbara recently taught “Enameling with a Twist: Combining Liquid and Powdered Enamel on Copper or Steel,” July 17-22, 2016 at Arrowmont.
What is something you learned about yourself or your practice at Arrowmont?
We have been coming at least every third year or every other year since the mid 1990s. It took a while for me to realize after I stopped teaching at the university that I was a really good teacher. It took a few times coming here to realize I was a good teacher and missed teaching at the university. I work really hard at presenting the information and being prepared and I’m good at it.
What is a non-art inspiration in your current practice?
Pretty much everything I look at. Everything feeds it. It’s a way of life. Everything is and it comes in the oddest places. I started working on my most recent series a couple years ago at a residency at Haystack and I haven’t really resolved it yet. I experimented with folding and pleating paper and fabric structures and then applied those to very thin copper sheet and screen. It is such a struggle because it seems so far removed on one hand, but on the other hand, not, because metal will do some of those things. But it takes time to resolve those issues. I went to Haystack with books about these paper and fabric techniques and white enamel, and just tried to explore those materials, the screen and foil and enamel to make them more rigid.
What was your first ah-ha piece of work that you made?
I don’t have a first ah-ha piece, but my first ah-ah teacher was Mrs. Ackley. She wore an artist smock and had black hair that she pulled back in a bun and thick black rimmed classes. She would come to all the classes in grade school with the art cart and had the students make art. When my grandma asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said an artist, that was my ah-ah moment.
Tell us about your studio space. What is your favorite part of it?
My favorite part of the studio is on Saturday when the phone does not ring.
What are you currently reading?
I was listening to Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Mineral, Vegetable while we were driving here. At home I am reading Don Friedlich wife’s book, Judith Claire Mitchel, A Reunion of Ghosts.
Best piece of advice you have gotten?
In graduate school I took a two-week workshop with Bill Helwig. We were taking about art and he said “If it is not good, get rid of it.” I ended up switching graduate schools and got divorced. I applied what we were talking about relative to art, but to life.
When I left teaching, and was contemplating high-end juried craft shows and I needed my income generating methods to be flexible. Don Friedlich said “Never do a first time show. Never do a show until you see the show and know you fit.” This applies to many situations in life, professionally and personally.
How do you want someone to feel while wearing your work?
Chris and I both have the same feeling. I strive for technical mastery. I want the my pieces to function well and I want other metalsmiths to look at it and understand that it’s technically well done. But when it comes to the market place and people buying it to wear, I want them to feel beautiful while wearing it. But the piece also has to hold up. The jewelry I am making now, is fragile and has a different audience.
I want my work to create a sense of joy on multiple levels. People are happy looking at it and it is something they consider wonderful to wear every day. Also empowering women to wear larger jewelry, when they put it on, they feel good, and feel good about what they are able to do and about themselves.
What special talent would you choose if you could magically gain one?
Probably something I would be terrified to do now, like an Olympic figure skater, or diver. That to me seems almost impossible to do.
What are you currently listening to in your studio and why?
Books on tape, NPR, public broadcasting cooking shows. If we had cable in the studio I would probably watch the Food Network or HDTV.
Any shows or exhibitions coming up?
Chris and I will both be teaching at Pocosin next summer. In August, I will be teaching in Seattle at the Ranch Center for Arts and Crafts. I will be teaching at Thompson Enamel next spring. Chris and I are both working towards a show at Ariodante in New Orleans and that will open during the SNAG conference in May 2017.